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Namibia’s ICT Minister clarifies viability of MTC infrastructure project

Namibia EVERY ONE launched

The Minister of ICT in Namibia has come out to clarify his role and the viability of Mobile Telecommunications Limited's (MTC) ambitious 081 EVERY ONE network infrastructure project.

MTC, which is majority owned by the Namibian government, announced in July last year that it plans to invest in the achievement of 100% network coverage by connecting mainly rural parts of Namibia through the N$1.2-billion project over three years.

Stanley Simataa, Minister of Information and Communication Technology in Namibia has come out in an address to members of the media to deny that the profitability of MTC would be sacrificed to see the 081 EVERY ONE project to its end.

“Contrary to what has been said in various newspaper reports on MTC's network improvement and expansion (081 EVERY ONE) project over the past weeks, MTC, as I asserted last year when launching the project, will execute the project in phases over a period of three years, within available financial means and without eroding its profitability. Like any other business, MTC should not be denied the business latitude at its disposal to invest part of its earnings to expand its business. I must state that during this time, MTC's ability to run its business profitably and declare dividends, will not be impaired.”

Simataa says MTC’s bottom line is likely benefit from an estimated 115 000 customers (citizens) to its client base, the majority of whom are citizens in rural Namibia as a result of improved customer experience in addition to an increase of employment opportunities throughout the life of the project and a growth in the contribution by telecommunications to the country's GDP. MTC revealed in January this year that 42 home-grown companies have been appointed as contracting partners on the 081 EVERY ONE project. Simattaa adds that the practical meaning of the project’s goal of ensuring 100 percent network coverage across the entire country also needs to be better understood.

“By the way, 100 percent network coverage should not be construed as coverage in terms of geographical size of our country, but rather in terms of population save for the imperative for coverage along our highways to cater for emergencies as and when they occur.”

Simataa also emphasises that the 081 EVERY ONE project falls squarely within his mandate because the improvement and expansion of ICT infrastructure in Namibia is a national development imperative executed under the leadership of every Minister of ICT.

“Today, we all marvel at the developmental progress our sister country in Africa, namely Rwanda has achieved - all thanks to the consistent and sustained investments they have made and continues to make in the ICT sector…you will certainly agree with me that our country cannot achieve inclusive development when we continue to have islands of prosperity in urban areas surrounded by a sea of rural poverty.”

MTC customers reimbursed after network failure

The Minister's press briefing comes less than a week after MTC announced that it would be reimbursing all data subscription customers following a network outage it attributes to an operating system malfunction.

Tim Ekandjo, Chief Human Capital & Corporate Affairs Officer at MTC says interruption to services at the beginning of April could not be avoided even though the telco has implemented full redundancy on the affected systems.

“We can confirm that 54,595 data subscriptions and 56,877 sms customers were affected, these are customers whose bundles terminated and who still had bundles which they could not use on the 2nd of April because of the network failures we experienced. We will reimburse these customers with both data and sms’s, and will accordingly give them what they lost. We will communicate to all the affected customers via sms to inform them how much data and sms’s they will receive and for how long they will be able to use it. All customers will receive 24- hour use of the data we will reimburse and this reimbursed data will receive preference of usage above the existing bundles.”

Ekandjo describes the downtime as an isolated incident and adds that MTC will take every precaution to ensure that such incidences are not repeated.

Meanwhile, as part of his keynote address at the official launch of The Namibian Broadcasting Corporation’s (NBC) mobile application late last week, Minister Simataa said the mobile application bodes well with the Namibian government's current initiatives to expand existing ICT infrastructure in country.

“Through this innovation, the NBC has truly taken a giant leap of faith in pursuing emerging opportunities offered by the advent of mobile technology. Two important statistics stand out in our country. One is that there are more cattle than the total population and there are also more cell phones than the total population. It’s the latter statistic that augurs well with the application we are launching today.” said the Minister to a jovial audience.

Namibia's fifth National Development Plan NDP5 identifies ICT as an one of enabling pillars for development while the government's Harambee Prosperity Plan HPP under the pillar affirms the need to expand access to broadband, subsequently internet access for all citizens.

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