Liberia’s Minister Highlights Plan for ICT
Liberia is making effort to develop information and communication technology (ICT) in the country, says deputy information minister, Gabriel I.H. Williams. Just as it is ongoing in Sierra Leone where a group of experts amongst whom are Internet Society (ISOC) Sierra Leone members, Liberia too has drafted a national ICT policy awaiting approval.
"We have drafted Liberia's ICT for Development (LICT4D) policy last year and it has been presented before the national assembly for approval," he said adding that the policy was borne out of the outcome of an ICT conference held for Liberia with firms such as IBM, Microsoft etc sending their agents to identify the various areas of investment in the sector.
"We are looking forward to the ICT Act being approved and passed into law by 2009 because there are so many bills before the house at the moment."
One of the major content of the policy is the waiving of custom duties on imported ICT-related equipment so as to enable Liberians to have more access to them.
Williams said though little positive changes have been experienced in the country's ICT sector so far, they are still planning to improve and ensure accountability and efficiency on the part of the government by capacitating the workforce through ICT-related trainings.
"We've realized that the more training our younger ones get, the better for us. We have to invest in the human resources of our country. We can't allow anything to go bad for us again. In fact, one of the government's requirements to employ anyone these days is to have computer knowledge," he said.
All government ministries activities are now being computerized and websites have been designed to ensure that most government policies are online. We are also encouraging newspapers to go online, Williams added.
"We want to build on what we have. Presently, we've spent several millions of dollars on the building of a new university town where most departments of our university would be relocated. Upon completion, we hope to have a department devoted to the study of hi-tech including the engineering aspect. We even plan to start offering online courses. We are working on that too," he said. "We've realized here that for us to move forward as a nation, we need to be a part of the information age."
On a possible joint effort as earlier stated by Sierra Leone's deputy information minister, Mohammed Koroma, Williams stressed that Liberia has a broad-based relationship with neighboring Sierra Leone through the Mano River Union (MRU) treaty and ICT development is not an exception in their joint efforts. "It (ICT) is one of the areas we are partnering on apart from technical, education and cultural exchanges."
He however cited that the country has limited resources but depends on its international partners to execute some of these projects. "The more funds we get, the more plans we plan to execute in developing our ICT sector. No amount of money should be enough to be spent on ICT development in this country."