Can Nam ICT evolve further?

Information and Communication Technology (ICT) innovations have delivered home-grown solutions in Namibia today. They are transforming businesses for the better while elevating entrepreneurship and economic growth.

The competitive ICT industry has been used to promote innovation, job creation, as well as boost the export potential of local companies.

However, Namibia performs poorly according to the rankings released by the World Economic Forum in its 2012 global information technology report, which measures the extent to which the chosen 142 countries take advantage of ICT and other new technologies to increase their economic growth and general well being.

Given the overall rankings, Namibia came 105th out of the 142 rated countries with a score of 3.35 points.

These figures make one wonder whether or not Namibian tertiary institutions offer programmes that are at par with international standards.

Currently, the Polytechnic of Namibia (PoN), the International University of Management (IUM), the University of Namibia (Unam) and a vast number of private colleges offer recognised international courses but the quality of graduates who emanate from these institutions is worrisome.

Moses Aochab who has over ten years’ experience in ICT tutoring says, “Nowadays, ICT is everywhere. You can even find computer skills in secondary schools these days. So it is no longer a profitable venture for colleges. They can no longer offer simple courses such as Microsoft Word, etc. They now offer serious networking programmes such as PC repair, IP routing, Windows networking and programming. These are the courses that will guarantee a good job.”

Aochab is also the owner of New Tech College, which specialises in a diverse number of ICT courses. The most common problem many colleges face, he says, is finding the right personnel to teach the ‘up-market courses’.

Move around colleges and you would discover that most of them have their own tailor-made curricula.

Fortunately, the computer courses offered by local colleges are accredited by the Namibia Qualifications Authority (NQA), which is a statutory body established by the Namibia Qualifications Authority Act No. 29 of 1996.

“The NQA promotes the quality of the courses through the accredited education and training providers. The accreditation body has put systems in place to provide opportunities that allow interested students to develop to their fullest potential without any hindrances.

“The NQA believes that every student has a right to learn and their abilities should be validly, fairly, reliably and equitably recognised regardless of when, how and where the education was attained,” states the NQA website in part.

But Aochab is of the notion that NQA should stress the need for all private colleges to network and come up with formidable structures that would influence the growth of ICT learning in Namibia.

“Most of the courses we offer are derived from the British curriculum. ICT is something practical and those who perform the accreditation process for the local programmes must explain to the public how it works. We face the challenge of gathering a course syllabus, its structure and lecturers,” he laments.

In Aochab’s view, the IP routine and cabling experts can perfectly run a bank. But recruiting them to lecture in private colleges is often a huge challenge since most of the courses offered in such institutions are adopted from foreign colleges.

“Private colleges should have networking forums to map the way forward in developing ICT tertiary learning in the country. The established colleges should, in fact, initiate such programmes,” he urges, adding that they mainly focus on the black sheep of the society – the kids who might not have attained enough points to secure places at PoN or Unam.

As such, the Government recently announced a large budget portion to host the ‘Eighth International Conference on ICT for Development, Education and Training’ in a continued effort to help spur mobile phone and telecommunications growth in Namibia.

The conference, which will be hosted in Windhoek between May 29th and 31st this year, will see the Government put forward a N$5m offing for the initiative.

“The eighth e-learning Africa conference is expected to receive between 1 500 and 2 000 delegates, including 300 speakers and chair people from over 50 countries,” reads a statement compiled by the conference organisers in part.

The conference’s overall theme will be “Tradition, Change and Innovation”. It is meant to examine experiences, projects, policies, partnerships and research that shape the continent’s e-learning landscape.

According to the Information and Communication Technology minister, Joel Kaapanda, Namibia will host a ministerial roundtable as part of the e-learning conference proceedings. This roundtable will hold panel discussions on the country’s policies and use of ICT in the education sector. It will also look into the policy implementation plans, as well as the universal access of policy services for ICT.

The conference is expected to promote networking and enhance the application of ICT in the education and training sector in Africa. In addition, it is expected to develop multi-national and cross-industry contacts and partnerships, as well as obtain first-hand information and real life examples of how ICT advances the cause of education for all.

The conference will also feature extensive exhibition stands and a demonstration area for the latest ICT applications in education around the world. PF