NAMIBIA is set to boost its computer literacy levels following an invigorated approach by Microsoft - the world’s largest software developer - to avail free operational software to Small and Medium Scale Enterprises (SMEs) with less than ten personal computers in their present operations.

The project will introduce the country to a dynamic world of e-learning and e-commerce and is expected to boost the country’s hopes of accessibility to Information Communication Technology (ICT) for all Namibians as enshrined in the National Development Plans.

Microsoft’s initiative is expected to improve computer literacy levels in schools as they will acquire ICT products at subsidized rates compared to those offered by and to commercial entities.

This drive has since laid foundation in Namibia through a partnership launched between the Ministry of Education and the software developer in 2003.

So far 17 schools in the Erongo region have received computers.

The Microsoft, ICT enhancement programme will also account for teacher training and students skills development programmes that will see many schools in the country accessing personal computers.

Microsoft Senior Business Development Manager for East and Southern Africa, Warren La Fleur revealed this in an exclusive interview with Prime Focus.

He said Microsoft has gone further in guaranteeing its Namibian customers free anti- virus software if they buy original software.

La Fleur, who was in the country recently said; “The market in Namibia is still relatively small for Microsoft to reap the required proceeds that’s why we have decided to take the rest of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) in our approach to create a bigger market access.”

According La Fluer, who has over 15 years experience in Africa’s ICT industry, including management and technical roles, the biggest setback in most Namibian businesses enhancing their computer operational capacity is the high prevalence of pirated software which constitutes about 75 percent of the operational software accessible on the market.

He highlighted that only 25 percent of the country’s businesses use genuine software while the rest are saturated by pirated products that have increased the risks of system disturbances and shut downs.

In Namibia the latest operation software offered by Microsoft cost around N$ 2000 but most of the software applied in the majority of PCs around the country are pirated hence cheaper.

He noted that most businesses in the country compromise their PC operational safety due to high exposure to viruses from the pirated software that have flooded the Namibian market.

“Microsoft is aware that most companies in the developing world are handicapped by the non availability of financial resources to acquire both PCs for their companies and genuine operational software,” added La Fleur.

La Fleur who has served Microsoft since 2005 specialising in programme management, service delivery, security, training and business analysis kept his reservations on the current success rate of the programme with the Ministry of Education describing it as an ongoing project with the potential to show results in the not so distant future.

Although Namibia is among the least ICT literate countries in Africa, the regional Microsoft boss said the country has the potential to excel in its capacity to boost its industrial performance through engaging the best computer software available.

The Microsoft initiative is set to take off in other Sadc countries namely Zimbabwe, Zambia, Botswana and South Africa providing essential soft ware products.

The engagement by Microsoft with the Namibian Government to enhance computer systems operations also comes hard on the heels with Namibia witnessing a revolutionary age in the development of ICT following the laying down of the West African Cable System (WACS)-fibre optic cable reaching Walvis Bay.

The WACS is jointly executed by Telecom Namibia and Paris based Alcatel-Lucent Submarine and upon completion will give Namibia the lead in the magical broadband revolution in Africa as well as tele-education, telemedicine, e-commerce and e-governance and many others.

The WACS is being constructed at a whooping US$ 600 million with joint funding from all ICT partners in the country, Leo, MTC, Telecom and Government.

This technological breakthrough will see internet activity and speed multiplying in Namibia.

To this effect La Fleur added that the directive will improve the drive to improve ICT development in the country as t it will complement some of the projects availed to the country’s business and schools by Microsoft.

Microsoft is the world’s largest software manufacturer and their products are also among the most used in both the developing and developed countries.

Some of the products produced by Microsoft include Windows seven and Windows vista among others. PF