Key Issues
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"Key Internet Policy Issues" is a series of contributions from people living in countries new or relatively new to the Internet about what they consider to be key policy issues related to the deployment and use of the Internet in their country. Each text is published under the complete responsibility and with the permission of its author. These contributions were solicited by Alan McCluskey, guest editor, in preparation for a special issue of the Internet Society's magazine "OnTheInternet" entitled "Strategies for development: from thought to action" to be published in November 1997. For more information and comments on the preparation of this special edition see "Addressing Key Policy Issues".

The Internet in the North

Namibia became independent on 21 March 1990 from the former South African Apartheid regime. According to the 1991 census, the country has a population of around 1.4 million people, of which 72% live in rural areas. About seventy percent of the population is concentrated in the north of the country. This is the region which was neglected by the former colonial rulers. All major development projects were concentrated in Windhoek and the two major coastal towns of Walvis Bay and Swakopmund, which had a large white population. The apartheid system created a situation of exclusion, leading to the north of the country lagging behind in many areas, including education, health and other social services. However, there is now a political will to change the imbalance. The Government of the Republic of Namibia is doing everything possible to ensure that the region is also developed and encourages a number firms to invest in the North.

The potential role of the Internet in the Northern region has been acknowledged by the Government and a number of institutions. The University of Namibia has a large number of students enrolled in the Centre for External Studies. The University plans to link up with its Centres in the region and provide some of its distance teaching programmes through the Internet. Plans have been on paper but can not be implemented partly due to the absence of ISPs in the region.

In general the telecommunications infrastructure in Namibia is better developed than in most countries in Sub-Saharan Africa. The Namibian Telecom is able to provide 64kbit lines from Windhoek to 4 large towns in the northern region, and dedicated leased lines to three other towns. X.25 services are also available in the major towns in the Northern region. There is also a digital backbone from Windhoek to the North and plans are underway to install digital backbones between major towns in the Northern region.

With a good telecommunications infrastructure on the ground and in the pipeline and a large population, the Northern region presents a potential market for the Internet Service Providers. There are a good number of Internet Service Providers operating in the country. Almost all of them are concentrating their services in Windhoek and the coastal towns of Walvis Bay and Swakopmund. Some of them, like Internet World Wide Namibia (IWWN), do have customers who dial-in from the north and have plans to extend their presence in the Northern region. So far, only one Service Provider, Club Internet, whose headquarters is in South Africa, has made inroads into the region. The Club has presence in Tsumeb and Otjiwarongo providing dial-up access to e-mail facilities, World Wide Web server and FTP server.

Namibia does not have a chapter of the Internet Society which could push for the development of the Internet. However, the Namibian Internet Development Foundation (NAMIDEF) is a local Non-Governmental Organisation, made up of individuals who are interested in seeing that the Internet gets it root in the country. In fact NAMIDEF was the first ISP to operate in the country, and later teamed up with UUNet of South Africa to provide the service.

Justin Chisenga, Department of Information Studies, University of Namibia

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Created: September 5th, 1997 - Last up-dated: September 5th, 1997