The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has launched the “Digital Liberia and e-Government Project in Liberia,” an information communication technology (ICT) program.
The project was launched on March 22 at a resort in Monrovia, and was witnessed by an array of government officials including Post and Telecommunication Minister Fredrick Norkeh, Defense Minister Brownie Samukai, Health Minister Bernice Dahn and USAID representatives.
USAID Chief of Party for Digital Liberia, Victoria Cooper-Enchia, said the project aimed at improving government’s performance and bringing it closer to citizens by assisting it to develop Internet and computer technology.
“Our objective is to progress Liberia towards creating a sound national ICT platform for now and for future generations. This will help the country to tell its story and engage with the world. It will enhance health, education, agriculture and economic growth and private sector development,” Enchia said.
Unlike other countries where technology has advanced and most public transactions are done through the Internet, Liberia still lags behind with financial transactions in public places handled by individuals, which enhances corruption.
According to USAID, the project will improve the GoL’s connectivity and institutional capacity that is necessary to provide effective services, progressing Liberia towards the creation of a sound national ICT platform now, and for future generations.
US Ambassador Christine Elder said the Digital Liberia and e-Government Project will build on the momentum started before the outbreak of Ebola in 2014.
“It will strengthen Liberia’s ICT capacity and improve connectivity to better prepare the country to prevent, detect and respond to future crises,” Amb. Elder said.
She said that the project lends support to several government institutions to improve decision making and management.
The support, according to Elder, will identify priority sustainable government digital initiatives and help them to take advantage of technologies to digitize institutional systems and processes.
Although the project is implemented in Monrovia for now, Amb. Elder disclosed that USAID recognizes the need for nationwide connectivity and has initiated support in other areas that complement the Digital Liberia and e-Government Project.
Dr. Norkeh said the project is a step forward in the enhancement of communications across government and service delivery to the Liberian people.
He said the project will help reduce the cost and time of communications across government that normally takes considerable amount of production time, payments of salaries, LEC bills, tax payments and payment of school fees using ICT.
Online education and research in important fields of study such as medicine, disease control, and security are also among benefits of ICT that Minister Norkeh named.
He said having existed many years as a nation, it is time that Liberians wake up to learn from other countries like Ghana, Kenya and Rwanda where effective use of ICT is improving the lives of the citizenry through the accelerated provision of essential services for livelihood.
“The full realization of these efforts requires a considerable commitment from government, our development partners such as USAID and private investors,” Dr. Norkeh said.
He said the project seeks to link institutions through digital communications and improve Liberia’s connectivity with the world, and build capacity to utilize the ICT and Internet technologies to improve performances of government officials for the effective, efficient and transparent delivery of services.
Minister Samukai, who proxied for Vice President Joseph Boakai, recalled that rudimentary communication services have been in Liberia for a long time, and that the launch of the project is quite a rewarding venture.
He urged drivers of the project “not to allow it sit on the desk,” but to make the needed impact in two to three years.
Dr. Clarence Moniba, Head of President’s Delivery Unit, acknowledged the role government has played in creating a safe environment for the enhancement of development and noted that the launch of the ICT project is one such benefits of good governance.
He, too, lauded USAID for initiating the project and said government is in full support.