Thursday, 10 September 2009

Create an Internet Action Group for Namibia

Did you know?
• The fifth biggest “country” in the world is Facebook. That’s right, a country that only exists on the Internet has over 200 million people sharing their thoughts, photographs, birthdays, love lives, interests and causes with one another. In the “Nation of Facebook” your every thought is shared with all your friends at once. They can indicate if they like it, or make a comment. In addition, you or a friend can “write on the wall” if you wish to send each other private messages. The photographs area allows you to upload any of your photos and share them instantly with those you know. The best feature is the ability to tag a friend, and everyone they know will be informed that a photo has been loaded.

• In the Twitter application an actor, Ashton Kutcher, beat the news company CNN to having a million users following their “twitting” (Twitter is a service that allows you to send and post SMS messages to a network of contacts.) Kutcher had challenged CNN to the Twitter race, saying he would donate 10,000 mosquito bed nets to charity for World Malaria Day in late April if he beat CNN, and 1,000 if he lost. CNN agreed to do the same. "It's a turning point in media. He's one person who uses a free media platform to reach a large audience. And that really hasn't been done before," Cherwenka said. "He didn't spend a penny on this. And that's kind of the point of any kind of social activity on the Web."

• Digital divide is shrinking through the use of mobile technologies, in countries such as South Africa, Nigeria and Namibia especially in mobile telephony. More than half of the Namibian population has a cellular phone.

• ICTs are technologies that enable us to receive, disseminate and share information and knowledge as well as to communicate – they are the foundation of the Information Society and Knowledge Economy. The Polytechnic of Namibia is a mirror site for most of the information libraries across the world and a key node for connecting Namibia to the information highway.

• Telecommunication is technically defined as the transportation of information from point A to B. Telecom has a fibre optic cable covering almost all of Namibia – a fully digital transmission network (6500 km of Fibre Routes).

What does all this mean for Namibia?
Our challenges are:
• Nationally – the imbalances in basic infrastructure, education, health and government services
• Globally – the technological advances far outpace our national development

“Poverty does not only refer to lack of income, but also includes:
• the deprivation of basic capabilities;
• the deprivation of information needed for meaningful participation in society
• and lack of access to:
• education
• healthcare
• natural resources
• employment
• land and credit
• political participation
• services
• infrastructure, etc.

Neither investment in ICTs or access alone is sufficient for development to occur, ICTs must also mediate the delivery of useful services and civic interaction that contribute to the economic and social well being of the community.”

Creating a better future, Today
Namibia can use the latest technology to the benefit of all its residents. The attitude to education which is presently geared to becoming an industrial country, must be changed to a system where knowing where the information is available is more important than having the information in your head. This means moving from our present agricultural society to a knowledge-base society within five years.

This leapfrogging into a knowledge-based society can be assisted by creating an ICT Action Group (IAG) reporting directly to the President. The IAG should consist of four staff members, of which two should be young people under the age of twenty-five. (The (male and female) staff member should each have software programming skills and should also participate in gaming leagues such as Starcraft. In addition, they should have a minimum competency in the number of words they can SMS per minute on their cellular phone.)

The objectives of the IAG:
• Advise the President and Cabinet on ICT.
• Ensure ICT capability of all members of the Cabinet and their staff.
• Create a Government Ministerial scorecard on Information and Communication Technologies. This includes a baseline survey of computer equipment and civil servant skills, as well as monitoring the information availability over government websites.
• Oversee the creation of a central register for Namibia.
• Ability to declare certain areas to be under-serviced and secure funds from the universal service fund to roll-out infrastructure
• Identify international trends such as Facebook and Chat with the view of encouraging local sites that are able to provide the same service. A social network site for people located in Namibia (in other words within a national local area network) is within the capability of the Polytechnic or UNAM. This will encourage innovation and access to information.
• Promote local content development to enhance the National Identity.
• Host free internet websites for any resident of Namibia.

The funding for the Internet Action Group will come directly from the Universal Fund that is contributed to by the telecommunications companies in Namibia.