Wednesday, 28th September was International Day for the Universal Access to Information. The day is a result of the UNESCO resolution (38 C/70) that was adopted on the 17th November 2015. Our Government joined others globally who celebrated the day by resolving to ensure that all Namibian citizens have access to information.
When we say all Namibians should have access to information what exactly do we mean? Which information is being referred to? The dialogue around access to information tends to lean heavily towards press freedom and its connection to democracy and good governance. I see no fault in that per say, however am of the opinion that for as long as we do not embrace a culture of knowledge sharing, we will never truly be empowered. I am always surprised at our reluctance to share information with each other. The number of youth led initiatives in this country with similar mandates is astounding as an example. Everyone wants to do their own thing despite the lone ranger syndrome always bearing little fruit in comparison to cooperative efforts.
Having access to information is empowering but passing the ‘right’ information onto others is even more empowering. This requires creating a whole new culture of knowledge sharing that should trump this ‘survival of the more informed ‘set up we have in our country. Lest all Namibians have excess to the information basket that has enabled the minority few to prosper, we will keep stressing the importance of access to information without being able to tangible measure how it positively affects society. One can only presume that Governments commitment to ensuring all citizens have access to information is in essence a call to create a culture of knowledge sharing. Currently we embrace a blame shifting attitude, where it is always someone else fault that things happen or do not happen. I am all for accountability and transparency, although I also strongly believe that individuals have the ability to empower themselves outside of government efforts.
In an ideal perfect world, what you know should trump who you know in order to succeed in life. It is your well of knowledge whether attained through academia or experience that will open doors and keep them open for you contrary to the ‘who you know’ set-up we have here in Namibia. The bigger picture that many of us do not like to look at is really that no one should be left out. Hence it is important that we go beyond and start a culture of opening doors for each other instead of being wrapped up in self-preservation. Education is said to be the greatest equaliser between class systems, race, gender and all other societal divides we are familiar with in this world. What makes education powerful is that it is basically information passed on in such a way that a learner from a public school in Okahao, Omusati region can have the same opportunities in life as that of a St Paul’s College learner. Again this is the ideal set-up and clearly demonstrate how only some might have access to information that will send their children to private schools and onto international scholarships that should have been accessed by all.
There was a story just last month in the media about an Engineer adamant to not share his ‘intellectual property’ with a trainee and that in itself is a reflection of the withholding culture we have in our country amidst the racial slurs we all know and see around us. Nonetheless as the world celebrated having access to information ,I dream of a day when Government doesn’t have to wait for international agencies to inform us about how our economic outlook is not stable (considering they had this information all along), a day when people will always get positions based on merit instead of ‘chommaness’ and a day when ‘snoepirige maniere’ will end when it comes to sharing the ‘right’ information that will empower all Namibians irrespective of race, tribe, connections or anything else really that resembles selfish motives to propser.
Rakkel Andreas is an MA European and International Studies graduate from the Centre International de Formation Européen (CIFE) in Nice-France as well as BA in Media Studies and Political Science from the University of Namibia.