By Amin Kef (Ranger)
The Weekly Press Briefing convened by the Ministry of Information and Civic Education at the Foreign Affairs Ministry’s Conference Room at Tower Hill in Freetown on Tuesday, September 26, 2023 was graced by various notable personalities who made significant contributions during the session.
Those who made salient contributions included Yusuf Keketoma Sandi Esq., Deputy Minister of Information and Civic Education, Ms. Salima Monorma Bah-Minister of Communications, Technology and Innovation, Amara Brewah-Director General of the National Communications Authority (NaTCA), Colonel Issa Bangura from RSLAF Director Public Relations and Information and ACP Brima Kamara, who heads the Police Media. Additionally, Civil Society activist, Hawa Yokie, also shared important updates.
Deputy Minister of Information and Civic Education, Yusuf Keketoma Sandi Esq., opened the Press Briefing by reporting on the successful return of H.E. President Dr. Julius Maada Bio from the United Nations General Assembly, where discussions with development partners took place. Sandi Esq. also highlighted the recent review of the Postal Service Policy by SALPOST emphasizing its importance.
Addressing concerns about fake news, Sandi Esq. urged the public to disregard a false Press Release allegedly from the State House Press Secretary and clarified his current role as Deputy Minister of Information and Civic Education.
The security sector reassured citizens about the country’s safety and encouraged normal daily activities. ACP Brima Kamara, Head of Police Media, discussed the incident involving ‘Big Fish’ and the efforts to disarm him, which ultimately led to necessary actions to prevent potential disaster.
Colonel Issa Bangura, RSLAF Director of Public Relations and Information, expressed condolences to ‘Big Fish’s’ family and confirmed the establishment of a Board of Inquiry to investigate the incident.
Minister of Communications, Technology and Innovation, Salima Monorma Bah, outlined her Ministry’s role during the Government press briefing. She emphasized the Ministry’s significance in advancing the President’s vision for innovation and communication.
Minister Bah explained that while the Ministry’s functions were not entirely new, they had been separated from the Information Ministry to enhance efficiency and focus. She highlighted the Ministry’s responsibilities, including policy formulation, oversight of the Directorate of Science and Technology and the National Communication Authority (NATCA).
Minister Bah proudly shared success stories, particularly from the Directorate of Science and Technology, which had streamlined educational processes by developing result checker systems for student examinations.
Furthermore, Minister Bah emphasized the Ministry’s commitment to innovative strategies across Government departments, with a focus on improving service delivery and governance.
Minister Salima Bah aligned her Ministry with the President’s “Big Five” agenda, emphasizing the Government’s commitment to progress, innovation and improving citizens’ lives.
Director General of the National Communications Authority (NaTCA), Amara Brewah, addressed the issue of poor network coverage in Sierra Leone and said that they are collaborating closely with National Civil Registration Authority (NCRA) to encourage individuals to register their SIM cards with their NIN numbers. This initiative aims to safeguard innocent individuals from falling victim to fraudulent transactions orchestrated by scammers.
Brewah emphasized that the National Communications Authority operates with the goal of serving the mobile network coverage needs of both the Government and the people. However, he acknowledged the challenges of satisfying all stakeholders simultaneously maintaining that with such a vast responsibility, the Authority constantly strives to ensure that things are functioning smoothly and to keep everyone content.
One key point Brewah made was that the blame for low network coverage does not always lie with the mobile network companies. He indicated that some of the problems stem from the phones that people use further stating that if individuals own new phones that have not been previously used, such issues are less likely to occur. He lamented that many people in Sierra Leone purchase second-hand phones, which can contribute to the persistence of network problems.
Brewah went on to mention that the transmission of mobile coverage depends on poles that are positioned in specific areas adding that these poles require electricity to operate effectively saying if any of these poles encounter issues, whether related to electricity or other factors, the network performance is affected.
Furthermore, Brewah clarified that mobile network companies do not allocate poles everywhere since they do not consider it financially viable to do so. He said under the universal network fund, these companies share a portion of their revenue, enabling poles to be installed in several underserved locations.
The Director General highlighted the significant improvements made within the sector during the past few years. He assured that the National Communications Authority remains committed to further enhancing its support for both the mobile network companies and the people of Sierra Leone. He went on to reveal that through ongoing efforts they aim to create a better telecom infrastructure that benefits the companies, the Government and the general population.
Civil society activist Hawa Yokie discussed her institution’s efforts to promote innovation, especially in teaching robotics and technology to youth.
The Press Conference concluded with a sign language interpreter present, symbolizing the Ministry of Information and Civic Education’s commitment to inclusivity and accessibility.