On Friday afternoon, President Ernest Bai Koroma formally launched the $25 million West Africa Regional Communication Infrastructure Programme (WARCIP), (ACE Submarine Cable Project), at the Fibre Optic Landing Station along Lumley Beach, Aberdeen.
The project will make communication cheaper and affordable for all, and hopefully, the cable will land on the 23 September and to be fully operational come July 2012.
Delivering his keynote address, President Koroma said on 5th June 2010, he authorized the Minister of Information and Communications to sign the construction and maintenance agreement on behalf of government and the people of Sierra Leone to reinstate our commitment to landing the fiber optic cable in Sierra Leone by 2012. He added that in order to fast-track the process: "I approached the World Bank to assist in providing the required funds to meet our financial obligations to the consortium for the signing of the financing agreement of the WARCIP with the International Development Association."
"I want to extend my thanks and appreciation to the World Bank through their country Manager for this timely intervention and support to this project, and other World Bank funded projects in the country."
The President further reiterated that "as a government, the landing of the submarine cable will not only make communications cheaper and affordable to our people, but will have a special impact on the lives of the youths in the Lumley community and its environments."
It will make room for job creation and transform the lives of the people of Lumley.
Dr Ernest Bai Koroma explained that about a week ago, youths who were illegally squatting on the land that we are now using as the land station, benefited from a relocation package of Le10 million each to make them start life in some other locations. "It is my fervent belief that those who benefited from this package will make good use of the money and rehabilitate themselves for a better future."
"My government," he stressed, "has made a commitment in my Agenda for Change to cater for the socio-economic development of our citizens."
He added that economic and social empowerment today rest on the ability to access, gather, analyze, and utilize information and knowledge to wider individual choices for political, economic, social, cultural and behavioral decision. The President further noted that information communication technologies are the conduits for information and knowledge transfer, adding that by integrating technology into the development plans of the country, more effective and speeding solutions can be found for economic growth and sustainable human development.
"This is why my government will continue to give the necessary support to the Ministry of Information and Communications to perform its statutory mandate and make Sierra Leone a member of the global communications village," stated President Koroma.
The President went on to stay that "regional integration is a key policy agenda of my government. In this vain my government has also signed a loan agreement with the Islamic Development Bank to develop the ECOWAS regional backbone infrastructure and E- Governance project within a period of three years."
Dr Ernest Bai Koroma further averred that the strategic objective of ECOWAN project is to establish a common platform for the exchange of information to enhance productivity and promote region integration.
"The ECOWAN project will compliment the WARCIP and allow our people along the borders of Guinea and Liberia to benefit from an efficient and affordable communication system as a land mile solution", he said. He said that his government has committed itself to creating open access to the Submarine cable infrastructure, thus encouraging private sector participation. "We have committed ourselves to reviewing the current Telecommunications Act to remove Sierratel's monopoly of the international gateway management and further create a level playing field for all participants in the sector. Sierra Leone, he maintained, "is on the part of transforming to modernize communication infrastructure and I want to urge everybody to come on board."
"The Universities should now be thinking of introducing telecommunication courses into their curriculum. This will prepare our young graduate for contemporary job market."
Information and Communications Minister, Alhaji Ibrahim Ben Kargbo, said that few months ago, he was at the site to turn the sod for the construction of the landing station; today we are here to launch the project.
He stated that SALCAB which is 100% government-owned at the moment under the direct supervision of his ministry will remain so until the divestiture of shares is completed in the near future. World Bank Country Manager, Vijay Pilai, stated that they supported the project because the private sector failed to put their resources together. This project, he explained, will help address poverty, adding that it will dramatically bring down communication cost. The Project Coordinator, Julius Kamara, said that the project has three components: supports connectivity, ensures open access and liberalization of the gate way. He noted that the project beneficiaries will be the population and the telecommunication industry, banks, insurance companies, schools, among others. He disclosed that this project is funded by World Bank to the tune of $31 million and part of that $25 million goes to the ACE for the installation and implementation of the project.
Source: Awoko Newspaper