Sierra Leone: The Institute for Governance Reform (IGR) and the Center for Accountability and Rule of Law (CARL), yesterday 9th June, 2021 released the survey findings on the Cybercrime bill, and its implications for civil liberties and use of electronic applications to fight COVID, at the New Brookfields, hotel.
One of the findings of the survey is political polarization in the use of smartphones across the country.
IGR Executive Director, Andrew Lavalie explained that “the East, the Western region, followed by the Northwest, that is Port Loko, Kambia and Karene are the biggest users of smartphones so you actually see, I don’t want to speak politics, opposition areas, having greater appetite for social media news, than ruling party communities.”
He further explained that “the national average, on the use of social media is 40%, the national average of people on both the smartphones and social media is 47%.”
The survey data captured 1,936 Sierra Leoneans randomly chosen electronically across the country and with a 50/50 gender split.
Andrew explained that 59% of the people interviewed are in rural areas, and 41% are in urban areas. “So you can see the data (is) a little skewed to rural where digital literacy is low. So we did not do this on purpose. We did this because you have to statistically give an opportunity for everyone to be spoken to.” Adding, “when we got the respondent characteristics, we saw that 59% of the respondents are residing in rural areas, and 41% in urban areas, the margin of error for this research is plus or minus 5%. That means for every result, you see, it can either be 5% above the number, or 5% below the normal.”
He said the data was collected in May, “we divided into five regions West, East, North, North West, and South.” Andrew said on the ages, “most of our respondents close to six out of every 10 respondents, are young people between 18 to 35 years.”
The IGR Exec. Dir. explained that the first test was access to digital space. “81% of the people we spoke to said they own phones and 40% said they are social media users, 60% said no we don’t use social media. 81% own phones 40% are social media users.”
In terms of gender proportion of smartphone users, Andrew explained that of “the number of people who own phones, 54% are men and 46% are women.”
“In Freetown 68% of the smartphone users use social media. The lead district in terms of access to phones was the East 24% and 22% access to phones and the use of social media,” respectively.
Minister of Information and Communication Mohamed Swarray said it is the president’s “vision to leave behind a digital inclusive Sierra Leone where her citizens will be very enabled, and will be able to compete both locally and abroad in the digital space.”
He said, “87% of our citizens who have access to voice connected mobile voice; about 25% have access to some form of internet connectivity.”
He added, “your research shows that about 65% of Sierra Leoneans, want some form of protection in the digital space.”
The minister explained that the government is obliged to ensure the provision and protection for citizens safety and decorum who are in cyberspace, where they live in a new world, which also requires regulation.
He said, “it’s against that background, the government took upon herself to ensure that we, dialogue, and we legislate, enabling legislation to ensure that citizens in digital space are able to conduct their businesses, they are able to build community they are able to interact amongst each other without hindrance or without any fear.”
“We have embarked on this legislative journey, in fulfilment of international obligations we had, including commitments made by African leaders in Equatorial Guinea, Malabo accord under the previous administration, including the ECOWAS directive, to which Sierra Leone has signed up to an eventual aspiration to accede to the Budapest convention. All of these legislations are cornerstones of the protection of rights, freedoms and liberties of individuals and their data.”
He explained that in drafting the cybercrime bill, government took into cognizance, the relevant provisions of the 1991 constitution, the 1965 Criminal Procedures Act, “all of those things were taken into consideration. So we were very excited that this debate became the most raging debate this country has ever seen since independence this means citizens care about their well being and about their welfare in the digital space.”
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