UN Recognizes Sierra Leone’s Progress Towards Digital Cooperation

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By Amin Kef Sesay

President Julius Maada Bio on Thursday 11 June 2020 thanked the United Nations Secretary General, UNSG, António Guterres, for recognising the tremendous progress Sierra Leone has made towards digital cooperation.

At a high-level UN hosted online conference to launch the roadmap and moderated by Fabrizio Hochschild-Drummond, Special Adviser to the UNSG, President Bio said his country had launched a National Innovation and Digitization Strategy as an overarching document with three key clusters – digital governance, digital identity, and digital economy.

“We have also ensured that development planning and policymaking, resource allocation, monitoring, and evaluation are driven by accurate and relevant data. Often, we render complex data as 3-D models.

“We have created various up-to-date, comprehensive, and geo-referenced data hubs that are central to key Government priorities in the areas of education, the economy, healthcare, access to justice among others.

“We are also increasingly using digital technology and innovation for automating governance processes – budget processes, revenue collection etc. This technology-mediated processes are more effective, more transparent and more streamlined,” he said.

The President was also on the forum with President of the Swiss Confederation, Simonetta Sommaruga; Crown Prince of Dubai and Chairman of the Executive Council of Dubai, H.H. Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum; Sir Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web and Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum, Klaus Schwab.

He told them that the small West African nation was also using science, innovation, and technology in the areas of resource governance with a view to bringing more sanity and transparency to that sector.

“We have recently completed a national airborne geophysical survey through which we have acquired high-resolution, high-precision data sets that will be used to drive the development of that sector. By automating processes, we are making it easier to register, start, and do business. We are also using forms of digitalisation to support entrepreneurship and business.

“The basis of an inclusive digital economy is a national digital identity platform. This is based on a biometric permanent civil registry. We have strengthened our civil registration and vital statistics systems. Through partnership with KIVA and the UN, Sierra Leone developed the first block-chain digital ID platform in Africa. This will enhance financial inclusion, public safety,service access and delivery right across board when fully implemented,”

President Bio, who was talking on ‘Digital Challenges and Opportunities that Governments Face’, said that Sierra Leone was wrestling with challenges but assured that they were also working to develop a national digital infrastructure and connectivity that would further enhance digital penetration.

“So in the last one year, we have increased mobile cell phone penetration by 7.6% to 87%, and we have increased internet penetration by 8.1% to 25%. We are still contending with low levels of digital literacy across the country and especially in non-urban areas and we are mindful of the persistent threat of digital/cybersecurity. But that, to my mind is the raison d étre for such international engagements – to learn and discuss best practices and solidify cooperation agreements and productive partnerships that will help our small countries deal with these issues. But even before becoming President, I was firmly focused on leveraging digitalisation, science, technology, and innovation for national development,” he said.

 

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