Namibia becomes the 32nd Internet Society (ISOC) chartered chapter to launch in Africa. Namibia is a Southern Africa country just slightly bigger than Texas, and the 34th largest country in the world , with 2.3 million inhabitants according to the last census (2011). Popularly referred as the “Land Of The Brave,” Namibia is the only place on the continent of Africa where the Atlantic ocean meets the desert.
The new chapter sets itself to serve an important role: being at the centre of Internet development & policy in the country. The ISOC Namibia Chapter seeks to address the digital divide and emerging Internet issues in Namibia with some core objectives:
- To add value to the Internet ecosystem at its locality
- To advocate for a secure cyber environment
- To promote free & secured Internet access for all
The chapter’s key interests in the country include collaborating with strategic partners on community network projects, strengthening local IXPs, as well as issues related to security and furthering connectivity.
The colorful launch event was attended by 111 participants and was officiated by the Minister of ICT, Honourable Tjekero Tweya. An additional government delegation of members of the Parliamentary Committee on ICTs, led by the Chairperson Honourable Faustina Caley, was in attendance, as well as Deputy Director of ICT Development in the Ministry of ICT, Elizabeth Kamutuezu, deans of faculties, and heads of departments of media as well as computing and informatics.
Verengai Mabika, the Internet Society’s Senior Policy Advisor for Africa, was a speaker, joining the UN Country Representative delegated official for the event, Dr. Jean Pierre Illboudo, Head of UNESCO.
Other important stakeholders in attendance included the Communications Regulatory Authority of Namibia (CRAN): Chief Executive Officer Festus Mbandeka, Chief of Operations, Head Legal, Head of the Universal Service Fund, and the Head of Communication.
The Namibian Internet ecosystem is made up of five Internet service providers, three telecommunications providers, a vibrant academic and research community, and a civil society that is undersized yet impactful. The ecosystem is regulated by the Communications Regulatory Authority of Namibia, guided by local and internationally-adopted laws. Before last September, stakeholders in the Internet ecosystem rarely had an official platform for engagement until the inaugural Internet Governance Forum was held.
Namibia Internet connectivity stands at 78 percent nationally, making internet connection firmly established, widely available, and speed fairly stable, however rural Namibia remains largely left out with only 13% coverage – according to ICT Minister Tjekero Tweya. This is a matter that pains him. The Minister has a vision for a 100 percent country coverage by 2020.
One key interest of the ISOC Namibia Chapter is the upcoming legislation related to the Internet, broadband policy and data protection policy as well as SIM card registration policy. Consultations on The Electronic Transaction and Cyber Crime Bill have just been concluded and the bill is slated for parliamentary tabling in 2018.
The new chapter was spearheaded by a group of young people mostly in academia and media interested in improving the Internet ecosystem in the country as well as stimulating dialogue on Internet policy and development matters. The group also had a private audience with the minister responsible for ICT, to discuss issues of mutual interest. This was in addition to meeting members of the academia, where collaboration and implementations at faculty levels was of key interest as universities wouldn’t have the budget given the country’s current financial state. Members of academia were also interested in the ISOC IETF.
In its first year of official operation, the chapter seeks to coordinate trainings on Internet growth and sustainability, raise awareness on safety on the Internet, and coordinate around Internet Governance Forum.
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