Tokeh, Western Area Rural District – In a significant move to extend internet connectivity beyond Freetown, the Universal Access Development Fund (UADF), in partnership with the Ministry of Communications, Technology, and Innovation, and various collaborators, unveiled the inaugural Community Digital Service in Tokeh on Tuesday, 6th February 2024.
The momentous launch of the first hotspot hub marked a key initiative of the UADF, coinciding with Sierra Leone’s “Safer Internet Day.” Government officials and community stakeholders attended the event, witnessing the birth of a transformative project.
Providing an overview of the project, UADF Project Manager, Emmanuel Adonis Turay, expressed gratitude to supporters like the National Telecommunications Authority (NaTCA), Orange (SL), Africell, Qcell, Diakem, Zoodlabs, K3 Telecom, AFCOM, onlime Sab Technology, and others. Turay emphasized that the Digital Service and Internet Hub signify a beacon of hope, paving the way for replication in other underserved areas across Sierra Leone.
Turay stated, “With the success of this pioneering venture, the UADF project team fervently pursues additional funding avenues to extend access to modern ICT services to every household in Sierra Leone.” He highlighted ongoing efforts to erect mobile towers and kiosks nationwide, facilitating a digital revolution of unprecedented scale.
For Tokeh residents, this initiative promises transformative benefits, particularly for students, fishermen, and the broader community. Internet access will unlock educational opportunities, foster digital literacy, and empower fishermen with real-time market insights.
Established by the government, UADF aims to provide communication and internet services to unserved and underserved communities. Pa Momoh Sesay, the Headman of Tokeh Community, expressed gratitude for selecting Tokeh as the first digital service centre and assured the protection and security of the facility.
Madam Marie Momoh, UADF’s CEO, highlighted the significance of the ICT and Hotspot Centre Project in improving and spreading internet connectivity. She explained that their mandate is to “provide universal broadband, ICT and Telecommunications access and services to underserved and unserved communities, particularly in rural and remote areas of Sierra Leone.” She thanked the Minister Madam Salima Bah for providing not only the regulatory space but also unwavering support for UADF operations and “To the Board of Trustees, Management, and Staff of UADF, your hard work and dedication have been the cornerstone of our success. Your commitment to the UADFs mission has propelled us to this momentous occasion. We will not STOP! The success of this initiative would not have been possible without the unwavering support of the school and community authorities. From the projects inception to completion, your dedication has been instrumental in ensuring that the Community ICT and Hotspot Center becomes a catalyst for positive change in Tokeh” She praised President Julius Maada Bio’s commitment to narrowing the digital divide, dedicating 2% of NatCA’s gross annual income to support UADF.
The Deputy Director General of NatCA, Madam Maama Sewoh-Koroma, emphasized the facility’s uniqueness and urged the community to cherish it.
Deputy Minister of Communications Innovation and Technology, Ibrahim Sannoh, stressed the importance of the digital centre for school pupils, cautioning against internet abuse, and implored the kids to utilize the facility to their advantage.
Kamal Abass, speaking on behalf of the Mobile Network Operators (MNOs), commended UADF’s initiative and pledged continued support. The ceremony concluded with various speakers expressing gratitude and the official opening of the facility, marking a historic moment for Tokeh and Sierra Leone as a whole. The Chairman of the Parliamentary Oversights Committee ICT, Honourable Boston Munda, called on the community people to take ownership of the project.
He said over the years Parliament have enacted the Cyber Act to protect children and even adults from cyber bullying.
As Honourable they will continued to support UADF to ensure they reached their targets. MJB/8/2/2024