Namibia Embraces E-Governance for a Modern Future

Namibia is strongly pushing towards embracing digital innovation and ensuring it keeps pace with the global digitalisation trend.

In a significant move towards achieving its digital transformation goals, the country recently made its mark internationally by actively participating in the prestigious e-governance conference held on 30-31 May in Tallinn, Estonia.

A delegation led by Deputy Minister of Information, Communication and Technology Emma Theofelus, which was also joined by members of the Parliamentary Committee on ICT, attended the conference to explore opportunities, exchange insights, and seek digital collaborations that could propel the growth of digitalisation in Namibia.

During an interview with this publication, Theofelus said Namibia perceives this as a valuable occasion to acquire knowledge from Estonia as a global leader in e-governance.

She said the government aims to cultivate the capacity to spearhead digital transformation in its governance processes.

"Namibia as a country is, of course at the crossroad where we want to truly become a frontrunner in e-governance, digital transformation, digital skills and ability in the country, and we saw an opportunity to learn from Estonia and learn the type of models they adopted to get to this point, how they were able to connect a country of 1.3 million. How they provided all these e-services that a citizen can get at a click of a button," explained the deputy minister.

Theofelus further emphasised that the country aspires to proactively identify potential challenges to avoid and capitalise on opportunities through continuous networking with other nations.

Estonia, a small country in northern Europe with a population of 1.3 million, is known for its advanced e-governance system, which has gained international recognition.

The country has digitalised 99% of its services.

Some of these services include, e-residency, iVoting and e-identity, among others.

Echoing Theofelus' sentiments, the ministry's spokesperson Shoki Kandjimi, said Namibia is actively positioning itself as a significant player in the digital realm and recognises the necessity of taking bold actions to advance its digital transformation goals.

He said the delegation had fruitful discussions with various institutions and companies within the ICT space.

"We have, for instance, agreed with the Estonians on our Digital Literacy Programmes, which will be offered in the regions. They will offer their human resources and expertise to assist the ministry in ensuring we achieve 100% digital literacy by 2030. I must also indicate that we will continue to engage other potential partners before cementing our agreements," said Kandjimi.

Asked about the key takeaways from the conference, Kandjimi said: "There is need for us first to ensure that our citizens are digitally literate, then put in place the necessary infrastructure to aid our digital transformation goals and simultaneously roll out government services online."

As they implement these services, he emphasised the importance of prioritising cybersecurity and data protection measures.

"The ultimate goal is to have government service online to make the lives of Namibians easy when accessing government services, which we are emulating from governments such as Estonia," he assured.

Digital inclusion

Despite the promising prospects of digital transformation in Namibia, member of parliament Kalimbo Iipumbu acknowledged the challenges that impede progress.

These challenges include the digital divide, inadequate infrastructure, and limited access to technology, among others.

He, therefore, emphasised the urgent need for affordable and reliable internet connectivity throughout Namibia.

Iipumbu highlighted that bridging the digital divide is crucial to ensuring equal opportunities for all Namibians in the digital economy.

"Establishing a robust digital infrastructure, including secure data centres, cloud computing solutions, and improved cybersecurity measures, is essential for successful e-governance," he said.

Asked on the progress of digital transformation in Namibia, MP Kletus Karondo said Namibia is currently on the right track.

He said the Access to Information Bill and free Wi-Fi Bill has opened up ways to get on those standards. However, we need to polish up to ensure our laws and policies reflect what is in those bills and follow the Estonian route of e-governance.

"For us to survive in the next four years ahead, we need to follow the global trends also to open up employment opportunities an economic development," he said.

The implementation of the Access to Information Bill is imminent, while the drafting of the free Wi-Fi bill is reaching its final stages.

This year, the cabinet approved the implementation of the National Cybersecurity Strategy and awareness-raising plan, which is currently being implemented.

The country is also formulating the cybersecurity crime bill and prioritising the development of a national digital strategy.

Held under the banner, "Digital innovation as a catalyst for social change", the 9th e-governance conference was attended by digital development strategists, decision-makers, policy implementers, and donors from a staggering 90 countries.

Reporting at the e-governance conference was possible thanks to the travel support of the AU-EU Digital for Development (D4D) hub.

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