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Country focus: Tech taking Liberia into a new era

February 18, 2014 • Features, West Africa

 

Liberia is making headway in the progress and development of its ICT sector. (Image source: Jiri Flogel/ Shutterstock.com)

Liberia is making headway in the progress and development of its ICT sector. (Image source: Jiri Flogel/ Shutterstock.com)

The West African country of Liberia has received a great deal of coverage in the news of late. Specifically, there have been detailed reports in regional media about financial irregularities within the Liberia Telecommunication Authority (LTA) and the reported announcement of Chairperson Madam Angelique Weeks that there were both financial and administrative irregularities.

An article posted by the Inquirer speaks of additional issues including overpayment for per-diem for foreign travels, salary paid to staff before effective date of employment and outstanding cheques.

In February 2014 Madam Weeks, together with members of the Board of Commission of the LTA, appeared before the Joint Public Accounts Committee of the National Legislature to respond to the General Auditing Commission audit reports for the fiscal years 2009/2010 and 2011, released in April, 2011.

The enquiry focused on a ten-month period in 2009 during which the body was under various tenures and in which, it has been reported, the LTA spent just over US1 billion without a signed budget.

The New Dawn wrote that the Committee found that despite the expenditure being unauthorised, that there was no fraud or corruption during the period under review.

According to its official site the LTA describes itself as the “regulatory and competition authority charged with the statutory responsibility to ensure a vibrant telecommunications sector in Liberia.”

Progress nonetheless

Articles published about the country underline the fact that it is a nation still in post-civil war recovery. As is the case with many countries still dealing with the ravages of war, authorities are making significant inroads into ICT policy implementation in order to accelerate development.

According to the Global Resource & Information Directory, the country’s government published a newer version of the original ICT policy in 2009, first introduced in 2007.

Despite the difficulties facing the country’s ICT sector, there is evidence to suggest that progress is being made in terms of connectivity and infrastructure.

In November 2013 local GSM and mobile services provider Cellcom announced the extension of its 4G services to an additional two counties – Margibi and Sinoe. The Heritage reported that Cellcom management confirmed the extension of the services, with Montserrado and GrandBassaCounties already receiving 4G connectivity.

The CEO of Cellcom, John Vasikaran, is said to have paid tribute to the Company’s technicians and other staff in ensuring the connectivity to these regions.

Vasikaran is said to have reaffirmed Cellcom’s objective to achieve national coverage of its 4G service.

In June 2013 Lonestar Cell MTN and the Central Bank of Liberia (CBL) launched a mobile money service at the Guaranty Trust (GT) Bank of Liberia Ltd.

Local media explained that the service is aimed at all citizens and represents GT Bank’s contribution to CBL’s financial inclusion strategy, as well as a move to bridge the gap between the unbanked and banked communities.

Lonestar Cell MTN’s CEO, Tebogo Mogapi, was quoted in the report by New Dawn as saying that approximately 10% of Liberians have bank accounts and over 40% of the population has mobile phones.

“As we extend this partnership with GT Bank, we opine that mobile money is indeed a usable product that clearly supports the Liberian economy and provides a cashless environment, safe and secure for all subscribers to service. We encourage individuals as well as institutions to subscribe to the service which will greatly improve the efficiency in their payment process to employees and vendors.”

According to the findings of research by Afrobarometer, 39% of mobile consumers in Liberia use their phones to transfer funds and make payments.

The International Telecommunications Union (ITU) has stated that by the end of 2012, the percentage of individuals using the Internet in Liberia was 3,79% while the number of mobile-cellular subscriptions stood at approximately 2,4 million.

In August 2013, Africa Review quoted a government endorsed survey as stating that the country’s mobile phone penetration was at 42%, with approximately 1.5 million citizens having access to a mobile phone.

Internet penetration is said to be low with only 2.8% of the country’s population having access.

* Image source via Shutterstock

Chris Tredger – Online Editor

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