Missed Opportunities: Namibia’s youth lack support base to venture into ICT sector

 

Windhoek –  Namibian youth have identified cost of information and communication technologies (ICT), lack of skills and lack of access to funding as some of the factors limiting them to enter the market and venture into ICT business.

Most young people who took part in this year’s National Information and Communication Technology Summit told The Southern Times that a lot needs to be done for the youth to get involved in the sector.

Organisers of the ICT Summit, which was held in Windhoek from October 6-7, 2014, targeted young innovators as its youth component, which was not the case at previous summits.

The summit provided a platform for young entrepreneurs in the sector to share experiences and exhibit their products and services.

But ICT aspirants like Sirkka Salom, a student at the Polytechnic of Namibia, said although digital literacy has effectively become a prerequisite for employment and starting up a business, many young people lack knowledge and innovative skills.

“I can confirm that there are a lot of opportunities in the ICT sector for youth in this country. With the available technology, we could transform old ways of doing business in all sectors. We could sell our products and services from the comfort of our houses but the main question is, do we have skills and resources to do that?” she questioned.

Salom added that there is a need for the government and private sector to invest in digital literacy in order to educate young people on how ICT can contribute to the socio-economic growth of the country.

She said the pace of economic growth and global competitiveness can only be improved by means of education.

Petrus Shifidi pointed to inadequate infrastructures in some parts of the country, saying that without basic infrastructure, venturing into ICT business will be a risk that one has to take.

“It is hard for me to identify available opportunities in this country because we still lack ICT infrastructure, especially in the rural areas. How can we rely on ICT business when the infrastructures that goes along with Internet like basic telephone lines are still a distant dream for the vast majority of Namibians,” he said.

Shifidi appealed to the government to create platforms for youth empowerment, especially on ICT industry at local and regional level.

While the ICT summit was an opportunities for young people to explore the industry and network with both local and international experts, majority of youth were left out. Iyaloo Haitula, also an ICT student, pointed to lack of ICT literacy and absence of funding for the youth to venture into the sector.

“Yes, some of us studied but we are struggling to enter the market because we don’t have money to set up our own business. Local banks that [are] supposed to assist young entrepreneurs doubt our capabilities and prefer giving loans to well-establish[ed] businesses,” she said.

Haitula called for the revision of regulations to enable innovative entrepreneurs to develop and grow markets in the ICT sector here and abroad.

Internet is also very expensive in the country and one needs to have a lot of money in order to sell his/her products and services online, Haitula added. “Internet is expensive in Namibia, unless telecommunications companies reduce their rates, it will be difficult for the upcoming entrepreneurs to take part in this business,” she said.

Klaus Von Kries, Sales Manager of AVM GMBH International Communication Technology – a German based ICT company, said the role of technology in improving people’s lives cannot be underestimated.

He noted that most people, more than ever before are now buying goods and services online, sending messages across the globe to loved ones, sending emails to donor agencies for support and receiving instant replies.

He said there are many opportunities in the ICT industry that youth need to explore and make use of in order to empower themselves, but first they need to equip themselves with relevant skills and understanding on how technology works. And that can be achieved only if institutions in higher learning include ICT in their curriculum while for those that are already in the industry should try and come up with new innovations, “something African that is differentiating it from the rest of the world”.

“There is a lot of business opportunities in this country, what we need to do is just to equip the youth with skills needed to venture into this business. The message to them is that they should get involved, get educated for them to able to get involved,” said Von Kries.

Speaking at the opening of the summit on October 6, Namibia’s Information, Communication Technology Minister, Joel Kaapanda, urged young people to make use of ICT in order to address high unemployment in the country and to grow the country’s economy.

“The potential of ICT lies in the capacity of the young to transform market and organisations, learning and knowledge sharing, citizen and communities, in creating a significant economic growth worldwide.

“The government with no doubt, appreciates and recognises ICT as the building blocks of economic growth and our ICT policy with respect to Namibia’s Vision 2030, is to position ICT as a driver of our national socio-political and economic development and increased democracy, especially that of democratising information and economic growth,” Minister Kaapanda said.

October 2014
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