The deputy minister of information and communications technology, Emma Theofelus, has revealed that about 49% of the Namibian population still has no access to the internet.
Theofelus said this at the launch of the Namibia National Internet Universality Indicators (Roam-X) Assessment at the Namibia University of Science and Technology (Nust) yesterday.
She said the ministry has embarked on a digital literacy programme aimed at empowering those with no or fewer digital skills.
“There is more we can do to ensure we arrest the situation at policy level,” she said.
Theofelus said the Roam-X framework, which was launched yesterday, would help the ministry to locate policy and design blind spots and help it take the next steps.
“The Roam-X assessment, when completed later this year, promises to produce concrete analysis of the internet universality concept at country level,” she said.
Theofelus said the purpose of the framework is to assist interested governments and other stakeholders which undertake this voluntary assessment of their national internet environments with a direction towards enabling evidence-based policy formulation.
Nust’s dean of informatics, Fungai Shava, said there is a big divide between urban and rural or underserved communities.
“If you look at places like Windhoek, you find you have 100%, and if you go to the rural areas, some places have actually zero coverage,” she said.
Shava said access to technology is undermined in rural areas.
“I will make use of two research approaches we are taking at Engela, where we have conflict mainly between the Angolan and Namibian lines, and the people are already struggling to get internet access,” she said.
Shava said the cost of the internet is further aggravated by the fact that there is an overlap of roaming services at cities.
“Furthermore, when you look at areas like the Kunene, there’s very limited access for the populace, and there’s poor development economically, because businesses shy away from establishing their services in those areas due to the lack of connectivity,” she said.
The Internet Universality Indicator Framework highlights four principles essential for the internet to help achieve the sustainable development agenda.
Known as the Roam principles, these promote an internet that respects human rights, that is characterised by openness, that is accessibleto all and which is nurtured through multistakeholder participation.
The objective of the national assessment is to present a comprehensive and substantive understanding of the national internet environment and policies, assess internet alignment to the United Nations Educational, Cultural and Scientific Organisation’s Roam principles and their contribution to sustainable development, and to develop policy recommendations and practical initiatives that would enable the country to improve the national internet ecosystem.