ICT a catalyst for economic development

02 July 2020 | Opinion

Windhoek • Llewellyn le Hané
Namibia seems to be on the cusp of a major technological revolution; suddenly we have apps for everything, online payment systems are readily available, and we are catching up to technological advancements that other countries have had for many years.
For years we complained that we were lagging behind – especially after visiting other countries. But now we too seem to have the world at our fingertips thanks to digital developments. This is a great step in the right direction.
If we want to compete locally, regionally and globally, we must embrace and nurture development. This means that Namibia needs to start thinking of ICT as a catalyst for grassroots development of the economy.
Namibia has realised the vital role technology can play in alleviating some of the teething challenges weighing down its prospects for growth. Stakeholders and government are keenly aware of the crucial role ICT can play in speeding up development in Namibia, because a total rethink of the public and private sector can improve productivity, service delivery and unlock huge potential for new businesses.
This means that young people, entrepreneurs and existing businesses that are willing to “think outside the box” and are eager to embrace, invest and develop IT-based solutions, have a bright future.
We have seen that technology drives innovation and can catapult countries to the forefront economically and empower its people. Look to countries like India and Vietnam as an example of economies embracing ICT. However, we need to start at a young age, educating children right from the get-go to be computer literate.
This is certainly a challenge for us as a nation, but it also provides Namibia with opportunities. Judging by new endeavours like online payment systems, products and services migrating online and onto smartphones, we are ready. We just need to ensure that our kids have the knowledge to engage and harness the potential that ICT brings. However, this can only happen by providing them with the tools they need in the form of hard and software and creating a conducive and stimulating environment for them.
By developing home-grown talent through internships and focusing on ICT-skills development, we can become a force to be reckoned with.

Change through innovation
Being able to see and act upon potential opportunities for change through innovation is the only path to success. This means that the business environment needs to change. It can only survive if Namibia can successfully compete and even flourish in the face of the range of emerging adverse and fluctuating business and economic conditions.
The situation in which we find currently ourselves proves that ICT will truly be the bedrock of our economy as people work from home and e-learning starts playing a major role in children’s lives.
Another aspect is using ICT to battle Covid-19, through the development of track & tracing apps, an imperative if we are to keep a handle on the virus. It is also something that we can and should develop as a nation, through integrated public and private partnerships for the good of the country.
There is need to develop home-grown talent through internships with relevant companies, international partnerships, skills exchange and by stimulating tertiary institutions to continue focusing on ICT skills development for the knowledge-based economy.
We can establish an environment where everything is set up to stimulate an innovative economy from a grassroots level and be the catalyst for an innovative economic sector in Namibia.
*Llewellyn le Hané is a director at Green Enterprise Solutions.

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