San get on information highway
Indigenous peoples such as the San have been marginalized by dominant societies and have therefore been excluded from exercising their democratic rights and having access to technologies. But things are changing for the oldest people of Africa. The San have started making the first steps towards the information highway.
UNDP received funds from the Democratic Governance Thematic Trust Funds (DGTTF) to implement a project for the San Communities in Tsumkwe and Tsintsabis. The Ministry of Gender Equality and Child Welfare is the implementing agency of this project. One of the first steps undertaking to implement the activities was to provide computer literacy to the San people. In September 2006 selected youth from the areas around Tsintsabis and Tsumkwe attended a basic computer course in Windhoek. This course was conducted by the Namibian College of Open Learning (NAMCOL). The course consisted of Introduction to Computers, Word Processing Foundations and Internet and E-mail. It was only the first step in including the San in public forums.
The graduation ceremony was officiated by the then Deputy Prime Minister, Dr. Libertine Amadhila. In her remarks the Deputy Prime Minister, cautioned that skills are easily lost if they are not practiced. “If you don’t practice, you will forget” she warned. The course was not an end in itself but a mere stepping stone for greater things for the San people through the support UNDP provided to the San community. In response to the Deputy Prime Minister’s request various Information technology equipment was purchased for the San communities. With this equipment the San have taken a second and ever more significant step onto the information highway as this equipment will help the youth get ample practice.
The Namibian Government and development partners have become increasingly aware of the plight of the San and are being pro-active in re¬versing this status quo. The office of the Deputy Prime Minister has taken the lead by spearhead-ing the programme for development of the San people. The objective of the programme is to ensure that the San community becomes self-sustaining. “This equipment, which will allow the San to access information and to participate in both national and international debates, is a step in the right direction,” said the Resident Coordinator of the United Nations in Namibia. “This will not only allow them to participate in public debates like any other Namibian but also to usefully contribute to the development of Namibia as a whole,” he added.
Access to information not only allows people to seek and receive public documents and information about services but is also a critical tool for fighting corruption, enabling all citizens to fully participate in public life, making governments more efficient and helping persons exercise their fundamental human rights. But access to information is only possible with technologies. Televisions, computers, laserjet printers, DVDs and VCRs were among the equipment that was handed over to the Ministry of Gender Equality and Child Welfare for distribution to the San communities in the Tsintsabis and Tsumkwe constituencies.
The equipment will be placed in already existing community centres and operated by the newly trained computer experts. The young people already started using their knowledge in ICT to write a ‘thank you’ email to UNDP. The group returned to Windhoek at the beginning of January 2007 for a follow up intermediate ICT training course at NAMCOL which they have successfully completed.