SPEECH DELIVERED BY HON. DEMBA ALI JAWO MINISTER OF INFORMATION AND COMMUNICATION INFRASTRUCTURE AT THE GAMBIA ICT SECTOR REFORM AND DEVELOPMENT WORKSHOP HELD AT OCEAN BAY HOTEL ON JULY 26TH, 2017.
Hon. Minister of Finance and Economic Affairs
Country Director, World Bank
Senior Government Officials
Director General PURA
CEOs, here present
Ladies and Gentlemen
I am pleased welcome you today at this Gambia ICT Sector reform and Development Workshop hosted by my Ministry through the support of the World Bank Group. This workshop has come at a time the government needs to identify key strategies and plans for the effective reforms in the ICT sector to inspire socio-economic development.
The ICT sector is a key pillar in the development objectives of this government. To this end, the Ministry and relevant stakeholders have validated the draft National Information and Communication Infrastructure (NICI) policy for the period 2017 – 2025, this is the NICI II, which will replace the NICI I of the period (2004 – 2014) that has ended with a completion rate of 81%. It is our goal to mainstream ICTs in all spheres of our public service delivery system. And to do so, our policy aim is to make ICTs and associated services accessible, affordable and reliable for the benefit of all and sundry.
It is worthy to note that the NICI I completion rate of 81% was due to the infrastructure development that took place in the sector during the period under review. There is however much to be desired in the adoption of ICT applications to facilitate service delivery. Therefore NICI II considers the need to leverage ICTs in the areas of e-commerce, e-health, e-education, e-tourism and e-government etc. We are cognisant of the need to provide the enabling environment to encourage the private sector to participate in these areas to create a win-win situation. The NICI II, which was formulated through the WARCIP project, took into consideration all studies undertaken in the sector during implementation of the project.
Accordingly, MOICI is working on the establishment of a National Data Centre and ICT agency that would be facilitated through a public – private partnership arrangement. This will enable hosting of national data within the country and develop shared services initiatives for a vibrant ICT sector.
Ladies and Gentlemen
May I assure this gathering that the government is committed to liberalization of the ICT sector in line with the Memorandum of Agreement signed with the service providers as part of the ACE Consortium Agreement. We will take this workshop as an opportunity to facilitate the policy dialogue on the challenges of the sector. I hope that we will come up with productive conclusions to address these challenges through the best way forward. The government would like to see a liberatisation process that caters for operators and service providers to prosper but not one stifles development and progress. It will pursue a cautious and gradual process that would breed healthy competition, minimize fraudulent activities and ensure optimal revenue generation for the country.
As we brace for a fully liberalized ICT sector in the very near future, there is need to strengthen our regulatory instruments and institution. We have to empower PURA and enhance its capabilities to better manage the liberatlised sector especially in the area of revenue assurance and fraud detection. In this regard therefore, plans are in place to acquire relevant systems and equipment to support this initiative.
As you may be aware, President Mr Adama Barrow recently instituted a taskforce to review the state of the ICT sector including the management of the International Gateway (IGW). The taskforce submitted a preliminary report, which resulted in the termination of the IGW management contract that was in place. This formally took effect on July 7th, 2017 after approval from the Cabinet. The IGW is now under the management of GAMTEL for a transitional period whilst the necessary mechanisms, structures and systems are put in place for a liberalized environment to flourish with very minimal fraudulent activities. In this transitional arrangement the incoming international tariff is reduced by 18% and further reductions may follow through the regulator.
The Ministry is open to all policy proposals and suggestions that could assist in development a liberalized model based on our local realities. We have been working with the Ministry of Finance and Economic Affairs and PURA towards this goal and we will continue to work together to create a more vibrant and competitive ICT sector through a level play field. Present here today, gives us the opportunity to share ideas and experience for a better future of the ICT Sector of the Gambia.
On this note, I have the singular honor to declare this workshop open