A Tier 3 primary data center infrastructure, an auspicious facility, is at an advanced stage (approximately 90 per cent) completion for the National Civil Registration Authority (NCRA) as part of the EU Delegation support to Sierra Leone.
It must be noted that the facility is the biggest data infrastructure in sub-Sahara Africa that can provide at least 72 hours of power outage protection and at the same time experience less than 1.6 hours of downtime per year.
The NCRA is mandated by an Act of Parliament to ensure the recording of all vital events such as birth, death, marriage, devoice, nullities among others that occur in the lives of all citizens and non-citizens resident in Sierra Leone.
Due to the importance of its mandate, the Authority must have a befitting infrastructure that will serve as a repository for not only the successful recording, hosting and management of such a huge data, but also for the security and easy retrieval of any such recorded information.
Simply put, a data center is a physical facility (either a stand-alone building or a part of a building) used for housing information technology, computer systems and infrastructure components, and storing critical data and applications.
Data centres can also be connected internally and externally through networking and communication equipment leveraging on their physical servers to store, transfer and access digital information. Each server has a processor unit, storage space and memory similar to a personal computer but with more power.
In an inspection visit of the construction site at NCRA’s King Haman Road office on Tuesday 6 June 2023, the Director General for NCRA, Mohamed Mubashir Massaquoi and Director of ICT, Alieu Kallon were strongly assured by Dr. Wassim Hamieh who is the head of team of the vendor International Computer Company (ICC) group in Sierra Leone, that the primary data center facility will be up and running, ready for operation by 18 June 2023. On the capacity and profile of the group, the ICC is an IT and engineering group, a subsidiary to ISSA holding, which was established in 1984 in Lebanon.
The ICC Group delivers the pinnacle in Data Center Solutions, Networking and Telecom, IT Security, IT Management, Software Licensing, Personal Computing and IT Support Services. The ICC group has delivered best in class and customized ICT solutions in industries ranging from Banking, Telecom and Hospitality to Public Sector, Higher Education and Healthcare.
Interested to know why data center for NCRA? – the integrated Civil Registration, Vital statistics and Identity Management system of NCRA aims to be the bedrock through the efficient management of foundational data of all citizens and other nationals resident in Sierra Leone.
The NCRA will serve as a credible data source for institutions providing services of functional identities such as NASSIT enrolment, land and property ownership, work and resident permit by immigration department, NRA for Tax administration, SLRA for vehicle registration and ownership, bank and financial transactions, enrolment into academic intuitions etc to be able to verify and confirm personal identities of their clients. These are deliberate efforts in building democratic good governance institutions by providing credible and accurate legal identity evidences for all.
Institutions engaged in supporting and providing services in the areas of human rights, child labour, gender, disadvantaged population groups, education and social welfare rights, etc. need evidence of fact in order to ascertain the true and legal identity of citizens of these categories on a continuous and permanent basis.
Explaining the capacity of the NCRA Tier 3 Data Center, Dr. Wassim stated that the data center contains all of the facilities of tier 1 and 2 but do not require shutdowns during planned maintenance and equipment replacement. Hence, they are concurrently maintainable. To realize this resiliency, NCRA added redundant distribution path for power and cooling to the existing redundant critical components of tier 2 facilities so that all components needed to support the IT processing environment can be shut down and maintained, without impacting on any of the IT operations.
More specifically, all IT equipment must have dual power supplies attached to different UPS units, ensuring that a UPS unit can be taken offline without causing servers to crash or create a loss in network connectivity.
Also, redundant cooling systems must be in place such that if one cooling unit fails, another starts up and continues to moderate the temperature and humidity in a data center’s computer rooms.
To enhance facility security, tier 3 data centres have system protocols and equipment in place to permit staff to perform maintenance and repairs without interrupting services to customers. It also prevents unwarranted persons from accessing the domain.
Speaking on the benefits of this facility, Dr. Wassim pointed out that with this infrastructure, NCRA will now be able to record, provide adequate storage, process and distribute large amounts of citizens’ data safely, and in a more efficient manner. He also assured the Director General that the physical security of the Data center includes alarms, electronic door locks, biometric scanners, and other safety measures to protect the data and assets inside the building. This, he said, will help to increase citizens’ confidence in terms of the safety and security of their electronic personal information. He added that the tier 3 data center facility will help to increase productivity and enhance greater reliability in data storage capacity and assurance in an event of emergency backup storage systems.
In conclusion, Dr. Wassim further assured the Director General that the NCRA Tier 3 data center has the opportunity for provision of future related projects such as leasing spaces in the Data Center for other Governmental Institutions that might express interest for the security and safety of their data. It has also positioned the NCRA to be able to implement the first Disaster Recovery Site in Sierra Leone.
Finally, Dr. Wassim concluded that with this facility, NCRA is currently ahead by taking the first step towards E-Governance, which could be done by implementing a National Data Center.
The NCRA continues to assure the general public that it remains committed to protecting the personal data of all citizens and other nationals resident in Sierra Leone in line with international best practices and national laws conforming with data protection, data integrity and security.