It is such a great honour to be invited to speak at this important national event, which has grown by leaps and bounds over the past few years of its existence. It is worth mentioning that the organisers who prepared the programme for the third National ICT Summit picked a befitting theme namely: “Youth ICT”. In this regard, I will deliver my address that will hopefully inspire the youth of our country to innovate and transform the information and communication technology sphere.
Some might ask: “Just where should I look for inspiration for ICT innovation?” Well, if you want to be inspired, ladies and gentlemen, you simply have to look around you and note the social and economic challenges faced by our fellow citizens and use ICT to solve, improve and grow our country, its people and our economy.
Every innovation in the history of mankind was grounded in meeting a need that exists in the lives of people – ICT innovation is no exception. Therefore, I want to challenge the youth of our country to take a critical look at the society around them and use that which we see towards development.
To put things into perspective, there used to be a time in the early days of computers when a single computer took up the entire space of your average size bedroom, and had to be operated by specially-trained engineers. Since then, the computer has become smaller in size, portable and user friendly for the ordinary person on the street. This is all due to the tireless work and ideas of the great innovators of their time who made the components smaller and the user interface less complex.
These people innovated in response to the needs and problems society faced at that time.
Youth, are you inspired yet? Well, I hope so. Even better, the youth of today are growing up in what I would call “the information age,” where most of the information is available at just a click of a button.
When you have an idea today and you decide to Google search on it, you will be surprised at how someone else on the other side of the world has already perfected the same idea. Our role as lawmakers is to create a conductive environment for innovation by making laws which give our citizens a sense of security by protecting their intellectual property rights and by providing an enabling ICT legislative framework that will hopefully inspire the next generation of innovators to invent ground-breaking ideas.
Our young people should never allow themselves to sit idle – with the current economic status and the Fitch rating, it is time for the Namibian youth to find solutions to today’s problems.
With a bulging young population of 36.8 percent between the age groups of 15 and 34 years, it is imperative that you, the youth, start innovative ICT business.
I am sure you are saying: ‘We don’t have the start-up capital or the collateral to acquire a loan from the banks.’
Well, the Harambee Prosperity Plan outlines that it aims:
• To improve MSME access to finance, from the current 22 percent to 50 percent by 2020;
• To introduce new financial instruments aimed at overcoming the hurdle of collateralised credit for start-ups with viable business plans;
• To establish an SME Development Agency with countrywide representation by 2020;
• To establish 121 Youth-Owned Rural Enterprises each permanently employing a minimum of 5-10 youth by 2020.
To overcome the challenge of collateralised lending, which is indeed a big obstacle for the youth, the Ministry of Finance as the custodian of the Financial Sector Strategy, will be tasked to expedite the SME Financing Strategy, which aims to establish a Venture Capital Fund, a Credit Guarantee Scheme and the Challenge Fund aimed to enhance accessibility and affordability to the youth.
I hope I have planted some seeds of inspiration in your youthful minds. Namibia is a great country, this is our country – we need to take hands, pull together in one direction and pave the way for generations to come.
If you work hard and I work hard, I am of the opinion that Namibia shall be saved from the many challenges we face on a daily basis.
May God bless the youth of Africa in general and the youth of Namibia in particular.
• This is an extract from the speech at the National ICT Summit this week by Bernadette Jagger, a Member of Parliament and committee member of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on ICT.