Despite its 108th position among 172 countries due to its Human Development Index of 0.606, Namibia has one of the highest rates of unequal distribution of wealth. It is a low populated country, of three persons per square kilometre. Around 1.400.000 people live in rural areas, having difficulties for accessing basic services and information given the distances between towns and to the main cores of economic activity.
ICTs in the country
The main challenge facing the telecommunications sector is to make ICTs cheaper and more accessible to the public. The infrastructure has been tremendously improved in the fifteen years after Independence: the number of fixed lines has doubled, the mobile network covers two thirds of the population, and the Internet can be accessed throughout the country. Despite that, connectivity costs remain high and are an inhibitor to Internet usage. While most Namibians can afford to have cellular phones in both rural and urban areas, the majority of people cannot afford to have access to the Internet. Out of the 56.2% of Namibians who own a mobile phone, 22.7% used it to browse the Internet in 2011 and 17.3% for using social networking applications. More than a third of Internet users, 37.9%, started using the Internet first on a mobile phone. The mobile phone is thus not only narrowing the voice gap in Namibia but is being used to reduce the data gap. Except for access to mobile phones, the majority of the population is not touched by the ICT revolution, and growth is not as rapid as in other African countries, probably due to lack of competition, but also the small dispersed population of Namibia. Therefore Namibia still has a long way to go in building the human capacity to accelerate its development as a networked society.
Local radios in the country
There are currently eight local radio stations operating under local radio license in the country. They are owned and controlled by communities and serve community interests: they operate in a participatory way, often relying on community volunteers to produce and present programmes, to raise money and even to manage the stations. Through local radio, poor constituencies are able to develop their own programs and organize discussions on matters affecting their community in a language they understand. Presently the sector in Namibia faces challenges in terms of its ability to sustain itself, not only financially but also with regard to institutional and social sustainability due to lack of qualified and fixed staff working at the stations, lack of technical capacity for producing quality programs, lack of a support network from correspondents and lack of funds.
Importance of support to local radios
The majority of the local radio stations rely on volunteers for producing and presenting the programs. Therefore, most of them lack of specific and qualified training in order to develop quality content programs. Local radio empowerment through ICTs for staff working at the stations is necessary to the improvement of the quality of the radios, thus making it possible for them to gain greater audience, having wider impact in the communities they are serving to and subsequently, acquiring further investors for achieving greater financial sustainability.