Access to information is crucial for inclusive development

Niël Terblanché

President Hage Geingob along with all Namibians yesterday joined the global community in commemorating International Day for Universal Access to Information.

The day was celebrated under the theme of “The Importance of the Online Space for Access to Information.”

Namibia, positioned as a leader in press freedom in Africa, has been at the forefront of implementing initiatives and legislation aimed at promoting transparency, accountability, and access to information, solidifying its stance on leveraging digital platforms for inclusive, equitable development.

President Geingob, in a message to the nation, said the indispensable role of the online realm in enabling citizens to exercise their right to access information in today’s fast-paced world.

“Namibia has consistently been ranked as the top country in Africa with the freest press,” he said.

He added that Namibia has fortified its commitment through the recent promulgation of access to information legislation, a pivotal move in augmenting Effective Governance, a core pillar of the Harambee Prosperity Plan.

According to the President, the country has witnessed substantial advancements in upholding principles of transparency, inclusive development, and the right to access information.

The enactment of the Access to Information Act No. 8 of 2022 in December 2022 and investments in infrastructural development, such as fibre optic networks and e-government services, underscore Namibia’s unswerving commitment to these ideals.

This commitment is mirrored in the increasing internet penetration, enabling citizens from various socio-economic statuses and geographical locations to access information readily.

The nation recognizes the internet as a potent tool for fostering transparency, accountability, and dialogue, thus placing immense value on the online space as a gateway to knowledge.

Despite the milestones achieved, President Geingob acknowledged the persisting digital divide and emphasized the nation’s resolve to bridge the existing gaps. The president highlighted the imperative of striking a balance between open access to information and protecting the integrity of the digital environment, outlining concerns related to digital freedoms, privacy, and security, including cyberbullying and disinformation.

The president urged government agencies, civil society organisations, and the private sector to collaborate in fostering an online environment that is safe, accessible, and inclusive.

He stressed the importance of availing information to the public, promoting digital literacy, and distinguishing between reliable sources and misinformation.

President Geingob concluded his message by extending his wishes for a meaningful and reflective International Day for Universal Access to Information and called upon the nation to celebrate the boundless potential of the online space in advancing Namibia’s socio-economic development and in realizing the collective dreams for a brighter future.

The commemorative day, instituted by the 74th United Nations General Assembly on 15 October 2019, is aimed at raising awareness about the vital necessity to implement and expand laws related to information access.

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