Professor Rainer Trede
For thousands of years it was only a privilege of a few people to learn reading and writing. Lack of this knowledge was a tool, like the whip in slavery, to oppress the masses, in particular girls and women. Luckily, this has changed in most parts of the world including Namibia.
But today something else is still missing, general knowledge of Information Communication Technology (ICT). According to Alweendo Shipopyeni, one of the co-founders of the Katutura Institute of Computer Training (KICT), “ICT is in today’s world a basic need like mahangu, bread, housing and clothing. Without basic knowledge in ICT, people cannot inform themselves, people cannot even apply online for employment opportunities, people end up paying for services which are for free, e.g. unlocking the laptop touchpad for someone who locked it unknowingly.”
The government of Namibia is aware of this need. We have even a Ministry of Information and Communication Technology (MICT). But the reality differs. Only about five percent of the masses in Katutura have or can operate a computer. Due to lack of funds and specialised teachers, schools can hardly offer computer training. Similar to reading and writing in historical times mainly privileged people can get the required ICT knowledge.
It is a fact that the Namibian government cannot satisfy the basic need for ICT training. Therefore, in addition to public institutions a few private ones offer computer training. However, they mainly target students with better marks in grades 10 or 12, their training is often not affordable and they are not located close to the people in Katutura.
These are challenges that two small entrepreneurs from Katutura are facing daily in their businesses. Alweendo Shipopyeni and Abraham Haikela are both holders of a Bachelor Honours Degree in Digital Communication Technology from the International University of Management (IUM) and worked for different companies as ICT specialists.
Independently of each other, they started their own businesses in Katutura in 2013 and 2015, respectively. Both are offering printing services, computer and cellphone repairs. Both entrepreneurs are with their five small shops in Katutura fairly successful, but still not satisfied seeing the low level of computer knowledge. Haikela started some training of individuals free of charge and Shipopyeni offers school children and other beginners computer gaming services as a first step of basic computer skills for a minimal fee of N$5.00 per 15 minutes game. He mentioned, “the few youth are no longer hanging around in streets and shebeens, but now are enjoying leisure activities such as using internet and computer gaming. The school children and students walk no longer distances to seek computer services elsewhere, but conduct research and do homework close to their homes.”
This micro contribution to ICT training was developed further when Shipopyeni and Haikela were both selected for a training and mentoring programme conducted by the Development Consultants of Southern Africa (Decosa) in cooperation with Team Namibia and sponsored by the Finnish embassy.
Since the beginning of this year, a bankable business plan is available for the KICT and both partners agreed with the KAYEC Vocational Training Centre to rent a classroom and office. Required are mainly more computers and a projector (five computers are already provided by the owners). The cash flow demonstrates that the business is viable on longer term. However, if the investment is financed by a loan, the cash flow will only be positive after about 1.5 years. The economically disadvantaged owners cannot afford this and have no collaterals required for a loan. Due to this situation, KICT is looking for any available donations including second hand computers that are continuously replaced by public institutions and private companies. “We can refurbish these old computers and make them new machines to use, as most of the computers in our printing shops are refurbished.”
With such assistance, the KICT could immediately implement its objectives:
To train and transfer knowledge and skills to disadvantaged Namibians to become computer literate before Vision 2030.
To bring technology closer to people who need no longer to walk long distances or need transport to use internet and other technological services.
To improve the quality of education by implying effective digitalised education system.
To educate Katutura residents who do not have a chance to enrol with computer schools with limited space, high entry requirements and high costs.
To increase the chances of unemployed people to find employment, which is hardly possible without knowledge to operate computers.
The KICT can be contacted at Alweendo Shipoyeni Shohamba Information Technology CC
* Prof Rainer Trede is the Managing
Member of Development Consultants of Southern Africa (Decosa) CC which for 20 years has been involved in SMEs training and mentorship in Namibia.