–Thomas Wesseh Doe
Thomas Wesseh Doe, founder and chief executive officer of WESAGROCOM, Inc., an ICT (information communication technology) and real estate company, says there is the need for a national network that would ensure connectivity in all fifteen counties of Liberia.
In a recent interview at the Daily Observer office in Paynesville, Mr. Doe said the implementation of a national network will ensure effective communication across counties as well as improve government’s service delivery.
In 2010, the government and its partners invested US$25 million to land the ACE cable in Liberia, with the government paying 60 percent of the cost while LIBTELCO shouldered 20 percent, and the telecom giants, Lonestar and the erstwhile Cellcom (now Orange), paid the remaining 20 percent.
However, Mr. Doe said this major national asset is being underutilized, and Liberians are not benefitting from it. “This is why we are saying that if government and its partners can make US$6 million available we will construct this national backbone that will serve the country well,” he suggested.
While mobile usage in Liberia has exploded over the past decade, the total number of internet users/internet penetration, has remained relatively low. Out of the estimated five million Liberians, about a quarter of a million are estimated to be regular internet users compared to a little over 2 million mobile phone users. Access to the internet and internet literacy are integral drivers of national development. Therefore, the initiation of the NICTBB (National ICT Broadband Backbone) project will expedite sector growth, Mr. Doe said.
“There is an urgent need for a national backbone or network in the country, which must be built in stages throughout Liberia, and these come with enormous benefits, including telecommunications, education, employment, medicine and intra-governmental connectivity through a government network,” he added.
The NICTBB, according to Mr. Doe, will be a massive infrastructure network spanning the entire country, providing high capacity long-distance transmission services to licensed, fixed and mobile network operators, internet service providers, and other value added network service providers.
“This means these operators will be effectively and efficiently monitored because they will no longer be in control of their own systems. They will all be connected to the national network. With this, we believe government revenue generation will definitely increase to cover the entire country,” Mr. Doe said.
The NICTBB would also be a key project in transforming Liberia into a regional ICT hub, he said.
Access to the internet and internet literacy has strategically been designated as a key driver of Liberia’s development, and with the development of a NICTBB, the stage would be set for private and public investments to deliver much needed ICT services throughout the country, which would subsequently establish NICTBB as a strong force in the sector in the Mano River Union region.
Doe said the NICTBB will be a huge benefit to Liberia in a lot of ways. In the education sector, he said, it will help improve the methods and speed at which educational materials are delivered to rural people, and foster effective and efficient research programs.
“It will also create employment in new career possibilities and opportunities in every field of study. In medicine it will give access to e-medicine, provision of adequate medical services, improve medical record keeping…remote diagnostics, new medical education for nurses and doctors,” he said.
“The network will also improve government network, the e-government initiative, connecting all government ministries, agencies, and command centers for political parties that would enable them to be in control of their campaigns by establishing a connection to all their campaign activities.
“Our primary objective is to provide technical assistance toward the construction of an affordable and effective telecommunications network for the entire nation,” said Mr. Doe.