By Hilary Mare
THE implications of the digital divide are greater in Namibia than some may realise and go beyond the download speed for a teenager’s iPod or the quality of streaming Internet video. Broadband is and remains a ‘transformative technology’ that improves health care, education and, perhaps most importantly, economic opportunity.
This is why Mobile Telecommunications Limited (MTC) new innovation to bring an affordable 3G smartphone to rural areas across the whole country through the ‘Osmartphona roadshows’ will go a long way in growing Namibia’s prosperity under the Harambee Prosperity Plan and will further showcase how technology can bridge the divide between urban and rural communities and make rural living a more sustainable option.
Broadband Internet is so important to rural development that many global leaders and theorists have equated it to the development of interstate highways in this century. The digital divide, however, between rural and urban areas has widened in recent years as broadband has become a staple in the homes of urban and suburban residents while failing to equally reach rural residents. Recognising the importance of broadband, MTC essentially has made a commitment towards bridging the broadband gap between rural and urban Namibia with a cross subsidised smartphone.
In the broader sense and when talking about the challenges Namibia faces in its digital divide, we have to commence with the facts and the rather startling reality that urbanisation is both a cause and consequence of economic growth. We live in a world which is becoming increasingly urban.
However, it is a globally proven fact that urbanisation is an irreversible, dynamic process interlinked with socio-economic change. It is up to nation and the perception of ‘the urban’ within society as a whole which determines if these changes will be beneficiary for society …or not.
In this context, Osmartphona will look to stimulate collaborative thinking around the drawbacks of rural living, with a particular focus on the development of robust digital infrastructures and sustainable internet solutions for all.
Selling at a price of N$399, Osmartphona creates a solid base for technology and innovation thereby improving understanding and appreciation of why innovation is important for vast Namibian communities.
It is important to note that while there is an indication that demand-oriented policies which can raise awareness of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) are especially relevant in developing countries. All too often, the importance of ICT policies and the market supply-side is considered to the neglect of underlying demand. Public access and other initiatives such as this one are vital in raising awareness and encouraging the take-up of ICTs.
Confidente. Lifting the Lid. Copyright © 2015