Response to the annual message to the Third Session Of The Fifty-Fourth National Legislature delivered by His Excellency Dr. George Manneh Weah, President of the Republic Of Liberia
By Foldestine Paye – The Digital Ambassador
Last month, President George Manneh Weah performed his constitutional duty in fulfillment of Article 58 of the Constitution of Liberia which mandates the President, on the fourth working Monday in January of each year, to present the Legislative Program of the Administration for the ensuing session, and report on the State of the Republic, covering the economic condition of the Nation, including expenditure and income for the betterment of Liberia. To be clear, I am an aficionado of the president as it relates to how he handle critical issues in the country.
In the President’s brilliant annul message, he spoke on numerous of trending issues ranging from road to agriculture, from corruption to harmonization, from education to health, from debt to job creation but the president failed to address technology which is very dangerous in this information technology age we are all enjoying today. I am completely dishearten because technology was not discussed in his message as I would expected. The president need to understand that no country can get develop without technology and Liberia is not excluded. His message as like always was about economy, health, education, security, road and agriculture; notwithstanding, the President’s failure to recognize that technology is the engine of economic growth and social development and without technology to solve the challenges of the health, education, security, agriculture and road our country will continues to be in the state of backwardness.
As a Digital Revolutionary like I could argue that without technology in the pro poor Agenda for prosperity and development (PAPD), the PAPD will not succeed, I must admit. The President continue to make the same mistakes that was made years ago by our passed Leaders. It is time to change the status quo. Mr. President, we are in the 21st century and countries are now adopting ICT as a major tool for development and sustainability as we can see with Rwanda, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria and the list goes on. There is still hope for Liberia and you are still having more time to implement many major or substantial technology initiatives.
After chewing, swallowing, and digesting the president Prolific message, I started to asked myself this question such as follow, can Liberia be develop in the absence of technology in this 21th century? My answer is NO in bold Letter. It is noticeable that the word “Digital” was only mentioned two times in the entire speech and those areas it was mentioned did not highlight anything about the technology sector which was very sadden. The word telecommunication was never mentioned, neither was communication. Information was mentioned only when he was referring to the Information Ministry. I think this was a major deflation for technology under President Weah. We need to stop ignoring the power of technology in Liberia.
Technology has the power to transform the Identity of every Liberian Citizen which is a right, and is vital for cultural, political and socio-economic participation for every citizen, regardless of who or where they are. In our rapidly digitizing world, it is essential that citizens within Liberia are able to identify themselves securely and instantly within national borders and internationally. A unified digital identity to be used by governments and businesses of Liberia will enhance service delivery and ensure the dignity of citizens who often are challenged to prove who they are. Digital identity will also improve security and reduce rampant corruption in Liberia. In Estonia, for example, nearly all 1.3 million citizens have state-issued digital identification which provides digital access to all of Estonia’s secure e-services. India’s AADHAR program is the world’s most extensive biometric identification system bringing digital identification to over 1 billion people. The national biometric registry will serve as a platform for a national digital identification roll out in Liberia for all citizens. Entities and assets including businesses, vehicles, land, and more will be digitized and linked to the digital identities of individuals and organizations in a systematic and secure manner allowing for a well-integrated civic, cultural and economic wellbeing.
We can’t transform the economy of Liberia without transcending from traditional economy to digital economy. Digital Economy will enable the citizens to go cashless. However, in the 21st century, physical cash transactions are rapidly reducing around the world with China and many African countries leading in mobile money transfers but Liberia is still backward. The Kenyan Central Bank’s data show that close to half of Kenya’s GDP was transferred via mobile money in 2018. Digital payment platforms, including payment gateways and aggregators, are advancing the development of financial technology (FinTech) infrastructure that brings secure transactions directly to citizens. In West Africa, the Bank of Sierra Leone (BSL) is a leader in seeding FinTechs and financial services and Liberia is still hesitant. In this year 2020, Liberia need to establish a regulatory sandbox that enabled small scale, testing and deployment of innovative FinTech products, services, and solutions in a live controlled environment. This will serve as a springboard for digitizing Liberian economy helping citizens build wealth in both the formal and informal sectors.
In this increasingly digital world, the Pro Poor government need to evolve in the responsibilities and engagement with all citizens of Liberia through technology. Without technology the governance of Liberia will not be productive. Digital Governance which is (the bi-directional interaction between State and citizen) must become digital in service delivery and citizen engagement in Liberia. For example, Mexico City engaged its 8 million inhabitants to crowd source input into the city’s constitution in 2017 using digital platforms and media that enabled citizens to contribute to the document. Any citizen in Liberia who interacts with government via a digital platform must do so through secure, private, effective, and efficient and near real-time services. Access to education, health, voter registration, and other services must be seamless between citizens and their government. Digitization is also essential for supporting and expanding a core function of government: public financial management, and in the process also reducing corruption and increasing transparency and accountability in Liberia.
We cannot transform our road connectivity in Liberia without technology. The Pro Poor Government focused is on building/rebuilding infrastructures with is vital and lots of money are spent on roads, buildings and others, but very little are spend on building technology infrastructure. Mr. President, you need to focus on building technology backbone infrastructure, you should highly consider the decentralization of technology. In addition, you should invest in building, operating and maintaining cellular towers to bridge the digital divide in the fifteen (15) sub political division of Liberia.
Mr. President, you said after you have fulfilled the road project, your next focus will be Agriculture but remember, we can’t transform the Agriculture sector without technology. We cannot expect to grow the agriculture sector if the farmers are not making profit because they do not have the proper technologies. Technology has evolved to the extent that agriculturists can freely produce without worrying about their produces being purchased. The introduction of a platform where producer and purchaser can operate virtually can ease such problem. These are things that other underdeveloped countries are taking advantage of while we are still crawling and waiting on the international community.
Finally, Liberia is a small, energetic and well-resourced nation historically known to be the oldest country in Africa and it should use the state-of-the-art technology and innovation for the benefit of all Liberians and mankind because there can be no development in Liberia without technology in this 21st century.
I rest my Pen!
About the Author
Foldestine Paye is Microsoft Technology Associate, Software Designer, Author of a book called “Be A Good Digital Citizen” and the President of the Liberia Information Technology Student Union (LITSU). Moreover, he is a digital evangelist, activist academician, author, columnist, with knowledge involved in cyber security fundamental, Networking and software Engineering. In addition he’s graduating student of BlueCrest University. You can contact him on 0775751153/ [email protected].