ICT development must not be sabotaged
It was at the State opening of Parliament in May this year President Retired Brigadier Maada Bio’s pronounced Information and Communications Technology (ICT) as one of his key development priorities, which he intends to use as a driving force in the health, education, trade, and other key sectors to effect positive outcomes. President Bio must have realized that ICT has been the engine for growth and a source of energy for the social and economic empowerment of any country, especially a third world country like Sierra Leone.
The introduction of ICT into schools and universities is clearly changing the way education is conducted. It paves the way for a new pedagogical approach, where students are expected to play the more active role than before, getting more involved in the learning process, being active participants of knowledge creation not mere recipients of knowledge. Using information and known ICT tools in education, students should be able to communicate, create preservatives in PowerPoint, and interact with colleagues and teachers using technology. According to Yusuf (2005), ‘culture and society which are major factors of education, have adjusted to meet the challenges of the knowledge age’. The prevalence and rapid development in ICT have transformed human society from the information age to the knowledge age. The use of ICT in education by staff and students is becoming a necessity in Sierra Leone as it can be used to improve the quality of teaching and learning in an academic institution. (Photo: Professor Sahr Foday, USL’s Acting Vice-Chancellor)
Unfortunately, whilst the President is working very hard to put in place good systems and processes to actualize his vision in the ICT Sector, some ill-motivated individuals in society are currently working round the clock to sabotage the President’s good initiative at the detriment of key beneficiaries.
The Acting Vice Chancellor of the University of Sierra Leone Professor Sahr Foday is one of the Academic Professionals Sierra Leone can boast of. His high level of intelligence and skills are much more appreciated by most students that have benefited from his talent in the lecture room. But for some reasons, he never knew that he was misled by some saboteurs recently, which led to him ordering the immediate disconnection what he perceived as ‘all illegal connections’ from the Co- Router that is providing Free Internet Service to Schools and University in the Western Area.
Professor Sahr Foday perhaps never knew that for a very long time these saboteurs have been fighting tooth and nail to blackmail the contractor of the project, which prides itself to be very effective and efficient over the years in implementing contracts awarded by the government and or international organizations. Their mission is to get rid of the current contractor to pave the way for a company that has credibility issues.
What Professor Foday must have done after suspecting illegal connections at the Internet facility site at Fourah Bay College hosted at the Kennedy Building, was to call for the contractor, prove his case right before taking such a decision that succeeded in disturbing internet users that are connected to the main hub.
He should have taken the piece of advice given to him by Head of the Information and communications Department at Fourah Bay College, Francis Tamba Morsay who was quoted to have said: “at the Kennedy Building there is a mast that provides Service for Orange Mobile and Internet Service providers including IPTEL, CD Investment”. Mr. Moseray did not take responsibility for any act of default that in the first place led to the suspicion of defrauding and cannot explain the additional connections that were discovered on the Co- Router adding that the contractor should explain because they are operating the system. This is fair enough from any skilled professional, who knew what it takes to develop a whole system that benefits thousands of people.
Probably Professor Foday relied on people like Victor Sesay, an Information Communication Technician attached to the Ministry of Higher Education and on a Special Assignment to the University of Sierra Leone, who investigations have proven that is acting on behalf of another ISP and data network provider called AFCOM, which has over the years eyeing some lucrative contracts from government but did not succeed due to credibility issues.
Sesay’s suggestion that there was evidence of illegal connections that hooked to the feeder of the mast hosting connectivity for the ECO-Wan Project and blamed it all on the Project Contractor as being responsible for the illegal connections, exposed his incredibility to monitor and assess an on-going project that is been widely acclaimed by the end beneficiaries.
What he should be educated on is that thecontractor has been working on a project sponsored by World Bank on Internet Exchange Point (IEXP) before switching into the Virtual Private Network (VPN) business using Kennedy Building for over Ten years.
Sesay’s allegations were not only proven to be baseless and a demonstration of gross lack of knowledge, but also an attempt to tarnish the reputation of the Company on claims that the contractor is involved in some illegal connections which include the Airport, NP East, MRU, Office 95 and NP International.
He perhaps never knew that the contractor had an agreement to use FBC’s Kennedy Building as a hub where the Fibre Optic terminates and agreed that feed should come from there to other places.
Due to the geographical location of FBC the Kennedy Building serves as an advantage from which other institutions can access Internet Links adding that the contractor won the International Bid to host and provide the Internet Facility through the ECOWAN Project as they have been providing the VPN Services using the Building before the arrival of the World Bank Project.
Sierra Leone as a country is trying to make available and use ICTs to transform its’ educational system. We should be realizing the benefits of internet use in education, and also find positive and moderately high achievement at all educational level, from computer use in school subjects, which allows students to focus on strategies and interpretation of answers rather than spend time on castigating or sabotaging a system that is already yielding the required benefit. It is then generally believed that the use of internet in the educational sector in a developing nation like Sierra Leone would help bridge the information barrier between developed and developing nations.
We should all join the government and donors like the World Bank in making ICT operations a success in Sierra Leone rather than sabotaging an on-going well-meaning project to selfish interests. I pause for now.
By Abu Bakarr Kargbo
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