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Wednesday 16 January 2019
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How outsourcing ICT solutions to foreign companies killing innovation

…and growth of the local industry

 

Amidst the global economic woes, information communication technology (ICT) has shown strong fundamental growth in many countries, increasing earnings and driving the developmental agenda. However, in Namibia ICT solutions has been for many years outsourced to foreign nationals and companies at the expense of qualified and competent Namibians, living many of our own ICT personnel without work and diminishing opportunities for ICT startups.
This article highlight the impact outsourcing ICT services will have on the local ICT industry and workforce. Moreover, possible solutions to overcome this trajectory are outlined.
No doubt the local ICT industry is still relatively small compared to that of our big brother and neighbor, South Africa. However, over the last decade we have seen a rise in the number of locally produced ICT personnel from our institutions of higher learning, mainly the Namibia University of Science & Technology (NUST) and University of Namibia (UNAM). Graduates from these institutions have shown great capacity, which can be evenly matched to their counterparts from other universities world over.
Outsourcing is not new, for many decades, industries such as textile and manufacturing has outsourced the production of garments, cars and other products to foreigner countries in their pursuit to expand to foreign markets. However, in many of these countries outsourcing only happened after local capacity was created and ensuring timely delivery of goods to other parts of the world.
Thanks to globalization the world has become a global village, pushing businesses to expand their operations beyond their geographical borders. In many developing countries Namibia included, outsourcing of ICT services has been a norm for many years. As a result, the industry has been lagging behind in terms of creativity and innovation. Additionally, due to outsourcing millions of Namibian dollars left our economy.
Thus, it’s important and crucial for a small country like Namibia to protect, support and help create strong ICT industry that can compete with the like of Kenya, South Africa, China and India. However, this will not be possible without radical protectionist policies that will enforce all enterprises both public and private to procure 60% of ICT services or product needs locally from competent 100% Namibian owned ICT startups or individuals.
Unlike the interim protection on the Broiler industry of 2013, which resulted in skyrocketing prices of locally produced chicken? Supporting locally developed ICT services will transform the industry into a lucrative one for many Namibians, creating new jobs, skills and empowering Namibians to respond to developmental challenges. Moreover, in this era were cybercrime has become prevalent and cyber-security has become a top priority on the agenda of many nations. We cannot afford to have majority of our software and ICT solutions being developed outside Namibia.
Many critics will claim that Namibians do not have capacity or the required skills to develop complex ICT solutions. I refute these fallacious claims, throughout the hackathons events and other coding events; we have come across so many young Namibians with strong analytics and coding skills, some of whom have developed their own apps and software that are currently being used in production environments.
No doubt, Namibians have the capacity and talent to develop and create ICT solutions for our people. However, lack of trust in our own people continues to hold us back from becoming the great nation we are destined to be. Buying software from India, China or South Africa will not help us but keep us dependent on these nations.
As a country we do not have the luxury to wait any longer, we need action now. We need to support our local ICT industry, help it grow and support our industry in order for it to be able compete against multinationals. We have the right conditions, peace and stability that is so praised by our leader, now we need to translate the peace and stability into tangible benefits for our people. ICT is that enabler, we need a strong local ICT industry that will focus on innovation to solve local challenges and transform the Namibian house into a successful developmental state.
As a country we will never become self-reliant if we cannot develop our own software, fix our own computers and or develop the ICT services we consume. In conclusion, the hiring of foreign consultants should come to an end, after almost 27 years; Namibians need their chance to prove that they can deliver better ICT services.

Lameck Mbangula Amugongo is country Ambassador of 1 Billion Africa in Namibia. He holds B.IT: Software Engineering, B.Hons: Software Development (Cum Laude), MSc. Computer Science & PhD Candidate




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