July 24, 2019
By Yusufu S. Bangura
Ministry of Information and Communications, in collaboration with the Directorate for Science, Technology and Industry (DSTI), National Telecommunications Commission (NATCOM), Sierra Leone Cable Limited (SALCAB) and other various stakeholders, has yesterday held a consultative meeting on the development of National Digital Transformation Roadmap in Sierra Leone.
The meeting started yesterday and it will end today at the Golden Tulip Hotel in Freetown.
Speaking during the meeting, Minister of Information and Communications, Mohamed Rado Swarray said the aim of the two days meeting was to discuss how to promote digital innovation and transformation in Sierra Leone from 2019 – 2029.
He said the draft strategy would outline government vision on the digital roadmap on critical policy actions, legal and regulatory frameworks, institutional reforms, programmes and projects that would be implemented for the overall development of a digital economy, to support the achievement of the national development goals.
The Minister of Information noted that recently, President Bio launched the country’s Medium-term National Development Plan -2019–202, with a theme “Education for Development” anchoring on the ‘New Direction for Improving People’s Lives through Education, Inclusive Growth, and Building a Resilient Economy’.
He further stated that the vision of the ministry towards the National Development Plan was that by 2029, Sierra Leone would become a digitally inclusive society, with digital technology as the means to unleash the innate potentials of every citizen, to leapfrog the country’s socio-economic development.
He continued that they also have a vision consistent with the ‘Leave No One Behind’ dream of the United Nations, as espoused in the Sustainable Development Goals(SDGs) and the ‘Africa we want’ principle of the African Union, adopted in its 2063 vision.
He added that for them to achieve the above stated visions, the sector requires strategic interventions in critical areas, to enhance its vital role as the enabler to economic growth and social progress.
Speaking on behalf of the vice president, Chief Minister, Dr. David Francis, thanked everyone for being part of the national digital transformation consultative meeting.
He said the digital economic is an everyday activity in all areas of life, especially in the developing economy wherein through digital economy, people can do online shopping- pay for goods and services through their mobile phones.
He said the economy is now largely based on conducting business transactions through internet across the world, as it is now part of development economic.
He said digital transformation is a normal way of doing business in any developed country.
He further stated that digital economy can transform Sierra Leoneans and that it would create job opportunities for them and improves their lives.
He said across Africa, the fast pace and rapid way of digital economy is making significant impact on economic growth.
Dr. Franics continued that in Kenya, a market woman uses her phone through internet to order and secure the commodity she needs in her locality, while in Sierra Leone people can use Western Union, Money Gram and other internet facilities to send and receive money, because of the super-fast internet connectivity, cyber security and smart products like mobile phones, laptops.
He said the president’s vision is to transform the system of education wherein students can use their mobile phones to give update about what is happening in their schools.
He said according to the G-20 economists, the digital economy is a multi-billion dollar business and financial activity, which significantly impacted inclusive growth and development.
He said the digital transformation is important for the development of education, health, agriculture, infrastructure and other areas.
Chief Executive Officer of Orange, Aminata Kane Ndiaye, said in Sierra Leone, over 80% of people were using mobile phones and that over 54% of them are using internet facility, which she said shows that everyone needs to come on-board to achieve digital transformation in Sierra Leone.
She said they were facing so many challenges in the use of internet, but that the digital transformation would help them overcome those challenges and improve the lives of people.
She said the national digital transformation roadmap would also help in the area of energy and education, wherein students can now apply at the university through internet.
For energy, she said someone can now pay bills for Electricity Distribution and Supply Agency, tax to the Freetown City Council, school fees and do DSTV subscription through their mobile phones.
“In the next 5 years, we want to move from 55% mobile penetration to 90% and for the internet from 45% to 95%.But it will cost us a lot of money, so I want the government to support us achieve our goal,” she said.
Minister of Planning and Economic Development, Dr. Francis Kai-Kai, said the initiative outlines the vision of the government to transform the country from a fragile state into a stable and prosperous democracy.
He said as a government, their strategy as enunciated in the ‘New Direction Agenda’ was to build a stable economy based on private sector led growth diversified across several competitors that would enable the appropriate transport, roads, energy and ICT infrastructure that the country needs to attract foreign investment.
He said the transformative benefits of digital technology was to increase job creation, better community and civic engagement, improve trade and commerce, improve government services, facilitate social interactions and positively impact the country’s Gross Domestic Product.