Access To Information For Development

On Tuesday, 19 April 2016 I attended a panel discussion on Access to information and how it impacts development. The evening started off with an eleven minute short film (on how accessible information is in Namibia as well as the importance of this accessibility).

All in all, the evening was certainly a very interesting and informative one, I would just like to make a response that I wasn’t able to make then, because there was a bit of a time crunch.
There was a gentleman behind me, I believe a lecturer at the University of Namibia (UNAM) who lamented about how we can hardly expect the general masses to know and exercise their right of access to information when the “learned” combined students of 20 000 (give or take) students of UNAM and the Namibian University of Science and Technology (NUST, former Polytechnic of Namibia) readily have access to information, but they don’t use it: There are no riots, no protests, no one truly questions anything.

I heard what he was saying, didn’t disagree with him, but also found myself wanting to get a little defensive. I’ve always said the worst thing about the Namibian youth is how passive we are and how we take everything (access to information included, maybe especially) for granted. I have also, however, been aware that when I speak of the passive Namibian youth who takes things for granted, I am she. I hate to watch the news and/ or read the papers. I find keeping up with current affairs depressing and frustrating, to say the least. In part, it’s because I really do not feel like I have the energy to care about everything that’s going on, and I think it’s difficult to be aware without caring. Mostly though, it is because caring and feeling like there is not much you can do, is exhausting and leaves me defeated and feeling powerless.

It’s always the same crowd. I can almost guess, name for name, face for face, who will show up at what events: The protests, the public discussions, the forums, the awareness events… It’s almost always the same crowd. And what is the point then? Just what impact can we hope to make if all these discussions we’re having and the questions we’re asking are only amongst each other? If it’s only the same people ever giving a damn? That aside, often it feels like there isn’t even a point to speaking up and questioning things. Maybe the powers that be do listen, but only ever to claim they’ve listened, there’s never truly any action. And it’s disheartening, to say the least.

Of course this may not be the case for everyone, the average Namibian youth may just not be interested, but I don’t think we’ve been given the greatest motivation to be.

Written by Mimi Mwiya