Experts: Sierra Leone needs an ICT resource centre

FREETOWN, SIERRA LEONE – As a developing nation, Sierra Leone needs an ICT resource centre that would provide information knowledge to people in the West African nation, says an IT consultant.

“The centre would help to demystify the mystic behind ICT and help in the development of IT culture in the country,” Austin Odia said.

Odia trained more than 600 ex-combatants from the country’s civil war between 2000 and 2003 in Freetown and Makeni on computer basics during the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR) program before he ventured into full-time consultancy services.

He linked the prolonged civil unrest in the country, which could have been curtailed, to a low level of information awareness. The rank and file of the fighters were uneducated and not enlightened. But since the DDR program ended, the former fighters could have continued improving their skills if an ICT resource centre had been in place, he said.

“In developed countries, IT experts usually come together to put up a resource centre where people who are interested in IT can go to gather information, but throughout my 11 years of involvement in the country’s ICT sector, no individual or group has made the move to put it in place.”

Ali Ajao, technical director at FGC Wireless, added: “Setting up a resource centre may be a bit expensive, but if we consider the positive impact it would have on the country in years to come, seeking sponsorship for the actualization of the project would be worthwhile.”

Ajao said that since Sierra Leone is still following the pacesetters in IT, it is expedient for the country to get certain structures, such as a resource center, in place to help those who don’t have a good education to develop their IT skills. He said the centre will reduce the digital divide in the country.

The centre, which would have training facilities where people could be tutored at reduced prices, would also help people to know how much computer components actually cost, so that people won’t pay more than they should. He cited an example of a hard disk, which has an actual worth of US$20, being sold for $100 in Freetown.

Nearby Senegal started its ICT resource centre in 2004 with the goal to provide new services to poor, largely illiterate, populations through stand-alone applications that run on PDAs and mobile telephones.

According to ITU’s ICT Indicators Database, 33.31 out of every 100 Senegalese now use the Internet, compared to 13.23 Sierra Leoneans.

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