I once wrote that in order to achieve a digital Liberia, we will need an “all hands on deck” approach. Lonestar Cell Foundation’s recent initiative in Harper, Maryland County is an indication that this is in fact, the way to go. Lonestar Cell Foundation in collaboration with Tubman University began a US$100,000 collaborative ICT capacity building initiative (pilot project) that is intended to give the Harper Community as well as high school students in that area, the opportunity to garner ICT training and develop the capacity needed to make them knowledge workers; the type of workers needed in a 21st century environment and in particular, what will soon be a digital Liberia.
The initiative involved two components: a fully-loaded modern computer lab and a “Train the Trainer” program. The “Train the Trainer” program provided training to students, and instructors of Tubman University and Cape Palmas High School, to enable them evangelize technology in the Harper area, through local communities and high schools. The “Train the Trainer” program was done in two phases: Phase one began in February of 2013 and Phase Two, in October of 2013. The final phase of this project will commence next year.
Participants came from a diverse spectrum of the university and the local community. There were a total of 18 participants: 6 (Six) students from various colleges of the University; 7 (seven) instructors from various colleges of the University, and 5 (five) faculty and administrators of the Cape Palmas High School. At the end of the program, participants are expected to go out and evangelize ICT in the Harper area as well as transfer their newly learned skills to the next generation of knowledge workers.
In the “Train the Trainer” program, participants were trained in basic and advanced computing, and other skills that can be transferred to members of the Harper community including high school students.Included in the training was an introduction to the Social Media. The social media was included because of its impact on the way we communicate, collaborate, learn, share and exhange information. Participants learned to use the social media in an educational environment in a more productive and positive way. In addition, the participants learned about the Internet and its resources. Finally, they learned about online learning systems and were enrolled in a six-weeks online course that is facilitated by Sahara Technology Solutions.
What was most important about the training was that the participants got a chance to learn how to train users in the use, installation and configuration of both Proprietary and Open Source Software. This gives them the ability to select and utilize software from both categories at any time.
Over all the program was a success and the participants received certificates of completion which indicate that they are prepared and ready to take on the challenge of tranforming the Harper community into a knowledege society.
At the closing ceremony of Phases I and II of the TU-LCF US$$100,000 collaborative ICT Capacity Building initiative, Dr. Elizabeth Cabajosa, acting president of W.V.S. Tubman University and Vice President for Academic Affairs, announced that the University will begin its COMPUTER SCIENCE program at the beginning of 2014. Dr. Cabajosa asked Lonestar Cell to support her SOFTWARE ENGINEERING program, a request which Lonestar Cell agreed to honor. Now, this was a smart move on the part of Lonestar Cell, which was represented by its Corporate Affairs Executive, Rev. Dr. Lawrence K. Bropleh. By supporting this program, Lonestar Cell not only is being socially responsible, it can also benefit from the program. That is, the company, through a partnership with the University, can utilize and benefit from the repository of Software engineers and Computer Scientists that the program will produce, to develop content and other services that can add value to the company. Talk about achieving competitive advantage!!!
Software development has been one of the many ICT initiatives that I have been espousing for several years. I believe when we begin developing our own software, we will become PROSUMERS (producers and consumers), divorcing ourselves from being mere consumers. But most importantly, Tubman University and Lonestar Cell will be giving young Liberians an opportunity to garner the skills needed to develop software and systems that can automate processes in business, government, and other areas; something that is desperately needed.
A few years ago when I wrote the book “A Digital Liberia”, I mentioned that we can only achieve a digital Liberia if ICT is integrated on a nation basis. Little did I know that Lonestar Cell had planned on turning Liberia into a“digital Liberia” where its citizens become knowledge workers. The Lonestar/Tubman University initiative is one of many approaches that can lead to a knowledge society and ultimately, a “digital Liberia.”
In recent times, an article from Balancing Act indicated that bandwidth consumption in Liberia has increased significantly, which means there is an increase in the number of DIGITAL CITIZENS in the country; thanks to mobile penetration. This bandwidth consumption increase is a result of Liberia’s connection to the Africa Coast to Europe (ACE) submarine optical fiber cable and the improvements in services by companies like Lonestar Cell, Cellcom, LIBTELCO, Novafone, West Africa Telecom, et al. And, ICT firms that provide ICT integration, development and training are also to be given credit for their contributions. So with this progress and if we can emulate what Lonestar Cell has done in Maryland County, in other counties, we will ultimately become a knowledge society that will reap significant economic benefits and growth.
Finally, I hope Lonestar Cell’s initiative does not end in Maryland but transcend to other counties so that we can ultimately achieve a digital Liberia. I also hope other companies join Lonestar Cell in this initiative because, contrary to popular belief, development cannot be measured in the type of infrastructure (roads, buildings, etc), we have. It is measured through human development which drives infrastructural development. Therefore, building the ICT capacity of young Liberians is in fact, the way to build a knowledge society and a digital Liberia. Hats off to Lonestar Cell!!!!