Sierra Leone Hosts West Africa’s Internet Governance Forum

Sierra Leone yesterday hosted the West African Internet Governance Forum which brought stakeholders of the West African Continent to discuss broad ranging from Internet issues and facilitates.

The West Africa Internet Governance Forum was initially slated to be hosted from 20 – 24 July 2020 in Freetown, Sierra Leone.  However, due to COVID-19 restrictions, the Ministry of Information and Communications held a virtual forum yesterday on the theme ‘Digital inclusion and Access in West Africa’ which provided a common understanding of how to maximize Internet opportunities and address risks and challenges that arises.

The Deputy Minister of Information and Communications, Madam Mamadi Gobeh – Kamara in her key note address expressed gratitude for the opportunity to meet with fellow policy makers across West Africa and the IGF membership, adding that the platform will enable stakeholders share experiences and gain insights on policy initiatives to address the current governance and access issues.

Madam Gobeh-Kamara said that the meeting’s topic on Digital inclusion and Access in West Africa in response to COVID-19 is very relevant as governments and regional leaders are implementing measures like social distancing and other health related protocols to curtail the spread of COVID-19.

She said that while the use of digital technologies has enabled the continuation of work (work from Home), delivery of health and education services as well as access to social services like cash transfers, medical supplies to name a few.

 Adding that , she was equally aware that for millions of people who are unable to connect to the internet, the offline world is economically and socially isolating. She stressed that it is therefore equally important that stakeholders put in place programs and strategies to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic and must ensure that no one is digitally left behind.

She informed  the participants that His Excellency, the President Rtd. Brigadier, Julius Maada Bio, has called for a scaling-up in the development of the ICT/Telecom services to create a Digitally Inclusive Sierra Leone to transform the economy to a digital economy.

Adding that “to achieve such a goal would require the development of a suitable Policy, legal and regulatory frameworks that ensure a competitive environment for the development and provision of services, stimulating innovation, creating scope for universal access and increasing consumers’ choice. “

The Deputy Minister said that the government has developed an electronic compliance enforcement management system to support Governments policy on the removal of inter district lockdowns as well as the reopening of the international airport for regional and international travels as part of the implementation of an enhanced COVID-19 response regulation.

The system includes

  • an Electronic Manifest System for public transportation to provide a list of contacts of infected persons that were co-passengers in a motor vehicle or sea vessel to further enhance the effectiveness of contact tracing
  • Compliance Enforcement Management System to enhance transparency in the administration of the enforcement measures such as imposition of fines; and provide data that enables assessment of trends in compliance and overall efficacy of policy measures

 

The Annual Internet Governance Forum (IGF) brings together various stakeholder groups as equals to discuss public policy issues relating to the Internet. While there is no negotiated outcome, the IGF informs and inspires those with policy-making power in both the public and private sectors.  Delegates discuss, exchange information and share good practices with each other. The IGF facilitates a common understanding of how to maximize Internet opportunities and address risks and challenges that arise.