MTC, Please Do Better

Anne Hambuda

In an era dominated by the relentless forward march of technology, where the so-called fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) is starting to shape the landscape of connectivity and communication globally, it seems nearly impossible to believe that Namibians are finding themselves standing in long queues to manually register their SIM cards.

MTC’s recent decision to enforce an in-person registration process, to me, reflects a glaring oversight in embracing the digital advancements that define our age.

And before you tell me that people had lots of time to do this before this final month, shut up, that’s not what this is about.

When I walked past a long line snaking out of MTC in Klein Windhoek, spilling out onto the pavement in the hot Namibian sun, it struck me how the very act of manual registration contradicts the ethos of progress.

In a world where the internet and artificial intelligence have ushered in a new era of quick and seamless interactions, the old-school nature of this process takes me back to a time in my childhood, when we were accustomed to waiting and waiting and waiting.

It’s giving me flashbacks of when I would accompany my father every Sunday to collect the mail from our mailbox.

It was such a fun activity for me at the time, but also it was over 15 years ago, and I’d have hoped life would be a lot different now.

It is not just this particular process that’s still in the dark ages, but it’s a stark reminder that, despite the promises of a connected future, bureaucratic hurdles persist in a nation led by octogenarians who might just not understand what heading into the future looks like, practically.

The third Industrial Revolution marked the digitalisation of many industries and the introduction of the internet era. I remember this transformation like it was yesterday. (But it wasn’t yesterday, was it?)

And now here we are in 2023 grappling with paperwork and inefficient systems like it’s 2005, claiming to be in the fourth phase of metamorphosis, when we’re still struggling with the third.

One cannot help but question why, in the age of digital transformation, a telecommunications giant like MTC opted for a manual registration process initially. Yes, I acknowledge that they have eventually – in the last few weeks of the registration window – caved in and offered a quick online process for this task. But I wonder why on earth it took so long. And I wonder how many times I need to refresh the page for it to actually be functional.

The very essence of the 4IR is in the integration of technology into every facet of our lives, such as education, information dissemination, banking, etc.

Efficient online registration portals could easily replace the need for physical queues across multiple areas.

I am not an expert, but I’m aware that things like biometric authentication and mechanisms for digital identity verification exist, meaning these can still be secure online platforms that streamline processes.

Worse still, the world is pushing towards a more sustainable and eco-friendly future. Half of Namibia was in Dubai for COP28, the UN conference on climate change.

MTCs approach, with its tonnes of physical paper and forms that need to be filled out, is clearly at odds with this new direction Namibia is looking toward. The impact of this oversight clearly extends beyond the inconvenience to clients.

As we navigate through the ever-changing landscape of technology, it is important that all sectors adapt and evolve with the times. The argument isn’t against the need for registration; rather, it is a call for a more progressive, technologically driven approach that teleports us further into the 21st century.

– Anne Hambuda is a writer, social commentator and poet. Follow her online @anne__ngl or email her for more.

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