The Government of Sierra Leone, the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) have been collaborating and seeing progress in accelerating school connectivity and innovating to empower entire communities.
Sierra Leone joined Giga to expand school connectivity efforts and explore how innovation can play a role in empowering entire communities. Giga is already working with the Government to identify activities to support the cost-effective connection of approximately 11,000 schools, which will equip a further 3 million people in their local communities with the tools and skills they need to empower their nation.
The potential benefits are exponential. A new report by The Economist Intelligence Unit, commissioned by Ericsson in support of Giga, finds that if school connectivity levels in Sierra Leone reached those of Rwanda, that could boost GDP per capita by 8% by 2025. If connectivity reached Finland’s levels, the increase could be as much as 14.2%.
The Government has been championing the importance of education toward achieving its goal of Human Capital Development. Connectivity can contribute to Sierra Leone’s national progress and help citizens to participate fully in the global digital economy. Their efforts have been lauded on a global stage and progress is in full swing on the ground.
Progress in Sierra Leone and beyond
Sierra Leone has mapped all school locations in Project Connect and is implementing tools to monitor the connectivity status of schools in real time. Giga has worked with Measurement Labs to develop a browser extension that can be installed in schools to measure speed in real time. The resulting data can help guide government decision-making and selection of the most cost-efficient connectivity and renewable technologies. It also improves transparency by linking network management to payment processes – ensuring that providers only get paid for the service they provide.
The browser extension has been launched and implemented in 7 schools in Sierra Leone – Leone Preparatory School (Brookfields Town); Kingdom Heritage Model Schools (Sumaila Town); Tower Hill Kindergarten and Primary School (Tower Hill); Annie Walsh Memorial School (Magazine Town); Ahmadiyya Muslim J.S.S. (Kissy Town); Conforti Primary School (Calaba Town); and Royal International Academy (Kissy Town) – and will be deployed in 52 more schools. This pilot will expand to at least 80% of connected schools in other countries, including Kazakhstan, Rwanda, Uzbekistan and Kenya.
At the First Giga Ministerial Roundtable in Africa which brought together country leaders and partners championing Giga activities in Africa, the Minister of Basic and Senior Secondary Education in Sierra Leone, Dr. David Sengeh, highlighted progress in Sierra Leone and intervened with a focus on innovative financing for connectivity. Giga also organized a panel on “Innovation as a Means to Universal Connectivity” at the Stockholm Internet Forum held on 11 May, bringing together speakers from GSMA, ITU, Ericsson, UNICEF, and the Government of Sierra Leone to discuss the need to resolve information gaps on connectivity and explore innovative solutions to improve the quality of service and ensure universal and meaningful access.
Sierra Leone National Giga Steering Committee
Sierra Leone has now inaugurated a National Giga Steering Committee to provide high level strategic guidance and direction on the design, development, and implementation of Giga project activities in the country. Dr. Sengeh took the opportunity during the Government of Sierra Leone’s cabinet meeting on the 16th of June to present Giga to H.E. President Maada Bio, the Vice President, Dr. Juldeh Jalloh and other Ministers; and, after being elected Chair of the National Giga Steering Committee, Dr. Sengeh noted how the presence of “his fellow ministers here today surely underline the commitment of Sierra Leone’s Government and President Bio to the opportunity for generational change that we believe Project Giga brings.”
“The objectives of Giga – to boost Human Capital Development in Sierra Leone by connecting schools to the Internet, and our young people to information, opportunity, and choice – are particularly aligned to the Government of Sierra Leone’s development plans and our digitization strategies.”
Minister Dr. David Sengeh, Ministry of Basic and Senior Secondary Education, Sierra Leone
The National Giga Steering Committee is made up of:
- Chair: Minister of Basic and Senior Secondary Education/ Chief Innovation Officer
- Co-Chair: Director of the Directorate of Science, Technology and Innovation (DSTI)
- Alternate Chair/ Co-Chair: Minister of Finance
- Attorney General & Minister of Justice
- Minister of Information and Communication
- Minister of Energy
- Minister of Technical and Higher Education
- Minister of Local Government
- Minister of Planning and Economic Development
- Country Representative, UNICEF Sierra Leone
- Managing Director/CEO of SALCAB
- Director General of NATCOM
- Director of Administration – Education For All
The first actions of the Steering Committee were to approve the Draft Workplan for Giga in Sierra Leone, outlining the path forward for Giga. The Committee members also approved the Terms of Reference and membership of a Technical Working Group, which will have a mandate to:
- Provide technical advice and operational support on the implementation of Giga in Sierra Leone in line with the Workplan approved by the Steering Committee
- Monitor the implementation of the project activities and highlight potential challenges and propose solutions to address these
- Review data, advice on policy and implementation guidelines and provide recommendations for best approaches for implementation