The 21st Century demands nations to use knowledge and technology to leapfrog from a resource-based to a knowledge-based economy. NDP 3 attempts to position Namibia towards this goal.
By Catherine Sasman
WINDHOEK – A pre-requisite for economic growth in a globalising world is how nations can harness knowledge through the use of technologies. Knowledge today has become an independent commodity driving social, economic and political transformation.
It has thus become imperative for developing countries in particular – long burdened with often outdated modes of operations and rusty antiquated technologies and importantly information communication technologies (ICTs) – to catch up.
For the development of a knowledge-based and technology-driven economy, the Namibian Government realises that investment in education, infrastructure and technologies, research and development systems, telecommunications and ICTs, are necessary.
The Government and other relevant stakeholders are reported to have made some strides to align the country’s institutions in this matter, despite the critical shortage of the necessary agencies and qualified and experienced personnel in innovation and ICTs to drive this process.
Notwithstanding these challenges, some headway has been made in the formulation of policies to set the country on its way to concerted development in these areas during the National Development Plan 2 (NDP 2) period.
In 2004 the Namibia Information and Communication Technology Policy and the E-governance policy were gazetted. In 2005 the National ICT Policy for Education was designed.
Also, a number of cross-sectoral programmes and projects relating to the innovation and ICT utilisation were prepared and implemented. Some of these are to be continued during the NDP 3 period.
Rapid expansion in mobile communications was reported, and Internet subscriptions have increased. But a glaring ‘digital divide’ inside the country has remained, and is ascribed to the huge rift in the socio-economic status of people and different levels of education. Another important impediment is access to electricity, particularly in rural areas, severely limiting the roll out of ICT services.
The Government has also recognised that policy constraints disallow private initiatives and entrepreneurs from delivering technology solutions that would suit low-income groups.
To transform Namibia into a knowledge-based technological driven nation requires political and financial commitments. And information management is essential for development planning.
NDP 3 thus identified a number of sectors to improve on its score of its “technological readiness and innovation”.
Namibia is said to have one of the best ICT infrastructures in Africa, and it ranks 66th among 126 countries on the technological readiness index (TRI). As far as the adoption of technologies by firms is concerned, the country ranks 92nd. However, its ICT infrastructure is mostly urban-based.
The country also ranked 75th on the score on an enabling legislative environment.
A comprehensive legislative framework to better the country’s position is sought with its Information and Communication Technology Policy drafted this year amid numerous delays to take into all aspects that influence the development of the ICT. This has involved the revision of the 1991 Information Policy governing the media sector, and updating the Namibia Communication Commission (NCC) Act of 1992 to take into account the convergence of telecommunication and broadcasting services.
Once these drafts have been enacted, the Government intends to establish a Data Protection Centre and to reinforce the mandate of the NCC.
Also identified, is the need to develop content and protect Namibian indigenous languages on the Internet, as well as to protect the young from “unsuitable material” on the electronic media.
As far as mobile phone subscriptions go, it is estimated that there are 800ǟ