March 22, 2016 By Ibrahim Tarawallie
Country Manager of the World Bank office in Sierra Leone yesterday said that infrastructure alone was not enough for the improvement of information and communication technology in the country.
Parminder P.S. Brar was speaking at the Miatta Conference Hall in Freetown during a conference on ICT for development, where the bank’s 2016 World Development report titled: “Digital Dividends” was officially launched.
“The Infrastructure alone is not enough. It is only the beginning. I think what we are seeing in Sierra Leone right now is that the infrastructure is laid but it needs to be fully activated and properly priced,” he said.
Mr. Brar also spoke about the need for citizens to benefit from ICT services and for schools to be connected to the internet, while also emphasising the need to improve on service delivery.
He congratulated the government on the achievements over the past five years, adding that even though the bank ensured the landing of the fiber cable in Freetown, it was the government that laid the metropolitan cables in Freetown, build the national backbone across the country, as well as the ECOWAN network from the border with Liberia to that of Guinea.
According to him, the government has decided to have an open access infrastructure which the bank fully supports, as well as recognises the impressive development that has taken place at the National Telecommunications Commission (NATCOM).
“I am impressed with the development in NATCOM since I arrived here six months ago and I want to congratulate the chairman on what has been achieved. We have a regulator standing up for consumers by enforcing the issue of quality of service and this sometime we want to see more of,” the World Bank Country Manager stated.
Also speaking, outgoing Minister of Information and Communications, Alhaji Alpha Kanu thanked the World Bank for their immense support in improving the ICT sector.
He noted that Africa and the rest of the world have no excuse to be left behind on what he referred to as “The era of ICT revolution”.
He called for efforts from other line ministries to ensure that the nation moves to the era of what he referred to as “computracy” as a core subject in school curriculums, in a bid to derive the benefit of ICT.
With regards the report, Mr. Kanu said it would help ginger-up all actors in the ICT sector to think about innovation, adding, “For Sierra Leone to derive any benefit from the fifth generation of ICT, it is but important that we think about innovating.”
On his part, chairman of NATCOM, Momoh Konte, expressed delight to be working with the bank in building their capacity to meet future challenges.
He urged software developers both in and out of the country to get involved in the improvement of ICT in the country, adding, “The infrastructure is in place and the regulations to protect software developers are being developed.”
While appreciating efforts by the bank, Mr. Konte assured of the commission’s willingness to working with the former and the people to ensure accessible and affordable ICT services in the country.