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The Deputy Minister of Information and Communications, Sheka Tarawalie, has told the International Telecommunications Union’s Annual Regional Development Forum for Africa held in Kigali, Rwanda, that “later this year, Sierra Leone will join and enjoy the benefits of the fibre optic experience as most modern nations are doing today.” (L to R) Minister of State Information and Communications Technology of Uganda, Hon. Nyombi Thembo, Deputy Minister of Information and Communications of Sierra Leone, Hon. Sheka Tarawalie, Minister of Information and Communications of Kenya, Hon. Samuel L. Poghisio, Minister of State Communication and Information Technology of Ethiopia, Hon. Peter G. Gey)
The Minister, when given the podium on Thursday 10th May to share the Sierra Leonean ICT experience alongside ministers from Uganda, Ethiopia, Kenya, and Rwanda, said when the government of President Ernest Bai Koroma assumed office in 2007 there was virtually no existing project on ICT “the virtual most important tool for concrete and sustainable socio-economic development in any nation today. However, because we found a visionary leader in President Ernest Bai Koroma, who knows the great impact that ICTs would have on the people’s lives, we have not only been able to land the first submarine fibre optic cable, but we have secured funding for the construction of the terrestrial backbone and sub-regional interconnection which will see cities, towns and villages within Sierra Leone not only being connected but also connected to cities, towns, and villages in the sub-region. We are on the verge of reaching the summit from which we as a nation can properly view the ICT horizon, with all it’s immense opportunities, including mass employment especially for the youth.”
Minister Tarawalie maintained that President Koroma’s commitment and seriousness about the ICT revolution is underlined by the decision to form the ICT Council, of which “the President himself is Chairman of a council. that has representatives from virtually all sectors of society including the disabled, women, and youths.”
He further explained that in-between the imminent fibre optic connection and what they inherited, Government, through the Ministry of Information and Communications, has been able to set up resource centers for ICT access to the public through VSAT installations, and that wi-fi spots have been provided to the university and the airport. He also stated that government has provided e-learning facilities for the university and tele-medicine amenities for the main hospital in Freetown linking them with universities and hospitals outside Sierra Leone respectively. He said Government’s desire to provide equitable access to ICTs informed the setting up of the Universal Access Development Fund, and that it is also such a desire that has caused the proposed divestiture of at least 50% shares of the Sierra Leone Cable Limited (SALCAB – the special purpose vehicle set up for the landing and sustainability of the fibre optic cable) to the public. He also said the pilot e-government programme is underway, as well as a project on cyber security.
The minister concluded his presentation by stating that Sierra Leone’s strides at embracing ICT in full are being recognized by influential international organizations like the ITU, and that in June this year the Commonwealth Telecommunications Organization (CTO) will be hosted in Freetown at the rural communities connectivity forum, “which will certainly raise my country’s profile internationally and at the same time raise awareness locally on the inevitable significance of ICT in our world today.”
In the afternoon of the same day, the Deputy Minister chaired the session on Collaborations, Partneships and Membership’ to highlight how equitable access to ICTs can be achieved through collaboration and partnerships including Public and Private Partnerships (PPPs). The panelists of that session included Dr. Speranza Ndege, ITU Broadband Commissioner and Lecturer at the Institute of Open, Distnce & e-Learning at Kenyatta University, Kenya; Dr. Zouli Bonkoungou, Telcoms and ICT Consultant of the African Union Commission; and Dr. Edmund Katito, Acnting Head of the NEPAD eAfrica Programme – about whom Chairman Tarawalie said “it’s a privilege chairing a panel of doctors.”
Minister Tarawalie was accompanied by the Deputy Secretary in the Ministry of Information & Communications, Gilbert Cooper. Also attending the conference were Commissioner Kabia and Musa Nurr Kamara from the National Telecommunications Commission (NATCOM).
The conference was officially opened by Rwanda’s Prime Minister, Rt. Hon. Pierre Damien Habumuremyi.
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