Namibia - Govt strives to narrow digital divide
The Minister of Information and Communication Technology Joël Kaapanda says government is in the process of passing the Universal Access Service and Content Policy that would oblige Namibia to provide digital connectivity to all throughout the country.
Although there is extensive cellular phone penetration in the country, there are still ‘pockets’ without coverage, such as in the Onkumbula area in Oshikoto and some other areas in Zambezi, Omusati and Omatako.
“We have to connect our people,” said the information minister.
Kaapanda feels it was necessary to narrow the gap between the haves and have nots when it comes to access to digital technology in order to advance socio-economic development.
Kaapanda emphasised the need to extend fibre-optic connectivity to all government offices, institutions, hospitals, and schools including private institutions across Namibia so that they have access to the internet.
“We want to create a hub for connections of various institutions to put up internet cafes in both rural and urban areas,” further stated Kaapanda.
Kaapanda who recently attended the China-Africa ministerial media workshop in India, said that some of the lessons he learned from China is that they invest in rural areas to boost connectivity – something that Namibia is struggling with.
He said the information ministry will fund the rollout of infrastructure and services in rural areas, which is part of their core mandate.
He added they wished they could provide digital gadgets and equipment for free through the Ministry of Education, especially to rural schools, but were still finalizing the formulated plan.
Kaapanda said even if the infrastructure was available for connectivity, some areas do not have electricity and while government has provided solar panels in certain places, it still remains a challenge.
The Communications Regulatory Authority of Namibia (CRAN) was formed to ensure fair competition and provision of affordable services to the population, but digital services were still too highly priced for the average person to afford.
“The World Economic Framework has rated us high, but we need to do more in areas of online service and e-government,” he said.
He encouraged local academics to introduce or innovate online services that can create efficiency and reduce cost, especially to government offices such as the Ministry of Home Affairs and Immigration.
Kaapanda said the Electronic Transaction Bill was also being finalised at the Ministry of Justice and a component of data protection systems were being put in place to secure hacking and leaking of information.