Report on sierra leone internet governance forum

Monday 13 December 2010



The workshop was called to order by Mr. Brima Sowa at 10:00 am on the 23rd November, 2010. In a brief statement, Mr. Brima Sowa welcomed and thanked all stakeholders who responded positively to the call of Sierra eRiders SL, an indigenous non – governmental organization in promoting the development of ICT and Open Source Software in Sierra Leone. He further maintained that this workshop will aim to develop the future of Sierra Leone Internet together. Mr. Sowa also introduced the chairman for the workshop in the person of Mr. Mohamed Alie Bah, Director of Communication of the Ministry of Information and Communications.


The chairman, Mr. Mohamed Alie Bah expressed his delight for such a timely Internet Governance Forum organized by Sierra eRiders SL. He emphasized that there is indeed need for good internet governance. He however highlighted issues that would be discussed. These issues form the main objectives that are core to internet governance: Access and Diversity, Internet Governance for Development, Privacy and Security, and Managing Critical Internet Resources. He in short expressed his desire to see these issues discussed by the stakeholders.


Highlighting the objectives of the Internet Governance Forum, Mr. Sahr F. Gborie, Coordinator Sierra eRiders SL, gave a brief definition of Internet Governance. According to him, Internet governance is the development and application by governments, the private sector, and civil society, in their respective roles of shared principles, norms, rules, decision-making procedures, and programmes that shape the evolution and use of the internet. Mr. Sahr F. Gborie informed participants and facilitators that the internet governance Forum (IGF) was establish in 2006 as a direct result of the United Nations World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS). He maintained that the Internet Governance Forum was created for a predefined purpose i.e. to foster the sustainability, robustness, security, stability, and development of the internet. It has become a platform by which all stakeholders in their respective roles, i.e. governments, intergovernmental and international organizations, the private sector and civil society, academia and internet enthusiasts, work together to develop globally-applicable principles on public policy issues associated with the coordination and management of the internet.

Also in his statement, he made it clear that The West Africa Internet Governance Forum (WAIGF) is a project that aims to promote Internet Governance issues in West Africa through a multi- stakeholder process. The project is run by a consortium led by the Free Software and Open Source Foundation for Africa (FOSSFA). He informed the workshop that it is run in eight (8) countries: Ghana, Nigeria, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Gambia, Senegal, Burkina Faso, and Togo. He emphasized that the initiative takes a bottom - top approach in this project, which is divided into three processes:
1 National online discussion
2 Face-to-Face national forum
3 Regional face- to-face forum
Mr. Sahr F. Gborie closed by stating that the main objective of the event was to discuss internet governance issues in Sierra Leone that could be tabled in the regional forum.
*Access and Diversity
*Internet Governance for Development
*Privacy and Security
*Managing Critical Internet Resources


The chairman, Mr. Mohamed Alie Bah advised that the West Africa Internet Governance Forum (WAIGF) type be organized in Sierra Leone involving major players like The National Telecommunication Commission (NATCOM), Sierra eRiders SL and others.


National Telecommunication Commission – NATCOM

Representing NATCOM was Michala Mackay, The Legal Advisor of NATCOM. In her statement she made it clear that the commission is not only limited to the service providers but to all. The commission, according to her, was established by an Act of Parliament. They operate under a regulatory frame work for service providers. The Act calls for the promotion of fair play, protection of the interest of consumers and the provision of a regulation for the providers. According to Miss Mackay, an operator is one who provides service to the public. An operator therefore has to be licensed by the commission. Miss Mackay emphasized that the Act guides the commission what a net-work is. She however maintained that the commission still falls short of proper regulation in Sierra Leone. Telecommunication is only an emerging industry is Sierra Leone.


The keynote address was delivered by the Telecommunication Advisor to the Minister of Information and Communication, Mr. Sahr Momodu Sewah.

Mr. Sewah started by expressing his sincere gratitude to the Project Coordinator, Mr. Sahr F. Gborie of Sierra eRiders SL, for organizing the workshop on internet governance in Sierra Leone.

Mr. Sewah noted that Information Technology (IT) is the study, design, development, implementation, support, or management of computer-based information systems, particular software applications, and computer hardware. According to him, the term information has ballooned to encompass many aspects of computing and technology, and the term has become very recognizable. Information Technology and Communication Technology refers to the convergence of telephone networks with computer networks through a single cabling or link system and at the same time covers any product that will store, retrieve, manipulate, transmit, or receive information electronically in a digital format. Mr. Sewah also noted that the increasing use of technology in all aspects of society makes confident, creative, and productive use of ICT as an essential skill for life.
ICT capability encompasses not only the mastery of technical skills and techniques, but also the understanding to apply these skills purposefully, safely and responsibly in learning, everyday life and employment. He confirmed that the importance of ICT is fundamental to participation and engagement in modern society.

He also established that the internet is a global system of interconnected computer networks that use the standard internet protocol known as transmission control protocol/public, academic, business, and government networks, of local to global scope, that are linked by a broad array of electronic and optical networking technologies.

As a representative of government, he stated that government is mindful of the fact that an ICT – savvy Nation will achieve good governance, promote effective and efficient private sector business activities, support human resource capacity building, develop health service delivery, education and build synergy between media and civil society. It is against this backdrop, according to Mr. Sewah, that His Excellency, The President of Sierra Leone, Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma gave directives to the Ministry of Information and Communication to form a National ICT Task Force which was charged with the responsibility of formulating a national ICT policy for the country. Concurrently, the Vice President’s Office, the Minister of Information and Communication in collaboration with UNDP conducted an e-government readiness survey.

He also pointed out that the e-government readiness survey highlighted weak diffusion of ICT services and access particularly in the public sector and therefore resonated this into strengthening the capacity of Ministries, Departments, and Agencies (MDAs) in ICT through Business Process Re-engineering (BPR), develop local computer and internet use and access, develop re-education projects and implement universal access strategy for under-served and un-served rural areas, among others.

He also made reference to the National ICT Policy document. According to Mr. Sewah, this document brought to fore the need for service providers to improve network performance, the establishment of standards bureau for the ICT sector, creation of centers for ICT intelligence, development of National ICT framework and the setting up of a National ICT Advisory Council of which His Excellency Ernest Bai Koroma is the Chairman. He also informed all and sundry that presently, the internet penetration for both dial - up and broadband internet service stands at 0.3%. As a mechanism to ameliorate this deficiency, Minister of Information and Communication and the National Telecommunication Commission (NATCOM) in collaboration with the Commonwealth Telecommunication Organization (CTO) organized the Commonwealth African Rural Connectivity Initiative (COMARCI) Workshop in Makeni, northern Sierra Leone. According to him, the workshop focused on innovative technology solutions for rural access with the view of leveraging Public Private Peoples Partnerships (PPPPs).

In conclusion, Mr. Sewah highlighted programmes and projects underway by government. One of these include the establishment of Sierra Leone Cable (SALCAB) Limited which is one of the telecommunications operators of the Africa Coast to Europe (ACE) consortium financing a submarine communications cable systems stretching from France to South Africa under the provision of Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) with a supply contract of about 1.92 Terabit per second. He also stated that Sierra Leone is part of the West Africa Regional Communications Infrastructure Programme (WARCIP) being prepared by the World Bank for least connected countries. Plans are also underway to install and commission fiber optic Metropolitan Area Network (MAN) and terrestrial fiber backbone.

Finally he informed the workshop that An MOU has been established between the Islamic Development Bank and the Government of Sierra Leone to install, test, and commission a ring fiber optic backbone linking major cities and towns as well as neighbouring countries within the sub- region. This is the ECOWAS Project.

According to him, government is cognizance of the fact that this will introduce an array of opportunities for the effective utilization of the internet by both public and private sectors. He ended his statement by making it clear that government through the Ministry of Information and Communication supports the aspirations of Sierra eRiders SL and will collaborate in developing the future of Sierra Leone internet services.


Immediately after the end of the keynote speaker, the chairman kindly asked everybody to a Tea Break recess.


Presentation from organizational representatives started immediately after the tea break.

ISOC – Internet Society of Sierra Leone

Miss Michala Mackay, President of ISOC, made a brief statement on behalf of her organization. She stated that ISOC was instituted in April 2007. They worked in partnership with the Ministry of Information and Communication to launch the internet local traffic. According to her, Sierra Leone is heavily relied on satellite exchange; however, the fiber optic cable will play an important role in our internet development.


ASP Samuel Kargbo of the Sierra Leone Police Cyber Unit informed the audience that the unit was only developed two years ago. The police representative stated that cyber is any illegal work with the network. He said ICT is good but people often misuse it.
Mr. Kargbo gave an example of a UN job seeker who was recently defrauded of 5,000 dollars. He said internet crime is very high in Sierra Leone. There are a category of Sierra Leoneans who misuse their mobile phones. They make threatening calls. He however lauded the NATCOM sim card registration. Criminals could be easily identified with such systems put in place. Also, he stated that young people are often involved in pornography. He made it very clear that their work at the cyber unit was very challenging. So he called on other organizations to help them especially in training as this unit lack the human resources to be effective and efficient.


Mr. Tonya Musa, a lecturer Mass Communication Department Fourah Bay College, representing the IMC commissioner, made it clear among several issues raised that the internet is not only integrating the mainstream journalism but has converged new systems into the market. The mainstream media is now overtaken by this new phenomenon. People who are not professionally trained are fast becoming journalist by using the internet to report daily events in their communities. This is now known as People Journalism.


1 Mr. Samuel Lappia – Ministry of Labour Country Planning and the Environment
His question was, if internet operators are only to register with NATCOM as the only legal entity?
2 Mr. Alpha Kamara – Premier Media.
How can ISOC ensure the effective use of the internet?
3 Mr. Sam Ansumana – Centre for Accountability and Rule of Law Sierra Leone.
The Act should be amended to incorporate the issue of customer to customer related problems.
4 Dr. S.E. Nonie – Fourah Bay College.

What mechanism has been put or is being put in place for appropriate education, training, and research aspect of the internet governance.
5 Mr. Abu Bakarr A. Turay – Plan Sierra Leone.
What has the government put in place for the fiber optic?
6 Mr. Francis Nylander – World Vision Sierra Leone.
What backup mechanism are they putting in place when the fiber is landed?

Miss Michala Mackay
Answering to questions, Miss Mackay stated that the 1974 Labour Act of Sierra Leone encompasses all issues. One is therefore oblige to comply with other legal requirements. She also made it clear that ISOC is not responsible for internet use. NATCOM does not regulate content. The Act is going to be amended to bring on board important issues that are not provided for in the Act. She also stated that teachers would be the target for education. ICT compulsory courses are going to be integrated into our educational system.

ASP Samuel Kargbo
Answering to questions, ASP Samuel Kargbo stated that the present legislations are yet useful to deal with cyber crime; however they are relentlessly working to upgrade the law. The Law Reform Commission is working on that. He also stated that individual privacy would be over looked when it hinges on security.

Mr. Sahr F. Gborie
Answering to questions, Mr. Sahr F. Gborie stated that ECOWAS is working with West African countries to host most of their data. He also dilated on cloud computing.

Mr. Abu B.S. Bockarie- Office of National Security
Answering to questions, Mr. Abu B.S. Bockarie stated that one must protect him/herself by not divulging all of your personal information on the internet.

In closing the questions and answer session, the chairman informed the audience that government has acquired 18.5 million dollars for the fiber optic system.

Immediately after the questions and answer session, everyone was invited to a 45 minutes lunch break.


After the lunch break, participants were divided into four groups to discuss and report on the following:


After a thorough and frank discussion among group 1 members, they reported the following:


i Basic computer training should be integrated into the national primary school curriculum. The group pointed this as very fundamental for education.
ii The group also reported that ICT training most be done in secondary schools and tertiary institution, and it most be part of its curriculum.

Under research they reported that major tertiary institutions most have online libraries so that materials (educational) can be easily accessed.

i In there report they pointed out proper ICT training to employees in all major institutions
ii Internet must be accessed by employees.
iii Students and employees must be encouraged to have active email addresses.


The group reported that the creation of decentralized data centres by institutions such as NGOs, Universities, Government Ministries, Schools, etc is very vital.


1 The group reported that systems must be created where users are identified by their passport numbers, national ID, student ID, etc.
2 They also stated that certain information must be cost friendly
3 Classified information must remain classified.


1 Under this point the group reported that cyber communities must be created – drivers, teacher, NGO, etc.

Questions were asked and clarifications were made. The group was highly commended for a very good work and presentation.
The group members were:
Elizabeth Sowa
Abu Bakarr A. Turay
Alpha Bendoh Kamara
Dr. S.E. Nonie
Samuel. Lappia
Henry Wilhelm
Borbor A Brima


1 The group reported that laws be enacted and the adoption of International laws to protect intellectual property ownership in Sierra Leone. E.g. Copy Right Laws, Health and Safety Standards, Image Right Laws, etc.

2 This group also reported that the IP address should not be blocked but censored by NATCOM or The Sierra Leone Police.
- They stated that thorough sensitization and workshop must be done.
- Resolution from the above should be taken to the sub-region and other fora outside West Africa.

3 Government should sign bilateral agreement with IP Providers on how internet can be better governed
- They reported that creating our own domain names is very necessary.
- They emphasized the payment of our regional and international contributions.

Several questions were asked, and thorough clarifications were made.
They were thanked by the chairman for their sincere endeavour.
The group members were:
Sam Ansumana
Mohamed Konneh
Ben Turay
Ibrahim Kamara
Mohamed E. Suma
Arnold Elba
Brima Conteh
Gbessay E. Swaray


The group made the following recommendation as measures to enhance privacy and security.

1 Personal Security Code must be kept secret (Pass Word).
2 The use of biometrics at internet cafes and offices.
3 Government to enact legislation for illegal intruders
4 Legislation to protect the privacy of the user except for security reasons.
5 Registration of all service providers and users with codes.
6 Public sensitization on the challenges of the internet.
7 Create a mechanism to identify all sources of information that goes into the internet.

Other group member contributed and no questions were asked. The chairman thanked them for their brilliant contribution and looked forward to seeing especially the police in subsequent deliberations.
The group members were:
Maxwell M. Lengoh
Samuel Kargbo
Marion Sesay
Derrick Toronka
Emerson Williams
Francis Nylander


In their presentation, they made it clear that management here involves the effective coordination of activities and programmes, vis a vis service availability, delivery and maintenance.
Critical Internet Resources Are:
1 Administration of the root server system.
2 Getting technical standards.
3 Peering and interconnections
4 Telecommunication infrastructures
5 Convergence technologies
6 Transition from IPV 4 to IPV 6.

They reported the following in managing the resources:
1 To ensure ownership and involvement of both national and regional governments.
2 To enhance cooperation.
3 In terms of management, to continue to explore their management related issues.
4 To internationalize domain names in terms of disaster and crisis for us to develop and maintain internet service.

Clarifications were made by other group members. The chairman also thanked this group for their contribution to the success of the workshop.
The following participants were group members:
Abdul Sheriff
Andrew Daramy
Mohamed Turay
Zainab Joaque
Mohamed K. Kanu
Tonya Musa
Tamba Mattia


In closing, Mr. Brima Sowa thanked all who came and have contributed to the success of the Internet Governance forum workshop. He was very much delighted that the Sierra eRiders SL could take such a venture to bring stakeholders to discuss relevant issues that relate to the internet. He advised that our involvement can help minimize the problems associated with the internet. The Sierra Leone Internet Governance Forum was brought to a close.