By Phil Goodwin in Windhoek

Picture of philI’m a little embarrassed to admit that it’s been more than 15 years since I was last in Namibia. Our neighbour to the north, it’s the most majestic and beautiful country I’ve ever visited. I am here, not as the backpacker I was 15 years ago, but to participate in the 8th eLearning Africa conference and exhibition in Windhoek.

Although I’ve not enjoyed the vast splendour that Namibia has to offer this week, I have been overwhelmed by the electric atmosphere generated by 1,000 delegates from across Africa and elsewhere sharing ideas and innovations to advance learning on our continent.

Lifeline Technologies and Lifeline Energy teamed up to showcase our Lifeplayer MP3 and Prime radio to an incredibly receptive audience – including a visit to our stand by Namibia’s Prime Minister, Hage Geingob. The Prime Minister showed particular interest given that half of Namibia’s 2.1 population lives in rural areas. He wasn’t the only one.

In an ICT environment dominated by tablets, laptops, satellites and smartphones it was encouraging to be so well received as the lone representative of distance learning using media players and radio. This was underscored, not without irony, by the lousy internet connectivity which frustrated delegates throughout the conference.

This was a stark reminder of some of the very real and practical limitations of ‘sexier’ technologies and high power consuming innovations in Africa, while a strong endorsement of the relevance and importance of our work. Not to sell ourselves short at all, unlike other basic media players or radios, the Lifeplayer MP3 is a sophisticated solar and crank powered media player, recorder and radio – carefully designed and rich with features including built in data logging for monitoring and evaluation purposes. Further, combining this technology with nearly 15 years of Lifeline Energy’s on-the-ground experience, we’re able to offer meaningful project solutions that no other organisation can.

We were humbled by the appreciation by the conference audience for an African innovation for Africa, backed by our long track record of project implementation across the continent. So high was the interest that we ran out of brochures (a first for me) as we shared our products and experience with hundreds of practitioners throughout the event.

I leave Namibia enriched by the ideas shared and the prospect of new partnerships, as well as encouraged by feedback on our new product development initiatives. One thing is for sure, I won’t wait another 15 years to visit this beautiful country again.