Windhoek-Deputy Minister of Information and Communications Technology Stanley Simataa officially launched new Telecom Namibia services in three constituencies of the Zambezi Region this week, representing an investment of about N$6 million.
“As a government we are happy to take the services to the people. We want to ensure that the whole of Namibia is served with ICT services.
“What we are witnessing with the launches in the Zambezi Region is the beginning of that journey,” deputy minister Simataa said at Chinchimane last week.
“We want to provide equal opportunities to all Namibians, whether in urban or rural areas of our country. As a government we have a dream and desire to make ICT part of the universal services we want to provide to our nation.
“This becomes even more important in rural Namibia,” Simataa said.
He praised Telecom Namibia for heeding government’s call and expanding its network to the Sibbinda, Katima Rural and Kabbe constituencies in the Zambezi Region, and added the onus now rested with the communities to make use of the services.
On Monday, the deputy minister first officially launched Telecom Namibia services at Chinchimane in the Sibbinda constituency, situated some 70 km west of the regional capital Katima Mulilo.
The new Telecom Namibia base station provides much-needed basic voice and Internet services to government offices, schools, clinics, business establishments and residences in the area.
Besides Chinchimane, the fixed wireless network also covers nearby villages such as Masokotwani, Mazoba, Malundu, Kanono, Muketela, and Linyanti up to Kapani.
On the same day in the afternoon, Simataa travelled to Bukalo, 40 km south-east of Katima Mulilo in the Katima Rural constituency for his next stop.
Here Telecom Namibia upgraded the old 2G mobile base station to 3G to provide products such as mobile video calling, picture messaging and mobile Internet services capable of delivering speeds of up to 21 megabits per second.
On Tuesday, Simataa launched Telecom Namibia services at Impalila, an area situated at the far eastern tip of Namibia in the Kabbe South constituency.
Impalila Island is about 12 km long and six km wide and home to close to 3,000 people in some 25 small villages.
Impalila boasts a fixed wireless network for voice and Internet service, as well as an overhead fibre optic network that criss-crosses the island and connects all government institutions on the island from an equipment room.
The government institutions it connects to data and Internet services include the primary health centre, school, police station, the Namibia Defence Force’s Marine Unit, Office of the President, Customs & Exercise offices and the Ministry of Agriculture, as well as providing direct exchange lines.
Telecom Namibia installed a 3-sector WiMAX fixed wireless base station to cover all nearby lodges, and in future, households on the island not fed by the fibre network.
Apart from the administrative centre of the Kabbe South constituency Nakabololwa, other villages covered by the WiMAX system include Kasika, Kasenu, Muzii, Mbalasite, Ibilibinzi, Kasikili and Ikaba.
Also speaking during the launch at Impalila, Telecom Namibia Managing Director, Theo Klein, expressed his “deep gratitude” to the Namibian Police for helping ferry the network equipment across the Chobe River to the island, and to the Namibia Defence Force’s Marine Unit stationed on the island for safekeeping the equipment at their depot.
“Without their help, we would not have overcome the huge logistical challenges of ferrying all the equipment onto the island and keeping it safe,” Klein said.
Impalila is cut off from the mainland by the hippo and crocodile-infested rivers, the Zambezi to the north and Chobe in the south, making access to the island only possible by a ferry or boat.
A microwave link from Lusese (inland) to the island was installed to overcome the 52 km flood plains. Because the area has no grid power, Telecom Namibia installed solar panels and a standby generator.
Simataa disclosed that the ministry was finalising what he called, a “Universal Access to ICT Policy”.
The policy would oblige service providers in the ICT sector to contribute part of their profits to a fund so that the country could provide both urban and rural areas with ICT infrastructure.
“At the moment there is a high number of people migrating from rural areas to towns because of lack of opportunities there. We need to address the drivers of development like ICT, water and energy to stem this tide,” the deputy minister pointed out.
Rural areas were very important not only in Namibia but elsewhere in the world as well.
“We need to advance their livelihoods through infrastructure development.
“ICT is the oxygen that you and I need. Without ICT there is no country in this world that can succeed to drive its future forward, whether in terms of the social, economic, developmental and political fields,” Simataa said.
The Telecom MD had a single message to the communities: “People in rural areas are the ones who are in dire need of Internet services at the moment. We are immensely aware that the provision of telecommunication services to all corners of the country is a challenge.”
Klein singled out the challenges of skills shortages in the ICT sector, the vastness of the country, the small and thinly spread population and the unit costs to provide the services.
“However,” he said, “Telecom Namibia is committed to continuously rollout broadband services to rural areas as well.”
Apart from the Telecom MD, Telecom Namibia’s Chief Commercial Officer Calvin Muniswaswa, Chief Mobile Officer Armando Perny and Head of Corporate Communications & Public Relations Oiva Angula accompanied Simataa.
During the visit the deputy minister had the opportunity to engage with Councillor for Chinchimane Ignatius Chunga and Councillor for Kabbe South John Likando.
He also interacted with village councillors, indunas and residents and urged them to embrace ICT for their own development.