11 December 2012

Namibia: Overview of MICT Activities During 2011/2012

EVERY achiever starts with a single step in a long journey towards attaining many milestones. The world today is about information. Information is not only the wind of change, but also the force smoothing the progress of human development, civilisation and industrialisation.

The Namibian Government's decision to establish the Ministry of Information and Communication Technology (MICT) was born out of the vision that things are travelling at a faster pace today than ever before. To be able to attain its development plans and achieve its Vision 2030 by which Namibia is expected to attain industrialisation, the Namibian society has to be transformed into a knowledge-based society. A knowledgeable society will be able to be resilient and self-reliant, using information and knowledge to uplift the living standard of its people.

The MICT has stepped up its efforts to ensure that Namibians and residents of this country are well informed and educated on issues about the activities of the government in its quest to provide services to all communities. The activities of the government are many and varied, comprising health, education, home affairs, gender and child welfare, youth and national service, agriculture and forestry, environment and tourism, democracy, rural development and our natural resources, among others.

All efforts in these areas of development will be stillborn in the absence of information sharing, training and communication. Information will be wasted if there are no facilities and well-targeted programmes, as vehicles enabling the accelerating rate at which information should reach the intended recipients. The MICT is the Namibian Government's spokesperson communicating Government information to the Namibian public while advising the Government on pertinent concerns of the public, thus informing the decisions made in the quest for solutions to socio-economic and cultural challenges in the country.

Although the MICT has consistently achieved one milestone after the other, it is important to point out some of the current goals achieved while more successes continue to illuminate the information and communication technology (ICT) industry.

The MICT has been facilitating the development of information and communication infrastructure with the aim to create an enabling environment for the development, coordination and promotion of ICT growth in Namibia. Continued investment in ICT infrastructure is a far-reaching vision, ever mindful that the advancement of ICTs will become the main pillar of the future economic development of Namibia. The Ministry of Information has made progress in many areas in the telecommunications industry with the building of the international undersea fibre optic cable along the West African coast - the landing of which was celebrated at Swakopmund in 2011.

The completion of the Pan-African Satellite e-Network project in e-education and e-health centres, as well as the establishment of the Indian Government Information Technology (IT) Training Institute for Namibia to assist in alleviating ICT skills shortage in the country have been successful. The ministry has also enabled the implementation of the liberalisation of the telecommunications industry to achieve improved access and promote cost effective service. Now that the Communication Regulatory Authority of Namibia (CRAN) has been established and operational to regulate the ICT sector and to facilitate fair competition, including consumer protection, the way has been paved for Namibians to benefit from this effort.

To ensure the delivery of information communication technology services and to smooth the progress toward making Namibia a knowledge and technology-driven society, the MICT has made inroads in the establishment of Multi-Purpose Community Centres (MPCC) in all the 13 regions of the country, with 20 of them fully operational.

The Multi-Purpose Centres (MPCs) are fully equipped with modern communication equipment and facilities offered in the market today, which enable them to achieve the objective of increasing the beneficial use of ICTs by producing audio-visual materials and taking audio-visual events to rural areas. The equipment include audio-visual machines and cameras, computers, printers, Public Address Systems (PASs) and touch screens.

Six more centres are being furnished with the same equipment. The implementation of ICTs is intended for increasing constructive dialogue among Namibians. Users of the MPCs are expected to benefit from the use of this equipment in sharing information among themselves and the world to expand their horizons and increase their knowledge that eventually will improve their living standards. The MICT is taking a holistic approach in engaging the public. It has put programmes in place through which it informs the public about the Government's programmes, projects and decisions.

Apart from feeding the media with information to make it accessible to citizens, there are awareness and education campaigns through which the ministry reaches out to the people, at all levels, conveying important messages that promote socio-economic, historical and cultural aspirations. Some of these campaigns are the civic education drive, initiated this year, with the aim of educating the Namibian nation about our historical, cultural and socio-economic projects. This campaign takes officials of the MICT to rural communities, reaching many people who are far from the limelight of the news media.

In 2011, His Excellency, President Hifikepunye Pohamba launched the Nationhood and National Pride (NHNP) campaign to direct Namibians to love their country by doing away with social ills such as tribalism, nepotism, vandalism of public property, as well as instilling national pride among Namibians, particularly the youth, and respect for national symbols, colours, and diverse cultures.

The civic education and NHNP campaigns are complementary in that they both are directed towards creating awareness and educating Namibians about the events in which people must take pride.

A well-informed society is prosperous because people make right decisions and participate in activities that are constructive and valuable to their lives. Information and knowledge sharing can contribute to the development of communities and promote peace, security and harmony among citizens. The MICT avails Cabinet decisions on various projects to the media and public. This is done to ensure that people have access to authentic government information that will help them to understand not only the activities the Government is involved in but also for them to participate in the various development activities implemented in communities by the Government.

It is the mandate of the MICT to avail public information to all Namibians. While the Government is committed to bringing information to the doorsteps of citizens, it is also important for the public to seek government information. To fulfil its commitment to sharing information, the Government publishes two major publications such as the Government Information Bulletin and the Namibia Review that reports on news as well as reviewing government policies, projects, programmes and development progress in the country.

Other materials published and distributed annually are cabinet posters, featuring the portraits of cabinet officials. They are distributed free of charge to communities, schools and other institutions throughout the country. The posters serve as educational materials in schools and community centres. Many of the programmes and projects put in place are implemented as responses to the recommendations of the MICT's Service Delivery Survey of 2008/7, in which the Namibian public had expressed aspirations on their need for information and how to communicate it to their communities.

Namibia is considered a film production destination and a total of 144 productions, ranging from feature films and documentaries, to commercials and TV films were produced on location in Namibia during the 2011/2012 Financial Year. This generated much-needed foreign currency and provided employment to locals, as well as making a significant contribution to the tourism industry. During the Financial year 2011/2012, the Namibia Film Commission commissioned the production of seven short films to the amount of N$2.3 million. Three of these short local films have been submitted to the African Movies Academy Awards (AMAAs), with the assistance of the Namibia Film Commission.

A total of 60 trainees have undergone training on various aspects of filmmaking such as production, designing, film editing, sound engineering and cinematography. Qualified professional and experienced trainers with experience on Hollywood productions conducted the training. The trainees were attached to all seven short film productions to gain practical experience in their respective film specialisations. Many Namibian short film scriptwriters have been trained and most of them have received opportunities to direct their own films. These are some of the activities being intensified and consolidated to drive the Namibian Dream on information and communication technology forward. The promotion of nation-building and national identity in our country in which we will grow in peace and become patriotic citizens, devoted to mutual respect and meaningful co-existence, can never be over-emphasised.

Finally, as we approach the festive season, Namibians will take off time to join their families, relatives and friends countrywide. May they celebrate unity, generosity and happiness while they relax and come back to work in the New Year 2013 refreshed, to rededicate their energy and time to nation-building.

Merry Christmas and a Prosperous New Year!

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