Today New Era provides more coverage of the Harambee Prosperity Plan (HPP) with a closer look at Pillar 4: Infrastructure Development, focussing on Information Communication Technology.
Penetration of telecommunication services improved rapidly with the introduction of mobile cellphone services during the mid-1990s in Namibia. Mobile phones have made life much easier for citizens as they contain features that offer a variety of services such as the internet – through which people can send and receive email, do internet payments or transfers, cellphone banking, make use of social media platforms and access educational material.
Namibia has been connected to the West Africa Cable System (WACS) since May 2012. This connection is destined to bring increased broadband capacity and boost the uptake of internet-based services and internet access in the country. The government network backbone infrastructure has been redesigned and is being upgraded to be able to carry the increased bandwidth capacity of 600 megabits per second (mbps) from WACS and enable seamless government service delivery in all the regions. Such infrastructure will make it possible for the implementation of e-government and facilitate decentralisation of services.
The Communications Regulatory Authority of Namibia (CRAN) has been established to ensure adequate regulation of the ICT sector, which in turn promotes the availability and accessibility of telecommunications, postal and ICT services at affordable prices. Namibia has successfully implemented the Digital Terrestrial Television (DTT) migration from analogue to digital television as required by the International Telecommunications Union [ITU]. The latest generation DTT standards enable the delivery of audio, video and data services to fixed, portable and mobile devices, or a combination thereof. The launching of 4G Long Term Evolution-LTE technologies enables the downloading and uploading of data at a speed almost ten times faster than the previous generation.
MICT established 26 Multi-Purpose Community Centres (MPCCs) in all 14 regions, which are equipped with basic ICT equipment to ensure that the digital divide is reduced through the introduction of ICT services to rural communities. The potential of these centres should be maximised to be able to be accessed and utilised by as many community members as possible. Namibia has made strides in the development of stable telecommunications, broadcasting and postal infrastructures, however there are challenges that need to be addressed. The potential for deploying ICT services in the country is high and requires innovative approaches and concerted efforts from stakeholders.
Despite the significant progress made, some of the challenges include:
• The unavailability of electricity infrastructure in semi-urban and remote rural areas hindering both the provision and uptake of ICT services.
• Insufficient telecommunication backhaul infrastructure to very remote rural areas.
• The unit cost of rolling out infrastructure is high and this negatively influences the affordability and price points of key services.
• ICT literacy is relatively low in Namibia, which inhibits the uptake of e-commerce and internet access.
• There are limited internet access points in public facilities especially in rural areas.
• Lack of understanding of the relevance of ICT, which results in low resource provision and usage of available ICT capacity.
• High import taxes on ICT equipment and high fluctuations in exchange rates, which further push the cost of imported equipment higher and impacts affordability.
In order to address the challenges regarding telecommunications access, MICT, with the technical support of the International Telecommunications Union, has been drafting a Broadband Policy and an associated Implementation Plan. The purpose of this policy is to provide a framework for a holistic development of broadband in the Republic of Namibia. The Broadband Policy contains the targets that were endorsed by SADC Ministers of ICTs during their meeting held in June 2015. These will be the targets that Namibia will implement through the Harambee Prosperity Plan:
• 80 percent of the population of Namibia to be covered by broadband services by 2020;
• 80 percent broadband connections and usage to all primary and secondary schools in Namibia to allow e-learning by 2020;
• Broadband connections and usage to 70 percent of health facilities in Namibia to allow e-health by 2020;
• 100 percent broadband connections and usage to all public sector agencies in Namibia to allow for e-governance by 2020; and
• 100 percent coverage by digital TV and radio broadcast to all households by 2020.
The following strategies and actions will be deployed to ensure that the ICT targets will be met during the Harambee period:
◆ Broadband Infrastructure Development: This will among others entail finalisation of the broadband policy by September 2016; finalisation of the electronic transactions and cyber crime bill by September 2016; usage of post offices and multipurpose community centres as community access points for broadband by October 2016; upgrading of international link capacities to provide access to higher bandwidth capacities by September 2016; full implementation of Long Term Evolution [LTE] to provide the population with a faster internet experience; upgrade international link capacities (WACS) to provide access to higher bandwidth capacities by October 2016; expansion of the national fibre-optic backbone network by constructing fibre-optic transmission routes in under-serviced areas across the country to bring high speed and reliable telecommunication services to the people by March 2020; establishment of Public Access Points in rural communities to improve access and utilisation of internet to bridge the digital divide by June 2017.
◆ Ensuring Accessibility and Affordability of Broadband: This will entail finalisation of infrastructure sharing guidelines by September 2016; finalisation of open access guidelines by September 2016; equipping all 26 Multi-Purpose Community Centres (MPCCs) with internet connectivity by October 2016; finalisation of the Universal Access Regulations and Guidelines by September 2016; and commence with the set-up of the Universal Access Fund to assist in the rollout out of identified ICT infrastructure and services in under-serviced areas by February 2017.
◆ Promote e-services and innovations: This will include: establishment of a framework for software development cost sharing by March 2017; establishment of a framework for collaboration in e-services delivery across all sectors of the economy by 2017; provision of means for access to public information/data and commence implementation of e-education, e-health, e-agriculture, e-transport, e-mining by October 2017.
◆ Confidence and security of broadband networks: This will include: finalisation of the Electronic Transactions and Cyber Crime law by September 2016; establishment of a Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT) by February 2017; and establishment of a standardised Operations & Managements (O&M) centre for broadband by February 2017.
• In our next edition we will continue unpacking the Harambee Prosperity Plan by taking a closer look at the last pillar, which is International Relations and Cooperation.