Microsoft joins MyDigitalBridge Foundation to bring broadband connectivity to Namibia
Although Africa has the highest growth rates in the world for mobile broadband penetration, wireless broadband services remain largely unaffordable throughout the region.
Microsoft Corp., MyDigitalBridge Foundation and the Millennium Challenge Account Namibia, with the support of the Communications Regulatory Authority of Namibia, recently introduced a pilot project called Citizen Connect, designed to bring high-speed and affordable broadband access to the people of Namibia.
The project uses television white spaces technology, based on Dynamic Spectrum Allocation, to deliver high-speed and affordable internet access through unused television frequency, providing critical access to technology in remote and disadvantaged areas.
MyDigitalBridge is a Namibian not-for-profit organization whose mission is to enrich the lives of marginalized communities through equitable access to technology. The Millennium Challenge Account Namibia (MCA-N) is a development programme funded by the United States government to help reduce poverty through economic growth. This collaboration was created between MyDigitalBridge, MCA-N, and the Microsoft 4Afrika Initiative, an effort launched in February 2013 to help improve Africa’s global competitiveness. This is the fourth TV white spaces project Microsoft has undertaken in Africa, following Kenya, Tanzania and South Africa.
The TV white spaces network in Namibia is expected to come online in the first half of 2014, connecting 34 schools and school circuit offices across the Ohangwena, Omusati and Oshana regions. The network will enable these schools to have affordable access to high-speed broadband for the first time, allowing them access to a broad variety of content and rich online services such as the WorldWide Telescope from Microsoft into their existing computer labs.
This network will also help further the goals of the Government of Namibia to bring universal and affordable broadband access and improved educational opportunities to its people. Additionally, MyDigitalBridge will make this infrastructure available to third party social entrepreneurs working to extend the reach of existing and new government e-services to currently unconnected citizens.
“With this in mind, the government of Namibia remains committed to meet its universal access and service obligations. The Communications Act of 2009 and the policy on Universal Access and Service have provided an enabling environment for organizations such as the MyDigitalBridge foundation. Universal access and service requires an environment in which both devices and services are affordable, where the necessary communications infrastructure is widespread and readily accessible, and where wide ranging choices of voice, data and broadcasting services is freely available, thus, in turn providing a range of content relevant to the people of Namibia,” remarked the Prime Minister, Dr. Hage Geingob.
Although Africa has the highest growth rates in the world for mobile broadband penetration, wireless broadband services remain largely unaffordable throughout the region. Microsoft’s efforts to increase access to affordable broadband services using white spaces technology have spanned the globe, including pilots completed or underway in Africa, the U.K., the U.S., Singapore and in the Philippines.The pilots have proven that TV white spaces and Dynamic Spectrum Allocation create a viable solution for high-speed access in rural areas, even for those not attached to the national power grid.
In addition to these on-the-ground deployments, Microsoft is also advocating for laws and regulations that promote more efficient and effective spectrum utilization as a member of the Dynamic Spectrum Alliance, a global organization launched in Singapore earlier this year.
Commenting on the unveil of Citizen Connect, Warren La Fleur, education sales lead for West, East & Central Africa at Microsoft said, “The goal of the 4Afrika Initiative is to accelerate economic development in Africa, by bringing affordable access, smart devices and relevant services to Africans. In this project, we are helping to make affordable access a reality for Namibia’s students and future leaders, helping them connect with each other and with the world.”
Dr. Hylton Villet, Chairperson of MyDigitalBridge stated, “Our organization aims to facilitate and implement private/public sector initiatives and to act in an advisory capacity to stakeholders, such as governments, telecommunication operators, and other private sector parties in order to bridge the digital divide.” Paul Rowney, Technical Director of MyDigitalBridge added “We hope that our foundation will facilitate and redress the human and financial capacity shortfall within national governments, bringing regional and global best practice and initiatives to fruition for the benefit of Namibians.”
Also present at the event were Albertus Aochamub, Director General of the NBC, Lazarus Jacobs, Chairperson of the Communication Regulatory Authority, Stanley Shanapinda, CEO of the Communication Regulatory Authority, Steve Dobrilovic, Country Director, Millennium Challenge Corporation, and Mary Grace McGeehan, Charge d’ Affaires at the US Embassy.