Keynote Address Delivered by
Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma
President of the Republic of Sierra Leone
On the opening ceremony of
"THE 7TH CONNECTING RURAL COMMUNITIES (CRC) AFRICA FORUM"
AT MIATTA CONFERENCE HALL, FREETOWN, SIERRA LEONE. 20TH - 22ND JUNE 2012
I bring you warm greetings from the Government and people of Sierra Leone as we are assembled here in the 7th Annual Connecting Rural Communities (CRC AFRICA).
We are honoured that CTO chose Sierra Leone to host the 7th Annual Connecting Rural Communities Africa Forum 2012. I want to applaud the selection of this year's theme "The Road to Rural Broadband: Making the Economics Work." My government considers broadening citizens' access to resources and opportunities, irrespective of their social class and geographical location as a core function of the state. That is why my government is building roads everywhere to improve access to towns and villages, that is why we launched the free healthcare initiative to improve access of ordinary people to healthcare, and that is why we are investing in agriculture to improve our farmers' access to inputs, markets and incomes.
When I took over governance of this country in 2007, my Government identified Information and Communication Technology (ICT) as a major tool we will need to employ to ensure national development. We were confronted with many challenges, but that communications experts from all over Africa are gathered here today is a testament to our will to overcome challenges, and in consonant with brothers and sisters from all over the continent design, build, integrate and propel forward the benefits of telecommunications for our people.
My Government, view access to ICTs, telecommunication network services and functional postal services in both urban and rural areas as a sine qua non for effective functioning of governance.
That is why we are encouraging the expansion of ICT ingenuity, GSM companies and internet provision. With support from the World Bank and the Islamic Development Bank, we have landed fibre optics and are constructing part of our national backbone through the ECOWAN project that will connect Liberia and Guinea through a 660km network system. My Government will soon sign an agreement with the Chinese Government to complete the final phase of the National Backbone connecting the whole country.
In Sierra Leone we operate an Open Access Policy as a fresh measure to liberalize the telecommunications market so that the real potential of the ACE submarine cable can be realized. The Open Access Policy has been adapted with the specific aim to allow interested parties, on equal conditions with a transparent relation between cost and pricing, to get access to and share communication resources on one level and to provide value-added services on another level in layered communication system architecture. It is also to encourage market entry from smaller local companies and to ensure that no entity can take a position of dominant market power.
I am pleased that the Ministry of Information and Communications and the NATCOM took the initiative to invite the CTO to Sierra Leone. This is an opportunity for us not only to exchange information with and learn from distinguished experts, but also to explore strategies for the development of rural broadband connectivity, services and ICT applications.
Whilst wishing you a successful deliberation and a wonderful stay, it is my honor to declare this Forum Open.
God Bless us all.