Paper at master level in Communication for Development
TABLE OF CONTENTS
This paper is based on a field study which is an integrated part of the Master level course at the institution for Communication for Development at Malmö University, Sweden.
The field study was partially funded by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, Sida.
The Danish NGO, Ibis, generously provided board and access to their offices in Windhoek. My gratitude goes to the whole staff at the office and particularly to Israel Shikongo, Programme Officer for SASU and Carsten Norgaard, Director of Ibis Namibia, and my contact person on location.
Gitte Jakobsen, a course colleague at Communication for Development, first inspired me to attempt a field study in Namibia and provided the first essential contacts with SASU and Ibis, and also performed a field study in Namibia. Many thanks to the activists at Southern African Students' Union, and especially the staff at the Head Office in Windhoek, executive secretariat members Chalton Hwende and Emmanuel Tembo and employed staff Simon B. Xaba and Erica Hameva, for all their assistance with contacts and who very kindly let me use their offices during the whole stay.
Last, but not least, to all students and other respondents in Windhoek who accepted to be interviewed and to participate in my study - thank you for your kind co-operation!
The Internet has a potential to become a tremendously important tool for communication, information and in the longer perspective, a new tool for participation in a democratic process. A tool that, like no other medium, can be utilised to receive and publish information by anyone, at any time for whatever purpose. This endemic quality of Internet makes it possible for the users to bypass all traditional and official channels for information and communication. This is particularly relevant in a context where freedom of expression is limited and tolerance to opposition and is low.
As a part of a broader communication strategy for the Southern African Students Union, (SASU), I wanted to investigate the conditions for Internet as tool for information and communication, in the Namibian context.
My intention with this study was subsequently to find out to what extent students in Namibia have access to this new tool. In addition I wanted to find out, in the case they had access, what they use this tool for. And in the longer perspective, can the Internet become a tool for participation in the democratic process in the hands of the students in Namibia?
I found that students have limited access to electronic media today, but a great interest in the use of e-mail and awareness of the potential of Internet communication. Many local ICT projects, state, private and NGO initiatives, are weaving a growing web of Internet connectivity and paving the way for an increased and affordable access to Internet. The government's continued dedication to public education expenditure is another tremendously important prerequisite for an increased level of students' participation in the local, regional and national democratic process.
This field study took place during July and August 2001. I attended the Executive Council meeting of SASU and participated in a workshop concerning a future communication strategy. My study consists of qualitative interviews with students organised in focus groups at five tertiary educational institutions and personal interviews with representatives for local media, local and national ICT projects such as SchoolNet and NOLNet, as well as government officials in Windhoek, the capital of Namibia.