While 26.4% of Sierra Leoneans own mobile phones, results of the Core Welfare Indicators Questionnaire released last week show that just 1.1% of the country’s population own personal computers.
Many IT professionals believe in the accuracy of the survey, naming the high cost of computers as the main barrier to ownership.
“The earning power of many Sierra Leoneans is very poor, and computer literacy is very low,” said Abdul Fatta Ahmed, managing director of Union Systems, an IT consultancy firm that runs an Internet café.
“Gaining access to information on the Internet is also very expensive,” said IT consultant Austin Odia. “Imagine we pay about 885,000 leones (US$376.13) every month at our [Internet] café for eight computers. Some other ISPs, like Comium, charge $50. So, we have to charge users based on that,” he said.
Odia believes, however, that a rapid upswing in ownership could occur once the government fully implements its zero-duty tariff on computers.
The questionnaire also surveyed ownership of select consumer electronics, showing that 12.1% of Sierra Leoneans own televisions, 11.6% own VCR or DVD players, and 1.2% have telephone land lines.
Meant to analyze poverty levels in the country and the effects of social development programs, the Core Welfare Indicators Questionnaire (CWIQ) survey was carried out by Statistics Sierra Leone from April 5 to May 10, 2007. A total of 7,797 households were successfully enumerated from a sample of 7,800 households, resulting in a coverage rate of 99.6%.
The Department for International Development provided financial assistance for the CWIQ pilot and main surveys, while the World Bank provided technical assistance.