Key note statement by Hon. Joel Kaapanda, MP, Minister of Information and Communication Technology, on the occasion of the visit of the ITU Deputy Secretary General to Namibia

August 5, 2014, 12:28pm

 

Key note statement by Hon. Joel Kaapanda, MP, Minister of Information and Communication Technology, on the occasion of the visit of the ITU Deputy Secretary General to Namibia. 

 

31 July 2014

 

Esteemed Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen, today marks a historic occasion in Namibia's ICT landscape. We are gathered here in honour of the Deputy Secretary General of the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), Mr Houlin Zhao, the first high ranking ITU official to visit Namibia in recent years. Mr. Houlin Zhao was elected ITU Deputy Secretary-General at the ITU Plenipotentiary Conference in Antalya, Turkey, in November 2006 and re-elected for a second four-year term in Guadalajara, Mexico, in October 2010.

 

Mr Zhao has served in ITU 's Telecommunication Standardization Bureau (TSB), spearheading the introduction of new efficiency measures to improve ITU's standards-making environment and strengthen its promotion. He was directly involved in enhancing the strategic partnership between the ITU Member States and Sector Members, while initiating and maintaining good relationships with industry members. Under his leadership, ITU enhanced its level of international cooperation with other standards development organizations, and was instrumental In help bridging the standardization gap between developing and developed countries,

amongst other achievements.  We are thus very honoured, Mr. Zhao to have you visiting Namibia and we warmly welcome you and Mrs. Anne Rita Semboga to our

country affectionately known as the land of the Brave. The development of the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in Africa is central to regional development and integration. ICT is an enabling and empowering technology that creates new opportunities for promoting sustainable development; alleviating

poverty; achieving universal service and deepening democratic and good governance, among others. It is therefore, imperative that we accelerate initiatives that will help Namibia to address the challenges of convergence and the harmonization of ICT infrastructure, services and indicators.

 

In addressing these challenges, the ITU is a valued partner to Namibia and has been an active proponent of ICT development globally and continentally through various projects and programmes, most recently, the Harmonization of the ICT Policies in Sub Sahara Africa (HIPSSA) project established in 2008 with the broad objective

to discuss and draft harmonized policies, legal and regulatory frameworks at the regional and continental levels. Through the HIPSSA project, Namibia was assisted by the ITU to develop a cybersecurity legal framework addressing electronic communications, cybercrime and data protection. The draft bills are currently being

studied for endorsement by Cabinet by the Government legal drafters.

 

I am encouraged by the focus that the International Community, including the ITU is placing on this critical area of electronic communications. I am further reminded about the data security breaches and compromises in electronic communications security systems that quite often occurs, make cyber security and data

protection online a persistent challenge. A further critical area in the development of ICTs is ICT infrastructure development, connectivity and access to information. I recall a number of international connectivity initiatives that were undertaken in

and around the African continent, such as the West African Cable System (WACS), SEACOM undersea cable; SAT-3 and others.

 

In 2011, Namibia, realized international connectivity by investing in WACS with a landing point at Swakopmund. A unique arrangement in respect of infrastructure sharing among SADC members countries to promote regional integration, Namibia shares the WACS landing and capacity benefits on a 50/50 basis with our land-locked neighbor, Botswana. Namibia also provides access capacity to Zambia and

Zimbabwe.

 

ICT infrastructure development remains a priority for the Namibian Government and it is therefore adequately provided for in our 4th National Development Plan ending in 2017. Our national telecoms operators have been focusing on investing In national ICT infrastructure. Our national backbone network is fully digitalize forming the bedrock upon which 4G/ L TE mobile services was rolled out in 2012, including reaching 95% population coverage.

 

In the broadcasting sector, the need to migrate our analogue broadcasting to digital broadcasting by 2015 requires urgent completion In order to ensure smooth migration. Targeted investments In broadcasting infrastructure from own resources

enabled Namibia to accelerate the process of OTT migration well ahead of many SADC countries, except Mauritius and Tanzania. To date, Namibia has recorded 61 % population coverage with digital broadcasting as compared to the ITU-GE06 migration target (being 67% analogue coverage). This achievement places Namibia within reach of the ITU migration deadline of 17 June 2015.

 

Mr. Deputy Secretary General, Ladies and Gentlemen, Best practices around the world dictates that a focused approach is needed to move forward with ICT. My Government created a new and focused Ministry of Information and Communication Technology in 2008 to spearhead an ICT revolution in Namibia. My Ministry focused due attention on the creation of an enabling environment for ICT growth through solid policy and legislative framework which saw the adoption of a compendium of ICT policies in 2009. These include telecoms, IT, broadcasting, postal and a new technology and service neutral licensing regime. A universal service and access policy

followed while legislative interventions In the form of the Communications Act, 2009 was adopted.

 

Namibia was one of the first countries to benefit directly from the HIPSSA project in 2009 with the transformation of the Telecoms Regulator, the Namibian Communications Commission (NCC) to a converged ICT Regulator, the Communications Regulatory Authority of Namibia (CRAN). ITU provided financial and technical assistance and support to Namibia that was instrumental in assisting in this

transformation process as well as in the development of the Communications Act, the necessary ancillary regulatory documents and processes for CRAN.

 

ITU also assisted with the financing and recruitment of the consultants who drafted the Universal Access and Service (UAS) policy, which will allow the provision of ICT services to all Namibians at affordable prices. More recently, the ITU provided technical support to Namibia in the form of three experts, who aided the formulation of the cyber security, electronic transactions and data protection legal framework, which culminated in the Electronic Transactions Bill that is being prepared for discussions in Parliament.

 

Apart from the aforesaid, Namibia has also benefitted substantially from the numerous training opportunities provided by the ITU to member states on different ICT topics and contributing to regional capacity building.

 

Mr. Deputy Secretary General, the Namibian Government is eager to play a more active and fundamental role in supporting the ITU activities and deepening the collaboration between the ITU and Namibia. We have in fact begun by offering to host the ITU Strategic Costing and Pricing Workshop for Next Generation Access/Quadplay Services from 6-9 October 2014 for English speaking countries in

Africa.

 

We have no doubt that the strengthening of relations between the ITU and Namibia will benefit the ICT sector with a positive spread to the Namibian ICT operators and consumers alike. While we have made good strides in ICT development, we remain

conscious of the fact that human resource constraints in the sector pose a huge challenge. At its core is our young ones, and my Government is hard at work to ensure that our learners become ICT literate in order to take up the challenges of the future. The skills deficit and capacity constraints are the next level where urgent action is needed. The system of ITU Centers of Excellence around the world is a strategic intervention that will greatly assist member countries to overcome its human resources challenges.

 

In conclusion, I want to sincerely thank Mr. Houlin Zhao for gracing our country with his presence. I am looking forward to forging further special partnerships with the ITU to develop ICTs world-wide and particularly in Namibia.

I thank you.