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Sierra Leone poised for success with transparency portal, ACE fibre cable, 3G

February 18, 2012  »  Broadband & ICT PolicyNo Comment

Sierra Leone has carried the momentum from the October 2011 landing of the ACE fibre cable in Freetown and is off to a progressive start to 2012.

We must all be ready now to embrace change, change in our attitude towards one another, change in our attitude to our work and responsibilities. All of those changes should translate positively into progress and development for our country.” – President Ernest Bai Koroma, 2008.

What’s happened in the mobile and Internet industry this year? Thanks to great reporting by Sierra Express Media, we have quite a few stories to be excited about as Sierra Leone positions itself as a regional ICT leader:

  • The government (including President Koroma) launched Transparency Sierra Leone, an online portal to increase its level of openness. (More on this below)
  • GoSL announced plans to revise the existing Telecommunications Act to reverse the monopoly of Sierratel over the GoSL international internet gateway before the ACE cable is operational later this year. (A study by the GSM Association in February 2007, citing Kenya, Nigeria and Egypt as case studies, showed that competition in the international gateways market can reduce call prices by up to 90 percent and double call volumes.)
  • Airtel launched 3G service on February 3rd (Africell began offering 3G access in 2011).
  • The Government of Sierra Leone (GoSL) launched an online system to manage system contains mineral rights, export licenses, and related payments.

The transparency portal encourages interaction and collaboration between citizens and the government. Citizens may ask questions and read about government projects. In return, the government can be expected to implement suggestions and remain honest about how the nations’ resources (ie. people’s taxes) are spent. In fact, Dr. Kelfala Marrah, Chief of Staff in the President’s Office, made some excellent points at the launch event:

  • people will pay taxes without hassle when they see how their money is spent
  • the village square is now the internet
  • impose attacks and you will be rewarded for imposing attacks

The site has a very clean layout with large text. Homepage slides are uncluttered. Registries allow for quick filtering based on region. The color scheme (green, white, and blue) even matches the flag!

Transparency Sierra Leone

Click to enlarge. {Transparency Sierra Leone}

Also positive:

  • a focus on national issues and not political debate
  • collaboration between regulator, finance ministry, infrastructure authorities, broadcasters, and journalists
  • the idea centre allows for user submissions (only one has been added as of writing)
  • a blog is frequently updated with news of projects
  • social share buttons in the footer
  • FAQs explain how to participate and even how to comment on posts
  • the president has created a YouTube video (viewed 200 times since January 20th)
  • ‘Agenda for Change’ is prominently displayed as a PDF link, as are links to government websites

The nation is now busy preparing for the operation of the ACE cable later this year. After all, capacity is useless if there is no demand or if the cost structure doesn’t make sense for consumers. Profits from the ACE gateway are expected to contribute to Sierra Leone’s economic progress. The government is clearly not taking any chances is missing this tremendous opportunity.

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