The Chief Information Office(r), Republic of Liberia

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When President Barack Obama took over in 2009 one of the first things he did was to appoint a Federal Chief Information Officer at the White House. Vivek Kundra (2009-2011) would lead Obama’s technology initiatives, direct the policy and strategic planning of federal information technology investments and have oversight of federal technology spending. He would also establish and oversee enterprise architecture ensuring system interoperability, information sharing, information security and privacy across the federal government. Kundra helped lower the cost of government operations and used innovation and the power of technology to improve performance and operational efficiency in the US Government.

Vivek Kundra left the Obama administration in 2011 and is credited with saving taxpayers at least $3 billion by scrutinizing IT spending and identifying underperforming projects. His replacement, Steven VanRoekel who previously served as Managing Director for the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), and at Microsoft, also stepped down from the role in September 2014, and returned to USAID to advise the agency on technology matters in its response to the Ebola outbreak.  

In Liberia, unlike President Obama, the establishment of the Chief Information Office did not make the first to-do list of President Sirleaf. It would take almost six years after her ascendency to nations highest office before the Government of Liberia began the establishment of the CIO Regime, and the subsequent appointment of the first Chief Information Officer of the Republic of Liberia.  But what is this office? What does it do; where is it; and who runs it?

Enshrined in the National Telecommunications & ICT Policy 2010-2015 is a mandate for the establishment of the National ICT Governing Board to “oversee, monitor and evaluate the operations and implementation of ICT objectives and programs.” This Board is comprised of members of the ICT for Development (ICT4D) Steering Committee   which includes members from the Government of Liberia’s (GoL) ministries, agencies, corporations/commissions, the Liberia Telecommunications Authority (LTA) mobile, fixed and ISP operators, and other sector stakeholders.

The policy further mandates the ICT Governing Board to commission a central implementing body to be called the Chief Information Office or CIO. This body according to the mandate “shall be housed at the Ministry of Posts & Telecommunications. The CIO shall comprise of core staff to include systems engineers, technicians, and several policy staff. It shall coordinate with every ICT unit across ministries and agencies to help the GoL determine how ICT can help transform government processes, by making it efficient, transparent and citizen-centric.”

Another mandate from the Policy requires executive line ministries to “nominate a champion from each ministry who will become a part of the CIO Governing Council once the CIO regime is established.” This CIO Regime is headed by the Chief Information Officer, Republic of Liberia. The Chief Information Officer strategically focuses on improving practices in the design, modernization, use, sharing and performance of GoL information resources. In addition to being responsible for formulating programs in pursuit of the vision of the ICT Governing Board, the CIO is also responsible to handle and monitor GoL IT procurement to ensure cost effectiveness, standardization, and benefit from economies of scale.

Liberia’s Chief Information Office is currently headed by Honorable Sekou Kromah. Honorable Kromah is the first CIO and comes to the job with a vast experience in the telecommunications sector. Prior to the CIO position, Honorable Kromah served as Managing Director of the Liberia Produce and Marketing Corporation (LPMC), and the Liberia Telecommunications Corporation (LTC), now LIBTELCO. He later moved from his role as the head of the national operator (LIBTELCO) to become the Deputy Minister of the Government’s telecommunications and ICT policy maker, the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications.

Unlike his American counterpart, Kromah’s job is more challenging since he inherited a totally disintegrated and “chaotic” government ICT landscape, where almost everyone is doing what he or she wants to do with Government ICT. Yet, he stands to pioneer a lot of ICT initiatives in government; one of them involving it’s e-government program. Kromah aims is to bring some “sanity” into government’s ICT landscape and hopefully bridge the gap between Government and the people through ICTs. His goal is to bring government services online and do away with “citizens standing in line.” In addition, he is working to apply sound procurement policies, ensuring standardization of the GoL ICT platform, and maintaining a highly skilled, efficient and effective team of professionals.

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