Honorable Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for International Relations & Cooperation,
Honorable Dr. Itah Kandjii-Murangi, Minister of Higher Education, Technology and Innovation,
Dr. Erold Naomab Vice Chancellor,
Distinguished academics, professors, faculty, students and friends,
And let me not forget to acknowledge the two High Commissioners, who are amongst us here today,
And Members of both the Indian delegation and the Ministry of International Relations and Cooperation,
It is a matter of great pleasure for me today to join you all for the inauguration of India-Namibia Centre of Excellence for Information Technology (INCEIT) at this prestigious Namibia University of Science and Technology (NUST). On this occasion, I would like to begin by expressing my appreciation to Honorable Deputy Prime Minister, to the Honorable Minister of Higher Education and to the Government of Republic of Namibia as well as those who are responsible for this Centre’s creation, its establishment and for its operation. Before I come to the matter which has gathered us all today, I would also like to thank you Deputy Prime Minister most sincerely for your expression of sympathy and condolence at this tragic rail accident in India. As I told you in the morning, I think, such expressions of solidarity at a very difficult time is something that gives us all courage and fortitude as we deal with such a terrible event.
At the beginning of this event, the question was asked…why are we doing an inauguration and I think, it is a question that deserves a serious answer. We’re doing an inauguration because in a way, it is an acknowledgement of a great effort that has yielded fruits; that we have today a centre which is very much an inspiration, as Namibia embarks on its own digital journey. It’s also important as a reminder, to, especially to bureaucracies and to governments and I’ve spent my entire life, working life at least, in them, not just of a job well done, but possibly as a motivation to go forward with this, and most of all, I think, as a way of drawing attention, to what is a very important milestone in our bilateral relationship and therefore I and very pleased that my visit has provided an occasion, and I’m truly honored today that the Honorable Deputy Prime Minister and the Minister and the entire leadership of this university and others and students and everybody else who is drawing benefit from this have joined me today.
Now, this Centre is an outcome of the development cooperation and capacity building partnership between India and Namibia and it is being pursued in line with our shared desire to develop human resources, especially of the youth and give them the right skills in technology domain. It of course reflects the long-standing people to people friendship and linkages which I think you heard the Deputy Prime Minister remind us and today, in fact, when I called on the, His Excellency the President, he himself was witness to events in our past history which, for which, really, such sentiments have, never have adequate words to describe them.
Now, I am happy to note that the Centre had started offering courses going back to November 2019 when the Centre for Development of Advanced Computing (CDAC) provided the course materials, the reference books and much of the IT hardware and software. We recognize that the remaining installations were completed in very challenging circumstances, during the pandemic and I would again like to particularly acknowledge and appreciate those who went the extra mile to make that happen. Six master trainers from Namibia were given vigorous training at CDAC in India, and their role and contribution, I think, should also be recognized. And I thank the Vice Chancellor and his entire team for their unstinted support and collaboration to make this project a reality.
With the objective of developing industry oriented programmes to address skills requirements in areas such as Cyber Security, Big Data Analytics and E-Governance applications and software development, the Centre, I believe, has been able to offer courses and train, as I heard, more than 275 professionals, government officials from various Ministries, students, teachers, and researchers. I am happy to know that a student from this very centre, I believe, has won a trophy with first position at the 6th Namibia National Cyber Security Competition.
The courses that the Centre is offering are truly vital for Namibia in building a knowledge society and this has to be done on the foundations of innovation and technology which will emerge from here. Let me illustrate some examples of the importance of such endeavours from my own experience, and very recent experience. India’s Co-win Application…actually this app provided the technological data backbone for our Covid-19 vaccination programme, and it enabled the delivery of over 2.5 billion doses of vaccination without any confusion. So, when we were struggling through the COVID, one part of the challenge was obviously to produce and distribute vaccines, but the other part of the challenge which is often not spoken about, is really to organize a massive programme, which would allow its injection to be done very smoothly and this happened really because of the effectiveness of the Co-win platform. Similarly, our home developed Unified Payment Interface (UPI), it has actually revolutionised digital transactions in India, taking inclusion, financial inclusion to new levels, to the extent today that 40 percent of world’s real time digital payments actually take place in India, and we see this revolution, every day in our lives, that whether it is, today, house building programmes, whether its health coverage, whether it is insurance, whether its socio-economic benefits including support for farmers when they are undertaking crop programs for tap water connections, for electricity connections. All of this today, is happening in India in ten, sometimes hundreds of millions, precisely because it is riding on a digital backbone. So the point I want to make today is that there’s, apart from the skills, the research, the awareness, the creativity, which this centre would create. It is actually going to be increasingly central to good governance. It will…I heard that it will be used for the census. So, it’s one example, and my sense is that the more longer the centre establishes itself, the more usage would naturally emerge from such a pool of technology and talent. So, I believe today that when we speak about digital, we should actually think not just technology, but think good governance, think knowledge economy, and think of a globalised workplace and that will really build a connect which, Honourable Deputy PM, I think is particularly important for those of us who are in the business of international cooperation.
Now, the unique feature of this Centre is again, other speakers have mentioned it, is that it is powered by the PARAM Super Computer, and I think you have rightly named it ARUB, and I must tell you the Cheetah today is the new symbol of our partnership. And in fact, I have in my delegation a particular senior official who has negotiated this and who’s come back here to report to the President that the Cheetahs are doing well, and we looking after all Namibians, including Cheetah, very very well in India. Now, since its deployment, the Supercomputer has seen installation of numerous application softwares to ensure its optimum usage. I am informed that the response to workshops on High Performance Computing (HPC), and sir, you can confirm this for me, organized by the Centre in partnership with CDAC has truly been overwhelming, and this actually shows you, really the interest among professionals and youth and I believe that once, a sort of technological magnet like this exists, it will actually generate, I think, its own creativity and its own energy.
I would also like to add that this Centre, is in fact, the latest in our strong partnership with Africa which particularly targets the Gen Next in Africa and India, in fact has established in several locations, across the continent, vocational training centers, IT centres, Science and Technology parks, Entrepreneurship Development Centres, and Geo-informatics Applications for Rural Development. And I mention this because today in our discussion in the Joint Commission which I had the honour to chair along with the Honorable Deputy Prime Minister, we are looking to see how can we take our partnership forward, particularly in these knowledge-driven domains and I certainly hope that we will have many more inaugurations in the times to come.
Now, ladies and gentlemen, we believe that the best partnership is to develop human capital and institutions that equip and empower a nation to pursue growth as per its own priorities. India has been at the forefront to provide capacity building and training to Namibian nationals under the ITEC, Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation programme, under the ICCR Scholarship Schemes, under various professional courses and really create capacities in a customised way several other customised way through exchanges and training. So far about a 1,500 Namibian nationals have received training under various programmes and this is something I must say, is a matter of very deep pride for us.
Now, while I have described a lot of these developments and cooperation, largely in a bilateral framework, I would also like you to understand that this is really a reflection of a larger approach towards our relationship with Africa that has particularly deepened after Prime Minister Narendra Modi assumed office in 2014. We have seen since then intensified connects. We have seen more exchanges. We have seen projects, such as these and I can see that they have made a real difference. When Prime Minister Modi was visiting Africa in 2018 in one of the parliaments of this continent, he had actually declared that the priority of our partners is our priority. And regarding the digital domain, in fact, he specifically observed that "We will harness India’s experience with the digital revolution to support and strengthen Africa’s development; improve delivery of public services; extend education and health; mainstream the marginalised”, and that ladies and gentlemen, is today actually at the core of our development partnership with Africa. In Namibia’s particular case, two meetings between Prime Minister Modi and His Excellency President Geingob in 2015 and 2019, as also the visit of our President has helped to give it a very specific and concrete form, and of course you see the results today. And I would say when I called on President Geingob today, he strongly encouraged us to go forward and our discussions today, Honourable DPM in the Joint Commission, I think, gives us a direction, it’s our responsibility to create a roadmap, so that these endeavours can be further built upon and I certainly assure you that India will be a very reliable partner in that regard.
So, as we go forward, the key tasks ahead for this Centre, and for this University, would be to ensure the Centre’s sustainability. The Centre could act as bridge between the academia and industry, something I believe it has already started doing, as corporates are making use of it to upskill employees. I am told that the Centre is also providing services to several Ministers, and Government bodies such as the Statistics Agency. And I call upon the Centre to continue its excellent work, which will surely help it and the University to fully realize the objectives that it was established for.
Today, I heard from the Honourable DPM, as well as, from the Honourable Minister, the message that India could partner even more, and I want to tell you, madam Deputy Prime Minister from this podium that we will do so. And I am happy to emphasize today that when it comes to the preparation of talents and skills, that we will focus much more on customised courses. In terms of technology and resources, we will certainly sit down after today’s event and we would welcome ideas from those who are associated with this centre, that what could be the next steps to grow this relationship in this particular domain. So let me conclude by again wishing the Centre every success in its academic and research activities. I am confident that you will also - because I’ve seen this in my own country, the motivational, the inspirational impact that you have on the youth and I’m confident that you will contribute to Namibia positioning itself as an ICT powerhouse in Africa and beyond. I assure you today that we stand together with you in this journey of excellence. Once again, thank you very much for your attention.