By Marcus A. Bangura, Special/ Personal Assistant, Minister of Information & Communication
The Minister of Information and Communication in collaboration with Sierra Leone Cable Network Limited met with ECOWAN Investors in a conference organized to mark a historic transformation of the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in the country.
The conference was attended by representative s of telecom companies and internet service providers (ICPs) In delivering his statement, the minister recalled the landing of the submarine fiber optic cable at the Lumley beach on 18th February , 2013 and explained that before the country exclusively relied on satellite for international connectivity, which was both costly and provides broad band access and distribution. He continued to say that with the launching of the submarine cable, the government requested for funds from the Islamic Development Bank(IDB) and the China Exim Bank to deploy a terrestrial fiber optic backbone as a means to improve the limited broadband access and reduce the concomitant costs.
The minister informed members that in pursuant to financing the agreement between the GOSL and the IDB for ECOWAS Regional Backbone Infrastructure and e-Governance Program- ECOWAN Sierra Leone Project, which became effective on 6th September 2011, the ECOWAN Team recruited a Consultant to carry out a financial and legal advisory for the establishment of a Public Private Partnership(PPP) for a national fiber optic backbone and and access network.
The Hon. Minister in his determination to develop ICT in the country has the unfettered conviction that as part of the implementation process it is the desire of government to develop a sustainable Open Access Regime for the ECOWAN and the National Backbone project, divorce of discrimination and significant Market Power.
The Minister admonished members that it is expected that the study will bring to the forefront a strategy to manage the process, as well as develop the ownership and operational structures of PPP between government and the private sector so as to develop the capacity on the terrestrial fiber optic infrastructure for adequate utilization.
The Minister informed the audience that government is mindful of the fact that fibre backbone networks are expected to serve as carrier’s of carrier, where lit fiber services and dark fire capacity will be available on whole sale. He called on telecom operators ISPs and other interested private sector players to invest in the last mile infrastructure. He challenged the private sector to harness the opportunity as there are various socioeconomic and commercial benefits of the fibre optic backbone.
He called on the consultant to carefully analyze and propose different options regarding the viability and sustainability of the networks using different assumptions , models and scenarios in view of resource mobilization and market conditions. As minister of the people, the minister explained that he government is commented to promoting the local content policy that will benefit small, medium and large players who are the primary sources of the telecom market.
The Minister advised the consultant to develop a legal and regulatory framework that will guide the regulator in achieving the desired objective. The minister believed that it will support entrepreneurial skills of local investors as well as youthful investors. He told members that the backbone infrastructure is an essential facility, designed to reach customers and empower competitors to run their business with limited chanced of replication The minister concluded that with the principle of open access. He went further to say that interconnection offer of the company should be subject to the approval of the Regulatory body.
In summary, it should be understood that the impeccable Minister of Information is poised to see ICT develop in the country. One of his main objective is to enable Sierra Leoneans have open access to ICT where everybody is equal , bring national infrastructure together, widening the access scope, infrastructure development, effective financial and legal regulations, ensure lots of development, work with partners, especially Telecom operators and internet service providers among others, develop the local content policy, setting up of a general regulatory framework, transparency and accountability and to eliminate Telecom infrastructure gap in Sierra Leone.