Re-inventing Telecom Technology in Liberia
President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf of Liberia, the first woman ever elected head of an African state, will unveil the new National Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) Policy for Liberia to leaders from industry, non-profit organizations, and academia at the “E-Liberia Vision 2010” conference on April 23-27 in Monrovia, Liberia.
Sponsored by the Government of Liberia, the event will include participation from Microsoft, Cisco Systems, the Soros Foundation’s Open Society Initiative for West Africa, the World Bank, the International Financial Corporation, USAID, and the Georgia Institute of Technology. Participants from Liberia, the region, and the international community will explore how best to revitalize and rebuild Liberia’s ICT capacity, and consider how these technologies can reinforce Liberia’s poverty reduction strategy.
During the conference, two new national ICT facilities will be inaugurated: a community-based PC laboratory sponsored by (1) Microsoft’s Unlimited Potential program and implemented by Georgia Tech and the Center for Empowerment of Women and Children, and (2) a multi-media PC laboratory at the University of Liberia implemented by Socketworks of Nigeria and supported by the International Finance Corporation.
“We are very pleased to be associated with the Government of Liberia and its development efforts,” says Aloy Chife, CEO of Socketworks. “Our aim for the multi-media PC laboratory at the University of Liberia (the “Liberia Digital Bridge” project) is to partner with Liberia to accelerate its transition to a knowledge-based society in which the currency of exchange is information. Our goal is to improve economic opportunities by introducing Liberian students to the use of computers as a productivity tool. In so doing, we help to develop skills and competencies that enable the use of IT for economic and social development.”
Microsoft’s Unlimited Potential (UP) is a global initiative designed to help broaden digital inclusion and aid global workforce development by providing technology skills through community technology centers. Georgia Tech has been a long-time research partner with the UP program and is the lead organization in their Liberia activities. These programs include a computer center at Monrovia’s Center for Empowerment of Women and Children focused on livelihood development and training among women displaced by the civil war. In addition, under the UP program a computer facility and training center will be implemented at the JFK Hospital, Liberia’s largest health center. This center will be used to train hospital staff in computer literacy, health informatics, and tele-health services.
Socketworks offers full-range IT services for universities in developing countries from student laboratories and network connectivity to university administration software services and support. Their technologies allow administrators, teachers, students, and parents to be better connected to each other and to the university. But most importantly, they connect students to the information they need to excel in today’s world. Socketworks has pioneered a financially self-sustaining business model based on affordable student subscription fees.
During E-Liberia Vision 2010, Dr. Michael Best, assistant professor in Georgia Tech’s Sam Nunn School of International Affairs and in the College of Computing, will co-organize a two-day workshop examining the Liberian vision for ICT. Sessions will focus on: education; rebuilding infrastructure in a post-conflict country; regional cooperation; and cultural issues. Over the past year, Dr. Best has directed an active research project for Liberia, which is supported by the Open Society Institute for West Africa. Five Georgia Tech graduate students have spent time in Monrovia studying Liberian ICT conditions and challenges, and are currently providing technical assistance.
“Our research in Liberia has been truly life-changing for the many Georgia Tech students who have worked there on our projects,” remarked Best. “And we hope that the work continues to assist the people of Liberia develop their ICT infrastructure and rise from the terrors of civil conflict.”
Additionally, Cisco is providing a one-day ICT development training program to public and private sector leaders. A significant delegation from Cisco will lay the groundwork for accelerating the proliferation of Liberia’s ICT infrastructure in the local, regional, and global context. The government workshops will focus on: leapfrogging in infrastructure development; implementing the new national ICT policy; identifying key areas for Cisco NetAcademies; e-Government best practice models. The technical workshops will focus on IP enabled technology: optical; wireless; access networks (GPRS, CDMA, IP); services and revenue generation models.
E-Liberia Vision 2010 is sponsored by the Government of Liberia and co-sponsored by the Open Society Initiative for West Africa, Microsoft Corporation, Georgia Institute of Technology, USAID, The World Bank and Cisco Systems. More information can be found at: http://www.mopt.gov.lr/
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