This is the second article I have written since the beginning of the year 2015 and I thought I use this occasion to provide some insight the “constituents of Liberia’s ICT and Telecommunications sector. My attempt here emanates from the fact that many Liberians do not know exactly who is who, or who does what in the sector. For example, I have heard people blame the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications for not penalizing GSM operators for not delivering certain services. And sometimes, some Liberians, even ICT professionals, tend to mix up the responsibilities of the Liberia Telecommunications Authority (LTA) with those of LIBTELCO’s. So, in this second article of 2015, I will try to provide insight that will enable Liberians understand the distinction in responsibilities and the role and functions of the players in the sector. I will begin with the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications since it heads the sector.
The Ministry of Post and Telecommunications or MoPT is the POLICY MAKER and the HEAD of Liberia’s Telecommunications and ICT sector. In addition to ensuring that the country operates an effective and efficient postal service, the Ministry develops policies for the sector and oversees the GOL e-government program through the Chief Information Office (CIO) and the Project Management Office (PMO).
Within the ministry, there are three main departments: The Department of Administration; The Department of Operations; and The Department of Telecommunications and Technical Services. The Ministry is headed by Dr. Frederick B. Norkeh. Dr. Norkeh is American-trained professional and one of the few Liberians who served in professional/managerial roles in corporate America. “Doc,” as he is affectionately called, is also the Chairman of the Board of Directors of LIBTELCO. Supporting Dr. Norkeh are three highly qualified American and Australian trained deputies. Hon. J. Ebenezer. Koliebo serves as Deputy for Administration; Hon. Fohn Dologmengi serves as deputy for operations, and Hon. Zotawon. Titus, heads the Technical Services and ICT department. In addition, the Minister has several assistant ministers and directors as part of his team.
The Liberia Telecommunications Authority (LTA) is the REGULATOR. It is the statutory regulatory body established to foster the provision of accessible and affordable ICT based telecommunications services for all Liberians. The LTA was created by the Telecommunications ACT of 2007 (Telecom Act 2007).The LTA is governed by a five-person Board of Commissioners. These Commissioners are appointed by the President for a tenured four-year period. The President designates one of the five appointed Commissioners to be Chairperson of the Commission.
Heading the LTA as Chairperson is the astute, articulate and meticulous Honorable Angelique E. Weeks. Honorable Weeks is serving her second term. Other members of the Board of Commissioners include: Honorable Henry W. Benson, Commissioner, Engineering and Technology; Honorable Harry T. Yuan, Sr.; Commissioner, Government and Consumer Affairs; Honorable Anthony B. McCritty, Commissioner, Licensing and Regulations; and Honorable Maria G. Harrelson, Commissioner, International Gateway Management System.
LIBTELCO, formerly known as Liberia Telecommunications Corporation, is designated by the Telecommunications Act of 2007 as Liberia’s NATIONAL OPERATOR.LIBTELCO provides both wireless as well as wire-line solutions for fast telecommunications. LIBTELCO has competitive advantage in telecommunications, most especially in wire-line service provision. In a market full of wire-less service providers, LIBTELCO is the only public utility service provider with the sole legal right-of-way authority for maintaining telecommunication ducting system throughout Monrovia.
LIBTELCO has been criticized for its inability to fully roll out the African Coast to Europe (ACE) fiber-optic cable since its advent several years ago. But these criticisms do not subsume the challenges that the entity continues to face. Hopefully though, with the recent changes in management and governance, we may see a shift in paradigm and a new energy as LIBTELCO takes on its national mandate. We may see a National Operator (LIBTELCO) that adopts an agile/responsive approach to service and product delivery as well as competition.
LIBTELCO is currently headed by Honorable Sebastian Muah. Honorable Muah brings a strong ICT background to LIBTELCO and vast experience working in Government (Previously Deputy Minister at what used to be Ministry of Planning and Economic Affairs and the Deputy Minister of Finance for Budget).
GSM Mobile Operators and Providers: Liberia has several GSM mobile operators and fixed wireless providers that are competing for customers. These operators and providers include: Lonestar Cell MTN, Cellcom, Novafone, LIBTELCO and West Africa Telecom. Lonestar Cell MTN is member of MTN Group which is a leading international telecommunications company operating in 21 countries in the Middle East, Africa and Europe. Since the beginning of its operations in Liberia in 2001, Lonestar Cell MTN, has been the most expansive telecommunications network in the country reaching all fifteen counties.
Cellcom Liberia was launched in the country in 2004 with a vision to be the nation’s leading service provider. The company has extended its coverage to other West African countries including Guinea and has been one of the GSM operators that has provided many innovative products and services in Liberia.
Formerly known as Comium, Novafone began on September 12, 2013, in Monrovia, Liberia. NOVAFONE is considered the number three GSM provider in the country.
I have already discussed LIBTELCO above so there’s no need to be redundant. But West Africa Telecom has also been a player in the ICT sector. Almost all of the providers and operators have access to high-speed internet. This high speed internet is provided by the ACE optical fiber cable.
ICT firms: Liberia has several ICT firms that specialize in particular areas. There is MWetana which specializes in software and systems development; there’s Sahara Technology Solutions which specializes in Open Source Software/Web development and integration as well as corporate training; there’s HAK Technology which specializes in Web and software development; there’s Dynamic GT which specializes on IT infrastructure development; there are BlueSeas and Everybuilder which specialize in Web design and Hosting and many other local ICT firms who form part of the sector. I would be remiss if I don’t mention iLAB or Innovation LAB which is not necessarily an ICT firm but provide ICT solutions and capacity building and is also part of the sector.
ICT Schools: There are several ICT schools that help form part of the ICT sector. Starz College, NIIT, Inter-Digital, YMCA training program and even the University of Liberia’s Indian Institute of Technology Program form part of this sector.
Finally, this may not be an exhaustive delineation or write-up on ALL “constituents” of Liberia’s ICT and Telecommunications Sector. But it is my hope that my effort to provide insight on the players in the ICT and Telecommunications has helped those who misunderstood the roles and responsibilities of those “constituents” of the sector.
Until next week, CARPE DIEM!!