The COVID-19 pandemic has affected communities on nearly every continent, with thousands of deaths and hundreds of thousands of reported cases. While we must take vigorous action to control the spread of the coronavirus and save lives, we must also act to protect our livelihoods.

Technology and its usage have been part of the response to the COVID-19 pandemic by many governments if not all. Our partner, Disrupt Advisors is currently implementing a program in Namibia looking broadly at how the COVID-19 response has been in the country.

The approach has been to use a mixed-method from key informant interviews, qualitative and quantitative research methods. We’ve had to also adopt agile methodologies to help observe as well as capture new and emerging information. A key realization from our team in the initial stages was appreciating that this is an unfolding phenomenon, our objectives have therefore got to be flexible enough to accommodate new data points as they emerge and are surfaced.

The objective of this note is to outline our early findings on the situation at the grassroots level, in particular how the program mechanics, amongst social partners, have changed or have been impacted by the pandemic. We must stress our objective was not profiling all initiatives taking place in the country but highlighting those that we come across in the communities we are specifically focusing on.

Our experience thus points to the fact that a lot of the social partners that we have interacted within some of the regions such as Khomas, Kunene, Otjozondjupa, Kunene/ Omusati, Ohangwena, Kavango-East, and Kavango-West, continue to rely on the same toolkit albeit scaled down to accommodate restrictions.

Daily border traffic between Namibia and Angola along the Okavango River. The photo was taken from the Namibian side (near Bagani in the Kavango East region). πŸ“· Wikimedia Commons 

There continues to be an over-reliance of non -scalable ways of program implementation such as; visiting communities, doing house to house visits, conducting scaled-down workshops, handing out pamphlets and PPE. The organizational representatives that we could engage with acknowledging the shortcomings of these methods not only in creating feedback loops but reaching areas and communities that are most in need have no reliable basis to ascertain this need.

These organizations currently have only the skills sets of face to face facilitation and community activation. A lot of the service coverage is concentrated in the urban areas, as you further go into the urban/rural fringe the service level decreases or to having no service at all in center communities in the Kunene region. Transportation into these fringe communities is also very precarious, so unless you have transportation your access is limited.

When all of these prevailing conditions are juxtaposed next to each other, it demonstrates the challenges organizations focused on these communities face in delivering services. Coupled with the lack of digital tools and literacy programs to support organizations focused on these areas to learn and adopt technology-based solutions, we will continue to see the adoption of ineffective methodologies, as there is no other alternative to work within their context.

This is another consideration for those in a solutions development capacity, the learning curve towards adoption and active usage is one that requires active participation otherwise the adoption will continue to be lukewarm.

Our research report titled "Understanding Namibia's society: The impact of COVID-19" will be published on 7 December 2020. Click on the button below to subscribe and be notified when it is available.


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