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Revolution in communication… Fibre-optic goes live

ErPresident Ernest Bai Koroma on Wednesday finally switched on the first submarine fibre-optic cable linking Sierra Leone to the outside world. Before now, Sierra Leone’s Internet service has been through satellite. This moveis expected to boost the country’s internet and telecommunication sector.
Currently the country has 0.8%internet penetration, but with the fibre cable going live it is projected that internet penetrationwill increase to 20% in its first year.
At the well-attended ceremony at the landing site, along Lumley beach in Freetown,President Koroma said “the laying of the fibre optic cables within our country marks another milestone in the transformation of our beloved nation.”
He added: “my government has now made huge bandwidth available in the country, and we are moving to another level.”
The President continued“that is why we are engaging with the World Bank to develop another project called e-transform Sierra Leone,” adding that the essence of this project is to develop applications for the use of this huge bandwidth.
He said examples of these applications are e-education, e-health, e-tourism, e-commerce, e-banking and e-government to name but a few.
“The available bandwidth gives Sierra Leoneans access to an array of internet based products, including high speed web surfing, video searching, online education, video conferencing, cloud computing, business process outsourcing and many more” he said.
The President noted that there will be “massive reduction” of the costs of communications.
He said the country is definitely on the move, and with the dedication from everybody,“the new possibilities will take us to prosperity faster than we think.” He emphasized“I am dedicated to this project; my government is committed to this transformation.”
Koroma said the telecoms operators, internet service providers and the Ministry of Information and Communications will now work on a roll out strategy for the benefit of the entire nation.
He reiterated that the private sector is now part of the Sierra Leone Cable (SALCAB) by virtue of its partial divestiture, saying that this is an example of the public/private partnership model that government sees as one of the best ways to move this country towards prosperity.
President Koroma further stated that Sierra Leone is part of the West Africa Regional Communications Infrastructure Program (WARCIP), adding that the objectives of WARCIP, Sierra Leone Chapter, are to increase the geographical reach of broadband networks and reduce costs of communications services within the territory of Sierra Leone.
Former Minister of Information and CommunicationsAlhaji Ibrahim Ben Kargbogiving an overview of the project said that the government policy which resulted in the landing of the ACE submarine fibre optic cable was a deliberate determination by the President and his government to put in place an ICT mechanism aimed at introducingbroadband internet and effective telecommunication in Sierra Leone.
He said Sierra Leone had to put in placeeffective structures to belong to the Africa Coast to Europe (ACE) Project and consortium because telecommunication was in backwardness and this has caused over the years backwardness in internet system and expensive telephone system, which needed to be swiftly addressed.
Kargbo said the ACE project gave Sierra Leone an opportunity to land the submarine fibre cable in an effort to modernize the telecommunications system in this nation.
Explaining that the journey of landing the cable in Sierra Leone is long from the day the President authorizedthe landing of the fibre to the signing of an agreement with the World Bank to form the WARCIP project.
He Sierra Leone stood tall on the 10th of June 2010 in Paris when himself and the then Deputy Minister of Finance Momodu Kargbo signed the ACE agreement on behalf of the people of Sierra Leone.
After the signing, he stated that the World Bank swiftly released $5 million to commence the payment of the fibre project onbehalf of the government and people of Sierra Leone.
Chairman of NATCOM, SirayTimbosaid that NATCOM has been a key player in the growth and development of ICT in the country. He said the era of broadband communication has been born,adding that NATCOM is determined to see that the project is successful.
Timbo said the fibre cable is here to bridge the digital divide, hoping that operators will provide high quality, reliable and affordable services.
Chairman, Board of Directors, SALCAB, Francis Davies said that thepurpose of SALCAB is to ensure that the end users (subscribers) get the full benefits of this new technology.
He added that the nine commercial entities competing in this venture are to provide every Sierra Leoneans State of the Art or World best telecommunication services promptly and at an affordable price. These entities he said are Sierratel, Afcom, Afric cable, Airtel, Comium, Limeline, PCL Holdings, Nextgen and Telltak.
Minister of Information and Communications, Alpha Kanu said that Sierra Leone has been linked to the rest of the world through the landing of the submarine fiber cable. He said the cable will bring the Ministry in line with pillar 7 of the Agenda for Prosperity.
Kanu said the ministry will revise laws that will allow a level playing ground for all operators, adding that the ministry will provide leadership in strengthening the country’s communication infrastructure so that areas which have been considered highly economically for investment will have access to connectivity and internet.
The President, Vice President, Ministers, Journalists and other dignitaries where taken on a conducted tour of the landing station.

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