Namibia is situated in South Western Africa, bordered by the Atlantic Ocean in the west, Angola and Zambia in the north, Botswana and Zimbabwe in the east and South Africa in the South. The country has a surface area of 824,292 km² with 14 administrative divisions. The population as at July 2017 was estimated at 2.484 million inhabitants with a literacy rate of 81.9%. Fifty-nine percent of the total population is between the ages of 15 - 64, with a median age of 22 years. Windhoek, the capital city, has a population of 368,000 (2015, CIA World FactBook). Namibia is multi-cultural with English as the official language, and 16 other languages spoken. Namibia is one of the first countries to incorporate protection of the environment into its constitution with approx 14% of its land being protected including the Namib Desert coastal strip.
Namibia is an arid country with generally low and highly variable rainfall. Agriculture, largely subsistence, is the main economic activity for the rural population, contributing about 6.3% of GDP. Other activities include Industry (29.9%) and Services (63.8%) based on 2014 estimates. Diamonds, Minerals, Fish, Livestock and Livestock by-products are the country's principal exports.
In relation to Communications, according to figures provided by the Communication Regulatory Authority of Namibia (CRAN) there were 187,853 fixed phone subscribers, 2.66 million mobile phone subscribers and 1.58 million mobile Internet users in December 2016. The number of high-speed ADSL subscriptions (10 Mbps or above) significantly increased during the second half of 2016. Fibre to the home (FTTh) is gaining popularity in Namibia, with 158 subscriptions. However, fast residential wired broadband market has only 574 subscriptions (ADSL 10Mbps and above plus FTTh).
In terms of ICT infrastructure, the telecommunications backbone switching and transmission network was 100 percent digitalised in 1999 with state-of-the-art underground fibre-optic cabling. Direct communication satellite links exist with neighbouring countries as well as with the UK, USA and Germany. The West African Cable System (WACS) was launched in April 2012, providing Namibia's first link to global submarine cable network. The optic fibre cables have interconnected all major towns with a fibre point of presence. Fibre cables have also been extended to the borders of Angola, Zambia, Botswana and South Africa. The country has also deployed an IP/MPLS network country wide with points of presence in all towns. Telecom is further investing in a nationwide terrestrial fibre backbone infrastructure with the aim to increase capacity on existing fibre infrastructure to fully utilise the WASC capacity. Modern infrastructure includes the rolling out of the Government's Regional ICT Hubs, the High-speed (3G/4G LTE) network. Namibia is also connected to the South African Far East (SAFE) submarine cable through South Africa.
Namibia has three cellular operators MTC, Paratus Telecom and TN mobile. MTC launched 4G during 2012. MTCs 3G network is deployed in over 95 percent of the country making access to the Internet available through their 3G devices and internet enabled phones, in partnership with Nokia Siemens and Motorola. This has been an enhancement of the existing GSM/GPRS/EDGE broadband technologies with increasing international capacity through VSAT Internet gateways.
In March 2014, Namibia established its own Internet exchange point (IXP) in collaboration with the African Union Commission through the African Internet Exchange System (AXIS) Initiative.
Namibia has two main public institutions: University of Namibia and Namibia University of Science and Technology, 36 vocational training centres and 9 skills development centres, one private University (International University of Management) and 1,450 schools. There are also several private colleges and open colleges operating in Namibia.
The Namibian Government recognises the value of Information and Communications Technology (ICT) as an industry to support socio-economic growth. The Namibian Government's Vision 2030 aims at transforming Namibia into a knowledge-based society and leveraging knowledge and technology for the benefit of the people of Namibia. To achieve that Vision, four Development Plans have been formulated. The NDP4 desired outcome for the ICT sector in is to ensure that by 2017, adequate ICT infrastructure will be in place to facilitate economic competitiveness through innovation, research and development: Availability of latest technologies score improves to 6.0 from 5.5. To this end, the ICT sector developed its Five year Sectoral Plan (2012 -2017) which is cascaded annually to the Annual Sectoral Execution Plan.
The Government of the Republic of Namibia envisaged that by embracing the development of ICT, Namibians will benefit through:
- Access and availability of information that assist them in their daily lives
- Increased competitiveness of business and commerce in the global market place
- Establishment of an environment conducive to the development of Namibian-based ICT providers that are competitive internationally, and create opportunities for employment and economic diversification
The Government of Namibia aims to ensure that every citizen and resident shall have affordable access to high quality information and communication services. To achieve Vision 2030, Namibia needs to accelerate the use of ICT in Namibia and grow the sector, hence the specific objectives of the ICT policy are:
- To enhance the market and regulatory structure of ICT in Namibia, to fully liberalise (open, competitive market and private sector participation) all telecommunications services by 2010, following a controlled process
- To establish streamlined, efficient and effective regulation of the ICT industry on a fully transparent, technology neutral and competitively balanced basis
- To provide universal access to information and communication facilities in Namibia for all communities (to telephones, Internet and multi-media services) by 2011, by establishing an access point in every community or village.
- To enable affordable prices for telecommunications services, particularly low income groups by 2010
- To enable profitable investment opportunities in all segments of the market by 2010
- To successfully implement government ICT initiatives in education and training by 2013
- To successfully implement e-government initiatives by 2015
- To establish Namibia as a first class regional ICT hub that will contribute towards job creation by 2013
A dedicated Ministry of ICT was established in 2008. Namibia has made good strides in developing the ICT sector. The overarching Information Technology policies include the IT Policy, Broadcasting Policy Communications 2009 and Telecommunications Policy, Postal Policy. The Communications Regulatory Authority of Namibia (CRAN), which was foreseen under the Communications Act of 2009, was operationalised in 2011. National Development Plan 4 (2013/2017) aimed to have "adequate ICT infrastructure in place to facilitate economic development and competitiveness through innovation, research and development" by 2017. As a result CRAN undertook an assessment of current eInfrastructure to develop a plan for necessary ICT infrastructure, digital literacy and supporting ICT-skilled workforce development (CRAN 2014 Annual Report). The Ministry of ICT has been running an annual national ICT Summit since 2014 to bring together the stakeholders who form the ICT value chain to share developments. There is an increased focus on how ICT can be applied to solve national societal challenges and impact on urban, rural and deep rural communities.
The National Policy on Research, Science and Technology was adopted in 1999 and enacted the Research, Science and Technology Act of 2004. They aim to increase coordination, facilitate institutional capacity building, financing of research and development projects and promote science. Both UNAM and NUST developed and approved a Research strategy, which has been revised and developed into a fully-fledged Research Policy for the University together with the Research Ethics Policy.
In 2014, the National Commission on Research, Science and Technology, through a stakeholder consultation process developed Namibia's first National Programme for Research, Science, Technology and Innovation. It prioritises Economic and Social Enablers (Health, Agriculture and Fisheries, Water, Energy, Indigenous knowledge, Social Sciences and Humanities Logistics, Environment and Tourism, Mining and Geosciences) and Technology Enablers (ICT, Manufacturing technologies, Biotechnology).
In 2016, with support from UNESCO, a comprehensive review of the National Policy on Research, Science and Technology (NPRST) of 1999 was undertaken to identify strengths and weaknesses of the National System of Innovation (NSI) and to modernise Namibia's STI policy and invest more proactively in policy implementation. The overall objectives and strategies of this NSTI Policy is to grow Namibia's NSI into a dynamic and strong configuration of public, private, education and research and societal sector institutions that produce, procure, use and govern science, technology and innovation for sustainable development. To achieve these objectives and strategies the NSTIP aims to improve the policy, legislative and regulatory environment; strategic partnerships; scientific and technical competences and infrastructure in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM).
The focus during the fifth National Development Plan (NDP5), which was launched on 31 May 2017, is to further enhance the use of ICTs in applied research and utilization of research findings. The objective is to ensure that research outputs translate into products and services that address national challenges and priorities. The realisation of objectives set out in Vision 2030, NDP5 and the Harambee Prosperity Plan will focus on key strategies and initiatives to increase access to ICT related services. These strategies and initiatives include providing necessary ICT infrastructure, ICT skills and human resources, modern broadcasting services and increased e-services in an integrated multipronged approach.