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Namibia looks to ICT sector for economic recovery

Namibia looks to ICT sector for economic recovery

Namibia's government believes the country's ICT sector plays an important role in efforts to grow the economy and should take appropriate action.

At a three-day national ICT summit in Windhoek, government representatives called for the ICT sector to do more to help unlock economic opportunities for an inclusive society.

Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila, Prime Minister of Namibia told attendees at the 4th edition of the annual conference that a concerted effort by all ICT industry players is required to address challenges that hinder economic growth and competitiveness.

"The story of ICT innovation over the past three decades has been a story of empowerment and growth. ICTs have brought new opportunities to people of all ages and in all countries enabling them to achieve more in less time and to discover new ways of communicating and relaxing. The use of ICT has fuelled astounding productivity and economic growth and has truly transformed the way people work, learn and socialise to date. The benefits of ICT however have not been spread as equally as we would have hoped. This has led some to question whether ICTs have a meaningful role to play in bridging the divide between the regions of our country. We are convinced that if all stakeholders work together we can create new opportunities and leverage the power of ICT to help people everywhere in our city to realise their full potential."

Kuugongelwa-Amadhila said challenges that remain for Namibia include the scarcity of electricity infrastructure in semi-urban and remote rural areas, as well as insufficient telecommunications backhaul infrastructure to very remote rural areas.

The Prime Minister also referred to Namibia's low ICT literacy rate which she said inhibits the uptake of e-commerce and internet access, as well as the limited internet access points in public facilities - especially in rural areas.

Increasing affordability

While much more needs to be done, Namibia has made strides in broadening access to ICTs according to Kuugongelwa-Amadhila.

"Namibia's mobile phone network population coverage increased exponentially to 95 percent while mobile subscriptions are recorded at over 119 per 100 inhabitants. In addition, the number of active mobile broadband subscribers increased from 1.5 million to 1.6 million from June 2016 to June 2017. This means that more people are using internet via their mobile phones. In order to leverage ICT to unclick economic opportunities for an inclusive society it is necessary that ICT services must become affordable to the users. In this regard, Research ICT Africa has rated Namibia as the second cheapest country within the SADC region offering low cost prepaid mobile broadband data."

Kuugongelwa-Amadhila also noted the reduction in termination rates in Namibia from US$1.06 to ten cents, the introduction of number portability in the country as noteworthy achievements.

She also highlighted cooperation with Botswana, Zambia and Zimbabwe which has led to a reduction in roaming tariffs by 29% for voice and SMS, and by 87% for data as part of the SADC home and away roaming project.

Tjekero Tweya, Minister Information and Communication Technology said the government will hold the 2017 National ICT Summit sponsors and attendees (which included MTN, Huawei, Standard Bank, the Communications Regulatory Authority of Namibia, MultiChoice, BCX, Telecom Namibia and ZTE) accountable for the steps that are taken to address the ICT-related economic challenges that remain for Namibia.

"This cannot just be another theme! Come next year October 2018 at the 5th National ICT Summit, I therefore will hold you, all of you, accountable and question you how far you got in unlocking this economic opportunities to include the broader society of Namibia. If we want to develop ICT at the rate I, as the political head of ICT in Namibia, wish it (to) grow, we must do the leg work to aggressively raise the required funds through the private-public-partnerships arrangements government put in place. Not only one party - we all must make it happen and we can make it happen."

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