Telecommunication Transformation in Sierra Leone: A Comparative Analysis of the SLPP’s 2018 Manifesto Commitments and Five-Year Achievements on Improving Communication Technology

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Telecommunication Transformation in Sierra Leone: A Comparative Analysis of the SLPP's 2018 Manifesto Commitments and Five-Year Achievements on Improving Communication Technology

Telecommunication Transformation in Sierra Leone: A Comparative Analysis of the SLPP’s 2018 Manifesto Commitments and Five-Year Achievements on Improving Communication Technology

By the Sierra Leone Live Team

Welcome to this comprehensive review and comparison of the New Direction’s 2018 manifesto and the achievements reported by the SLPP government over the last five years. Our focus today is on one of the key components of the manifesto: Improving Communication Technology. As we all know, advancements in this sector play a pivotal role in the nation’s socio-economic growth, touching every aspect of our lives from governance to education, from business operations to healthcare, and from social connectivity to entertainment.

In Sierra Leone, the SLPP made a promise in 2018 to catalyse such advancements and create a digital revolution that benefits all citizens. Now, five years down the line, it’s time for us to evaluate the progress made, the promises kept, and those that may have fallen by the wayside. We will dive into the specifics of these pledges and their corresponding actions, highlighting key areas of development and pointing out where there might still be work to be done.

As part of this process, Sierra Leone Live will also provide 25 carefully curated questions in a separate post. These questions will serve as a tool for each of us to personally evaluate whether the SLPP government has lived up to its promises. Your participation and views matter because they design these policies and advancements to impact you.

 Telecommunications and Digital Infrastructure

Manifesto: The manifesto places emphasis on improving telephony and communication services, including increasing broadband access and liberalising the sector.

Achievements: The government extended the National Fibre Backbone to five additional districts, creating the infrastructure for improved communication services and showing the fulfillment of the promise for better telecommunication services. However, the achievements document does not mention the liberalisation of the sector, an aspect included in the manifesto.

Regulatory Bodies

Manifesto: Promised to de-politicise NATCOM (the National Telecommunications Commission) to improve its efficiency.

Achievements: The document does not mention any specific action taken towards the de-politicization of NATCOM, so it’s unclear if this goal has been achieved.

Electronic Governance System

Manifesto: Included the introduction of an electronic governance system.

Achievements: This pledge seems to have been fulfilled as the government introduced an e-Cabinet during COVID, rolled out a time and attendance management system to 24 MDAs, and developed e-passes during lockdowns, contributing to a more digital governance system.

Access to ICT

Manifesto: Promised to increase public access to all aspects of ICT.

Achievements: The number of internet users increased significantly, from 307,000 in 2017 to 2.67 million in 2022, showing significant strides towards this goal. However, it’s not clear if these improvements were equally distributed, particularly among the rural poor, as the manifesto promised.

Education and ICT Skills Development

Manifesto: Emphasized the provision of computer training and facilities in public libraries, schools, and colleges, as well as the encouragement of science teaching.

Achievements: The document does not mention any direct achievements related to these points. However, the establishment of the Director of Science, Technology, and Innovation might support these goals, depending on the Director’s role and initiatives.

Security of Information

Manifesto: Advocated for the establishment of digital storage centres and backup services to secure government documents.

Achievements: The government enacted the Cybercrime Act of 2021, providing legal backing for digital security. However, there is no explicit mention of the creation of digital storage centres or backup services for government documents.

Policy and Legal Framework

Manifesto: While there was no explicit mention of updating policies or laws in the manifesto, the emphasis on liberalizing the sector and creating an enabling business environment suggested policy and legal adjustments.

Achievements: The New Direction Government enacted the Cybercrime Act of 2021 and the New Communications Act of 2022, aligning with the original manifesto’s indirect implications. Also, a national digital development policy was developed, which may further drive the sector’s growth.

Community Radio Stations

Manifesto: Promised to increase the establishment of community radio stations.

Achievements: The document does not provide information related to this point, making it difficult to assess the achievement of this goal.

Broadband Access 

Manifesto: The party aimed to enhance broadband access across the country.

Achievements: The extension of the National Fibre Backbone can be seen as a step towards achieving this goal, but the report does not explicitly discuss broadband access.

While there were several accomplishments over the five years, fulfillment of the New Direction’s manifesto promises seems mixed. Some pledges, such as improving communication technology and implementing electronic governance, were realized, while others, such as de-politicizing NATCOM and increasing computer education, were not explicitly mentioned in the achievements document. There are achievements like enacting cybercrime and communication acts that were not in the manifesto but contribute to improving the ICT sector in the country.

However, without detailed data or additional context, it’s challenging to comprehensively evaluate the performance or the extent to which these achievements have impacted the population, especially groups like the rural poor.

We have now completed our review and comparison of the SLPP government’s 2018 manifesto with the reported achievements in Communication Technology over the past five years. Your engagement in this process is not only welcomed but also crucial, as it helps hold our government accountable and foster transparency.

We understand that fully absorbing this information and making an informed judgment might require some time. That’s why we encourage you to revisit the points discussed and look at our survey, comprising 25 questions, in a separate post. This will further aid you in assessing whether the SLPP has met its 2018 manifesto targets.

Remember, your insights, your voice, and your perspectives matter. They play a crucial role in shaping the future of Sierra Leone. So, we thank you for taking the time to delve into this analysis and for your forthcoming participation in the survey.

Together, we can continue to ensure that they keep the promises made.

Here are the 25 Questions

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