The 7th annual Connecting Rural Communities Africa conference organized by the Commonwealth Telecommunications Organization (CTO) and the National Telecommunications Commission (NATCOM), under the auspices of the Sierra Leone government, has commenced yesterday in Freetown at the Miatta Conference Hall.
The 3-day forum with the theme 'The road to rural broadband: making the economics work' will focus on key issues such as how to catalyze internet and broadband use in rural areas, the critical role of the Universal Service Funds, policy and regulatory tools for stimulating rural demand and supply and measuring and understanding the socio-economic impact of rural ICT development, among other issues.
In her remarks, Chair of the programme, NATCOM's Director of Legal and Licensing Affairs, Michala Mackay, said it is a privilege for Sierra Leone - a country of less than six million people - to serve as an international platform to share ideas and experiences in bridging the global digital divide gap in ICT.
She said it is a forum to "gain insight through experience sharing with overseas experts" and to "closely examine how people in the rural area connect themselves with towns and cities through affordable and efficient means".
NATCOM's chairman, Siray Timbo, used the opportunity to thank CTO for choosing Sierra Leone to host the forum. He said as a nation, "we are strategically positioning ourselves to benefit from the global technological advancement."
CTO's CEO, Tim Unwin, thanked NATCOM and the Ministry of Information and Communications for bringing the participants together to think and debate on the most crucial issue affecting the ICT sector.
The information minister, I.B. Kargbo, also made a speech before President Ernest Bai Koroma declared the forum open after a short remark.
The President said his government views access to ICT services, telecom and postal services in the rural and urban areas as a sine qua non and expressed his pleasure that NATCOM and the information ministry took the initiative to invite CTO to Sierra Leone.