May have sent out the text without a heading. Not quitesure since I got
distracted with my hands on the send bottom. I Apologize if you receive
more than one copy.
Sent to prompt a discussion on the role of the African Professional in the
development of National ICT Strategies. Copied to Leonenet, Afrik-it,
Africana-l and Acacia-l mailing lists.
Advocating a National Information and Communication Technology(ICT)
Strategy in a West African State.
The Sierra Leone Case.
By Adrian Q. Labor
([log in to unmask])
Thinking Globally. Unable to Act Locally.
(this paragraph is based on a discussion with Dr Eluemuno Blyden,
[log in to unmask])
There are industries that Sierra Leone can engage in that have a global
reach and that are key to the development of new trades in goods, services
and expertise in 21st Century Sierra Leone. There are Sierra Leoneans from
a wide range of professional background and experiences who share this
belief and have built their careers to pioneer development of one such
industry, its products and services. For instance, there are Sierra
Leoneans (I know of) who share this vision in the field of biotechnology,
pharmaceuticals, "locally-packaged" information, food science , glass
manufacturing, software development, and debt management to name a few
fields. Some of the tangible applications associated with this vision in
some fields are not easy to decipher but the fact remains, there exists a
Sierra Leonean professional(s) who can. In my case, it has to do with
networks and management information systems for vehicle-based industries.
I know of Sierra Leoneans who built their professional career along this
same line. What then will it take to enable the Sierra Leone professional
thinking globally to be able to act locally. The answer is ADVOCACY. We
need to rebuild a robust mechanism that will enable a professional vision
to be heard by others and decision makers at all level. The mechanism must
empower the professional to participate in advocating necessary changes
within an industry of interest irrespective of his/her stage of development
and location in the world.
The Absence of Change Frustrates.
At some stage of our professional development, we all give thought to the
possibilities and potential of our area of interest within Sierra Leone's
economy. We make the necessary contacts abroad and in Sierra Leone. We
build the proposals of a lifetime to submit to international development
agencies, multinational corporation, investment group including the
Government of Sierra Leone. In some case, we save up our earnings to
invest in our interest. The reality is that we carry out these preparation
within the constraints of stringent immigration, employment laws of the
countries in which we begin our professional careers. Some have to make
hard choice and personal scarifies just to prepare and in good time. The
only thing that spoils the "climax" is the fact that Sierra Leone is not
yet ready. Key changes have not yet taken place and critical supports
within our field of interest are not up to par. It is frustrating to think
that you went through professional development for a career in Sierra Leone
but the country did not under go change to provide the supporting
environment. There are many older Sierra Leoneans who can speak candidly of
their frustration and can explain why they had to walk away from Sierra
Leone and find professional gratification in other countries.
The Sierranet team experiments with telephone-based computer networks, gave
us a taste of that frustration. We settled for half of what we expected to
have achieved in two years but we learnt a whole lot about how to overcome
this debilitating trend within the Sierra Leone professional community.
One potion of the "antidote" lies within the industries that Sierra Leone
can engage in that have a global reach and that are key to the development
of new trades in goods, services and expertise 21st Century Sierra Leone.
The other portion of the "antidote" lies with the "trail blazers". These
are Sierra Leones from a wide range of professional background and
experiences who share this belief, built their careers to pioneer
development of one such industry, its products and services and have had
reasonable or limited success in their venture.
The "antidote" is a robust advocacy mechanism that will enable
professionals vision to be heard by others and decision makers at all
level. The mechanism must empower the professional to participate in
advocating necessary changes within an industry irrespective of his/her
stage of development and location in the world.
The opportunity exists to build the advocacy mechanism around the
development of National Strategies in 21st century industries and key
existing industries that will enable Sierra Leone to adapt to changing
global patterns within an industry and in general.
Advocating a National ICT Strategy
Sierranet's focus this year is in advocating a national ICT strategy for
Sierra Leone and using it as an opportunity to set the foundation for a
robust advocacy mechanism for the 21st century Sierra Leone professional.
Sierranet believes that Sierra Leone must focus on developing an ICT
training industry to support human resource development for a variety if
industry sectors and enterprises in West Africa. Sierra Leone has what it
takes to become the ICT Training Capital of West Africa. The opportunities
at hand and the situation in the country suggest this as the best of
several alternatives in building an Information Economy in 21st century
Sierra Leone. Interestingly, it fits well with a past glory, "the Athens of
However, it would require the involvement of "trail blazers" who hold
relevant cases that could be used as examples of cornerstone projects and
initiatives for several different themes.
The successful involvement of the (Ministry of Transport and Communication,
Ministry of Information and Broadcasting or the Ministry of Energy and
Power (on behalf of the Government of Sierra leone) as key sponsors (in
Kind) towards the development of a National ICT strategy will be the first
of its kind by an African Government in West Africa. National Strategies
developed to date are sponsored primarily by International Development
That's the kind of firsts Sierra Leone needs to go into the 21st century
with. Trail Blazers contact:
Adrian Q. Labor at [log in to unmask] or Daniel Chaytor at
[log in to unmask]
Signing off From Leonenet on (May 31st 1996) I wrote:
It takes three parties of an entire nation to make a journey to a promise
land. The first is a search party to mark a trail to it. The second is the
trail blazers who creates a path out of the trail and the rest of the
nation journeys in as the third and final party. I believe it will take
efforts similar to those of a search party and a trail blazer party before
we can see a widespread development of information and communication
technology applications in Sierra Leone.........
The good news is a search party has mapped a trail and over rugged terrain.
That is another way of saying the conditions under which ICT developments
can take place in Sierra Leone is understood (being studied) and also
documented. I consider the search party to include all those at home and
abroad who, in one way
or another contributed to the Sierranet Initiative and project activities
between July 23 1994 to February 13 1996. I am optimistic, as always, that
the trial blazers would emerge and create a path out of the search party's
Able-bodied Sierra Leonean
Signing on to Leonenet in (November 8th 1996) I wrote:
Looking for Sierra Leoneans who believe they can make a strong case on the
potential of the emerging Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in
any one of these industries and economic mainstay of Sierra Leone;
Education, Health, Agriculture, Fishing, Mining, Energy, Manufactuting,
Tourism, Transport, Telecommunication, Banking & Finance, Foreign Trade.
(List is descriptive. Please add)
Respond if you feel you can suggest (with confidence) proactive policies
and strategies that hold economic benefits and at the sametime supports
social and infrastructural development. Most important - you should be able
to give practical scenarios to back up these claims. No theory. No
generality. No hypothetical arguments. When you do respond, convince
yourself (not us) you have something to offer in a team of Sierra Leoneans
(trail blazers) that can champion the case for the development of ICT in
Sierra Leone without financial incentive but (for financial gains). If you
can stomach this statement this far then act.
Adrian Q. Labor
Acacia Initiative (IDRC)
(Adrian Labor is not IDRC and the opinion above should not be assumed to be
IDRC's position on any issue
the paper dealt with)