Successive Governments in Africa are known for the use of slogans to propagate the strategic implementation of their political manifestos. In most cases these slogans become popular with the ordinary man in the street only when the Government fails to achieve its objectives. If the Government is delivering the deliverables, only the politicians and technocrats measure their successes in line with the vision of the Government of the day.
Political leaders often throw out their vision to their policy makers with the expectation that they will in turn use the technocrats to transform this vision into tangible and visible achievements. This is exactly what President Ernest Bai Koroma did by appointing a transformational leader as Minister of Information and Communications to promote his “Agenda for Change” leading to the proposed “Agenda for Prosperity”.
Hon. I.B Kargbo has already set the Agenda for the prosperity of Sierra Leone through his achievements in the Information Communications Technology sector ahead of His Excellency the President’s renaming of the third Poverty Reduction Strategy as the “Agenda for Prosperity”.
Even though the Ministry of Information and Communications the official mouthpiece of Government over the past decade continues to be the least funded institution, successive Governments, save the Government of President Siaka P. Stevens have found it difficult to correct this very serious anomaly to the extent that any Minister put in charge of Information dissemination has to be extremely innovative to make a mark. It has even become more complicated with the addition of “Communications and the Office of Government Spokesman” to the portfolio by President Ernest Bai Koroma. This is why I am in this article giving accolades to I.B Kargbo under whose leadership and policy innovation Chairman Siray Timbo of NATCOM has scored remarkable achievements in the ICT sector within a period of five years.
That is the policy aspect of his transformational leadership. In the next paragraphs, I will be highlighting the tangible achievements which either by coincidence or divine call match President Koroma’s vision of an “Agenda for Prosperity”.
The Ministry of Information and Communications with support from UNDP has within this five year period set up four Media Resource Centers in Freetown, Bo, Kenema and Makeni with internet facilities to enable journalists and members of the public access information free of cost. The once moribund Government Printing Department has undergone remarkable transformation with the replacement of the derelict machines and equipment with modern printing gadgets. The Government Printer after the complete installation of all the machines at his disposal will have the capacity to print security proof receipts for the National Revenue Authority and other Government institutions.
Through the Pan-African e-network project, the Ministry of Information and Communications has connected Connaught Hospital to other hospitals in India and diagnostic tests can now be done via the telemedicine equipment. Fourah Bay College has also graduated over 150 students postgraduate students in various disciplines from Universities in India via e-learning.
Sierra Leone after missing the SAT3 cable has for the first time through support from the World Bank landed the Africa Coast to Europe Sub-marine fiber Optic Cable and will soon lay a 660KM fiber Optic cable that will connect Freetown to Guinea and Liberia through the ECOWAS Regional Backbone Infrastructure and e-Governance Program-ECOWAN Sierra Leone Project. The successful completion of these projects will make communications cheaper and affordable to every Sierra Leonean.
Under the leadership of I.B Kargbo, a National Information Communications Technology (ICT) Policy and a National Communications Strategy was developed in 2007. The National ICT Policy calls for the establishment of an ICT Cadre within the Civil Service of Sierra Leone, to empower the Civil Service and make Sierra Leone an ICT Savvy nation .
The visionary leadership of I.B Kargbo and his team caused His Excellency the President to give him the permission to accede to all the international covenants associated with the development of the Communications sector in Sierra Leone of course not without meeting our financial obligations to these international bodies.
The achievements of the Minister of Information and Communications and the Ministry at large during this five-year period is largely dependent on the support of its numerous agencies but the National Telecommunications Commission (NATCOM) stands out glaringly.
NATCOM prior to 2007 was a very small institution run by Commissioners and an Executive Secretary with its regulatory activities limited to Freetown. The advent of Siray Timbo with his entrepreneurial skills decentralized the activities of NATCOM to cover the entire country with a professional staff that regulates the GSM operators and Internet Service Providers (ISPS) from the regional offices. In his quest to introduce modern regulatory legislations in the telecoms sector, I.B Kargbo supported Commissioner Timbo to review the Telecommunications Act 2006 and requested Parliament to amend certain provisions of the Act that were not in line with modern telecommunications development.
NATCOM under the leadership of Chairman Timbo has paid Sierra Leone’s financial obligations to world telecommunications bodies like the ITU, CTO and WATRA of which Sierra Leone is now second Vice President. The choice of Siray Timbo as Second Vice President of the West Africa Conference of Regulators is a recognition of his performance within this five-year period as Chief Regulator in Sierra Leone and his contribution towards the achievement of the 2015 deadline of universal connectivity. The Lungi International Airport can now boast of Wi-Fi internet facility to serve passengers and Fourah Bay College also has access to free internet connectivity and a battery of computer accessories, all to the credit of Chairman Timbo.
The creation of the Universal Access Fund to cater for unserved and underserved communities by NATCOM in collaboration with the Ministry of Information and Communications are all moves to set the Agenda for the prosperity of Sierra Leone in the telecommunications sector.
With an unassuming smile, Siray with the support of the Minister has succeeded in making the telecommunications industry a family rather than a competitive ground. Operators sometimes tend to misunderstand his magnanimity for weakness which is not the case. The fact is that I.B Kargbo and Siray Timbo are on a mission to fulfill President Koroma’s dream of a prosperous Sierra Leone using ICT as an engine for growth and development.
World Telecommunications bodies like the Commonwealth Telecommunication Organization (CTO), the International Telecommunications Union(ITU) and the West Africa Telecommunications Regulatory Assembly now have the confidence to host high level international conferences in Sierra Leone all due to the new face I.B Kargbo has given to Sierra Leone using ICT.