By Yusufu S. Bangura
Chief Executive Officer of the Universal Access Development Fund (UADF), Marie Momoh, has informed journalists that UADF was not common in the hearing of the media because in the past it was under the National Telecommunications Commission (NATCOM), but in 2018 that department was removed from NATCOM and now an autonomous body.
She made the above disclosure on Tuesday, June 21st, 2022, during a press conference held at the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists (SLAJ) headquarters, Campbell Street in Freetown.
“Over the past years, UADF have been dormant because proper structures were not in place that would take connection to the people, but since 2018 with the help of the Minister of Information and Communications, we were able to get regulations that warrant Mobile Network Operators to pay 0.75% of their yearly gross returns into the fund which has capacitated us and we are now an autonomous body,” she said.
She said they now stand on their own because from 2018 to 2019 they worked hard to restructuring the fund and in 2020 to 2021, they laid the framework for implementation.
She said it took them two years to restructuring the UADF and tried to get where they were today for them to start implementation of what the UADF mandate is, as they were now on the process of reviewing the Telecommunications Act.
She said their mandate is to promote universal service and access to information and telecommunication services to all Sierra Leoneans, particularly those living in rural, un-served and under-served areas.
She further said they facilitated the achievement of universal access, through a public-private partnership that leads to the availability, accessibility, and affordability of basic ICT and broadband services, that stimulates economic and social development, and good governance in underserved and un-served communities.
She said until otherwise their mandate would continue to remain the same as they provide connectives in rural areas where mobile network operators wouldn’t go because of non-economic variability, but as a government i regardless of where people found themselves, they can’t have access to telecommunication, access to internet facility because they are living in digital world.
Madam Marie said because everyone was now living in digital world, they needed to have digital inclusion, so it doesn’t matter where people are.
She added that they were taken connective there because everyone should be able to use mobile phones and that they should be able to use internet, so they started implementation after returning from various countries.
“After returning from these countries, we did a benchmark study where we saw solution that is practical and workable, so we are piloting three areas including Bonthe, Kailahum and Kono districts.Once these solutions are tested and qualified by the experts we are ready to roll out to other rural areas within the country,” she said.
She said by the time they were moving to the next five years, they were hoping to have 90% mobile network penetration and 50% internet penetration because they were determined to move forward as fast as possible to catch up with other countries in the world.
The CEO of UADF said government believes in providing digital services for its people, so they should show their commitment by contributing into the funds,hence they were requesting for 2% from the revenue of NATCOM to be deposited into their fund as a means of their contribution.
“As President Bio said he would give us Internet Digital Informed Society and for us to have it, we need to have what it takes for the people to be connected which includes mobile tele pole, internet service and other services, so we go where mobile network operators couldn’t go because it would not make any sense to them as it would not give them any profit,” she said.