By DMIC Media Team
Sierra Leone’s delegation to the ongoing annual International Telecommunication Union ( ITU ) Council meeting in Geneva has held fruitful discussions with the ITU leadership which is set to unlock great potentials that will be of immense benefit to the country and will include an extension of the ITU June 17, 2017 deadline for the country to migrate from analogue to digital terrestrial broadcasting to December 2017.
The delegation comprising of representatives of government, parliament and the regulatory agency (NATCOM) includes the Deputy Minister of Information and Communications Hon Cornelius Deveaux as head of delegation, Member of Parliament representing the Parliamentary Oversight Committee on Information and communications Hon. Sidie M. Tunis of the opposition SLPP, Mr Bakarr Tarawallie (Director of Communications in the Ministry of Information and Communications), Madame Tutu Fonti Kanu and Mr Musa Nurr Kamara both the National Telecommunications Commission (NATCOM) met with ITU Secretary General Houlin Zhao and head of ITU Business Development Department Mr. Braihima Sanou on Wednesday 17 May 2017 on separate occasions at Montbrillant Building at the ITU headquarters in Geneva.
Addressing both personalities, the Deputy’ Minister conveyed kind sentiments on behalf of the government and people of Sierra Leone and particularly on behalf of His Excellency Dr Ernest Bai Koroma to the ITU for convening another Council meeting and for the continued support Sierra Leone has been receiving from the ITU in harnessing the digital divide and in putting the country at par with the innovations and development in the global ICT sector..
Deputy Minister of Information and Communications Hon Cornelius Deveaux expressed thanks and appreciation to the ITU for its recent technical support to Sierra Leone in the form of two state of the art equipments to support Internet exchange following the Big Data conference which was held in Freetown immediately after Sierra Leone was declared an Ebola free nation.
He maintained that the decision of the ITU to hold such a high profile international meeting in Sierra Leone at a time when many were uncertain about the situation in the country went a long way in convincing the rest of the world that Sierra Leone was Ebola free and reopened the country after the deadly spell which brought untold suffering and setback to a nation that was on the path of a progressive transformation initiated by President Koroma and rolled out under the government”s blue print for socio economic renaissance called the Agenda for Prosperity.
The Deputy Minister appealed to the ITU to extend the June 17 deadline for the country to migrate from analogue to digital terrestrial broadcasting noting that the country’s Ministry of Finance and Economic Development is constrained in granting Sovereign Guarantee and exclusivity for a period over ten years to the vendors that had expressed interest in the project. “Even our budgetary support partners such as the IMF and World Bank were reluctant for government to give such a condition to a private entity given the risk of adding to the national debt”, he explained, while pointing out that the government is now in negotiations with vendors who have the money to finance the project and that he is hopeful that by December a competent vendor would have been selected and the process of migration far advanced if not completed. The Deputy Minister also appealed to the ITU to facilitate Sierra Leone’s participation in the upcoming ITU Telecom World 2017 which will take place at BEXCO in Busan Republic of Korea from 25 to 28 September 2017. He also appealed for technical support in translating policies which have been recently approved by cabinet to law.
Responding, ITU Secretary General Houlin Zhao noted the appeal and informed the Sierra Leone delegation that he will instruct the radio and television department of the ITU to grant an extension of the deadline to Sierra Leone. “I will also inform the ECOWAS about this extension”, he said. Head of the Business Development Department Braihima Sanou also confirmed his department”s continued support to Sierra Leone and urged the delegation to submit proposals for the attention of his department. “For the policy paper review please send me a request with ToRs”, he admonished.