In recent years, we have witnessed Information Communication Technology (ICT) become an instrumental player in all aspects of our lives, driving growth and advancement in many sectors of the economy in almost every country.
This article seeks to explain the important role that ICT can play in modern communities and the opportunities it presents to overcome the challenges many African countries face in their intensive efforts to participate fully in the information society and knowledge economy. Furthermore, ICT will also play a crucial role in the attainable of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) adopted by United Nations (UN) member states in 2015.
ICT refers to the use of technology to collect, store, edit and share information in various forms with the intended recipients. Throughout the past years the use of ICT has greatly changed how governance and business operate. It has also influenced how we human beings think, feel and do things. In education, ICT has a huge presence, enabling people to obtain degrees without touching ground on University campus through e-learning platforms. Education is a very important socially oriented exercise and ICT has enhanced the quality of education. The use of ICT in education lends itself to a more student-centered learning.
One county that has made great advancement in this is India, where the application of ICT in recent years has contributed to the fast growing and vibrant economy. Another excellent example is Estonia, an ICT success story. At independence, Estonian politicians acknowledged that investing money into ICT would be the most efficient way to reduce government costs while at the same time improving the quality of life for citizens.
Today, Estonia is a world leader in e-governance and digitalisation, and has created a model for success that all small developing nations such as Namibia should consider. Based on the experiences from other countries, it has become public domain knowledge that ICT can play a vital role an economy; therefore immensely contribute to the gross domestic product of a nation. ICT can also act as an enabler that will greatly improve market competitiveness of a nation’s products and services. ICTs can impact positively on governance and other sectors of the economy.
In turn ICT can effectively assist international economic integration, enhance the living conditions, narrow the digital divide, and improve the management and usage of biodiversity. Characterised by the high inequality in terms of access and usage of ICT between the HAVES and the HAVES NOT, the digital divide visible both in rural and urban areas has greatly contributed to the disparity between those who have access and can use ICT and those who do not or cannot use ICT.
It is important that we breakdown this divide, however this can only be affectively addressed through efficient national policies on ICT. The digital divide can be narrowed and thus reduce poverty through effective and focused utilisation of ICTs in key sectors such as education, health, mining and agriculture.
The adoption of ICT requires a business environment encouraging open competition, trust and security, interoperability and standardization, and financial resources for ICT. This requires the implementation of sustainable measures to improve access to the Internet and telecommunications infrastructure and increase ICT literacy, as well as development of local Internet-based content.
Namibia like many other developing countries still depend on content developed and managed in the first world countries and as a result substantial costs are incurred while trying to access content. One of the causes that discourage access to digital information is culture and language difference. Efforts should be made to make ICT based services available in local languages if they are to be understood, adopted and utilised by locals.
During his State of the Nation Address, His Excellency Dr Hage Geingob launched the Harambe plan, which comprised of short term ICT goals for Namibia: to establish an environment that encourages networking of services and applications; promoting e-commerce and trade promotion programmes for goods and services; promoting Internet access to exchange and access digital content; establishing e-government; promoting education and on-line services; strengthening network security; building and developing e-society and ICT human resources.
However, without adequate ICT policies this will remain just a dream and unattainable. Thus it is important for our ICT goals to be supported by empowering policies that will enable intermediaries and entrepreneurs to participate. Good governance and effective management of public resources are fundamental to socio-economic development, and institute the primary means of social transformation.
Both combined are the foundations of many successful economies in the first world. Secondly, efficient and effective governance are essential components for the advancement of any nation. In this ICT driven era, it is important for countries to align themselves and ensure that they are ready to embrace the use of ICT.
Today, ICT has become a key enabler for economic growth because of its crosscutting nature therefore affecting all sectors. Adoption and proper utilisation of ICT will lead, among others, to increased yields and quality production of goods and services. Namibia as a county can realign and focus on ICT, manage it and mainstream ICT into an important contributor to GDP.
Lameck Mbangula Amugongo holds B.IT: Software Engineering, B.Hons: Software Development (Cum Laude) and currently pursuing MSc. Computer Science.