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Namibia’s rural dwellers expect better prospects
amid national mobile network expansion

By Ndalimpinga Iita WINDHOEK (Xinhua) -- Plans by the Namibian government to ensure 100 percent population network coverage have bred optimism for prosperity among the country’s rural dwellers—the technologically left behind.

In a move to bridge the digital divide between urban and rural Namibia, state parastatal Mobile Telecommunications Limited (MTC), the country’s largest mobile services provider, will erect 524 new towers across the country as part of its 081Every1 project.

In a secluded village in Namibia’s Oshana region, on a Tuesday afternoon, 23-year-old Selma Kaali lends an ear to the radio hung on a tree trunk.

Like many rural inhabitants, radio is her sole source of information. “Apart from radio, I hardly have access to new information through other means as the network reception is poor here,” said Kaali.

Even mobile phone communication, she said, is limited to short message texting and phone calls “on a lucky day” if villagers move to higher grounds to get signal.

“Poor network coverage keeps one living in Stone Age—excluded from information on available opportunities,” she said.

As Namibia moves to fulfill the global target for inclusivity, through the project, according to Tim Ekandjo, chief human capital and corporate affairs officer at MTC, with the erection of the towers, Namibians will have access to quality networks, mobile connectivity and broadband accessibility.

“The 081Every1 project will be a catalyst for change to accelerate the development of rural areas in the country,” said Ekandjo.

Intrinsically, Kaali will be able to use digital gadgets such as smartphones and access information about new opportunities. “I also want to start a village online information platform through which we share information on new opportunities,” she said.

Through technology and innovation, the 081Every1 project will further help change the way people live, work and communicate, providing an important platform for sustainable growth and development, according to Ekandjo.

Rural micro entrepreneurs in northern Namibia are ecstatic about new towers, anticipating commercial profits.

Agatus Elago from Oshana region has been running a village-based small business for over five years. According to him, reliable network will translate into better proceeds for his mobile top-up business.

“The better the network, the more people will communicate with their loved ones and deplete their credit, leading to a demand for more airtime recharge vouchers. And I win,” said Elago.

In a remote area with limited power source such as electricity, according to the rural entrepreneur, quality network will further enable him to diversify business services.

“Without doubt, improved network coverage at my village will mean people will be using their mobile phones more frequently, and thus the batteries power won’t last as long. This leads to a demand for phone charging services, a service I plan to offer at my solar-powered shop. I am grasping that opportunity,” he said.

Known as the “airtime man” among the villagers, Elago forecast to earn an additional income of 1,500 Namibian dollars (129 U.S. dollars) per month.

Meanwhile, in preparation for business services diversification, the rural entrepreneur is sourcing a variety of phone chargers.

Network expansion is further envisaged to enable people across generations to explore digital technology. With the older generation rejoicing at the news, seeing it as a privilege to finally explore new digital platforms they only hear about.

“With the network coverage boost, my grandchildren said that I can see my city-based daughter live when she calls me through WhatsApp video call. It’s an exciting period,” said Kuku Shilongo, aged 53.

The 1.2 billion Namibian dollars (102 million U.S. dollars) project was launched in July 2017, by then Deputy Minister of Information, Communication and Technology, Stanley Simataa.

Over 40 local companies have been contracted by MTC to complete the construction of the new towers.

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