The Minister of Information and Communication Ibrahim Ben Kargbo and the Minister of Presidential Affairs have said that Sierra Leone will soon launch submarine Cyber Optic Cable to enhance Rural Connectivity. They made these revelations as the Commonwealth African Rural Connectivity recently commenced at the two days capacity building workshop for Ministries, Government Agencies, the Media and Local authorities at the Wusum Hotel Conference Center in Makeni. At the Opening of the workshop Moses Sesay Makeni Mayor gave the welcome address while Siray Timbo NATCOM Chairman gave a brief introduction of the workshop facilitators and delegates from the Commonwealth. He also said that plans are underway for a submarine fiber optic cable to be launched in Sierra Leone through the Africa Coast to Europe (ACE) with coverage from district and chiefdom level – one lap top per child and the universal access to information. Ibrahim Ben Kargbo said connectivity relies heavily on mobile operators and it is expected that they should give back to the community. Additionally Government is always prepared to provide results on the role of ICT in bringing development to rural areas. He also noted that there is need for an Established infrastructure for easy access to the problem as cost will be discussed by partners and multipurpose tele centers for rural areas and pilot wireless mesh network will also be established. Antennas will also be provided for coverage within 3 miles, Cluster connectivity for schools and cluster centers to be shared to the public. The Minister of Information concluded by commending NATCOM as the most efficient among the nine departments. He also said Civil Society and Local leaders are to work towards ICT for economic growth in collaboration with the relevant stakeholders and intimated that only 1.5m people are mobile phone users with average revenue per user as $7 while there are only 25,000 internet users across the country.
IB Kargbo explained that rural urban divide has been brought closer through ICT in compliment of the Millennium Development Goals for economic growth and sustainable development. He also said that AFRICELL has planned to construct a clock tower in Makeni and also plans to beautify the roundabout. Siray Timbo of NATCOM spoke about their activities. In 2009 NATCOM met with mobile operators and also held two consumer parliamentary meetings and is a potential mile stone for the benefit of the people by public private and people’s partnership. He said Sierra Leone will benefit immensely by connecting people with others around the World, adding representatives of MDA’s and Local Councils are the primary focus adding ICT is a catalyst for development and key knowledge assessment. COMARSI project will alleviate poverty and also create participatory empowerment. Siray Timbo also explained about the goals of the workshop which include relationships for a stronger public, private people’s partnership with relevant stakeholders to increase awareness on innovative technology for sustainable development. He further called for nurturing of local ownership with an outlined strategy and called on participants to contribute towards the COMARCI project. Hon. Ibrahim Sorie member of the Parliamentary oversight Committee on Information and Communication stated that they the parliamentarians “are here to participate so as to increase our knowledge on ICT and to also explore areas of development.” Hon. Sorie also spoke about taking advantage of policies for an overall development of the entire sector using ICT as the key driven element towards social and economic growth through rural connectivity. “Parliamentarians will support ICT to ensure transparency and accountability with a knowledge base society.” The CTO Chief Executive Officer Dr. Ekwow Spio-Garbrah unique knowledge sharing program through ICT attracted many. Internet is particularly important because knowledge can be shared and utilized for different purposes. Knowledge is more important than the service he said and disclosed that they “are eager to work with commonwealth countries to improve literacy and health – more connection, more development, less connectivity – more poverty. He maintained that it would “Help to bring about socio economic development through public private partnership, adding that “There are fifty commonwealth organizations that are promoting and facilitating Africa rural connectivity. People will not efficiently utilize the services if they are not educated.” Banks and E-Education he noted are vital re-investment, human capacity, common language driving factors and strategic goals for the project.
Political commitment can also demonstrate a good partnership with the public and private sectors he noted and further spoke about the role of stakeholders.