Communications has never been taken into significance or a factor from all previous governments. Consequently, this turned the department a swivel tool between different ministries, until September 2007 when the newly elected President His Excellency Dr Ernest Bai Koroma, adopted information and communication technologies as a priority agenda of his Government in recognition of the pivotal role ICT can play in achieving Sierra Leone’s aspirations for socio-economic status in today’s global society. And in line with the harmonisation of policies and structures that the regional and international organisations ECOWAS and African Union are calling to, the Communications arm was brought back to the Ministry of Information. The Government understands that skills and knowledge underline Sierra Leone’s goal of becoming a knowledge economy and that the economic future and the strength of our communities will depend on the extent of investments in the development of human capital. In this regard, the development of the right balance of ICT skills and knowledge that are anchored in collaborative partnerships between the government and all stakeholders in transforming our shared vision into reality through programmes and policies is now a national requirement.
The Government’s key objective is to transform the Sierra Leone economy through ICTs by promoting and facilitating the private sector to serve as the driver for economic development through innovation in the ICT sector.
The Communications Directorate is the technical arm of the Ministry of Information and Communication and therefore is mandated to develop ICT/telecommunications/postal strategies and policies for the Government that stimulate and enhance the sustainable economic development.
DEPARTMENT OF INFORMATION (formerly Government Inforamtion Services) [GIS]
For effective and smooth information free-flow between Government and the governed, the DI (formerly GIS) is the Ministry of Information and Communication’s main generator, gatherer, processor and disseminator of Government news. DI trained mass media professionals have presence in the entire country; down to chiefdom headquarter towns to ensure the smooth exchange of government information from the Government to the governed and from the governed to the Government.
The GIS is mandated to provide the following functions:
SIERRA LEONE NEWS AGENCY (SLENA)
The re-branding effort of the national image of Sierra Leone without a functional news agency will be a fallacy. Sierra Leone’s recent past civil war poses a whole different challenge for the Ministry of Information: Good governance, representative democracy and respect for the Fundamental Human Rights country outlook as results of the sustainable peace and unwavering public determination, willingness and commitment to uphold the tenets of democracy must be showcased in order to attract foreign direct investment.
Government has placed high premium on the need for a dedicated institution with trained and qualified media professionals in newsgathering as the source for objective information and news on Government for foreign missions, interested international institutions, organizations and foreign media. Therefore, the Ministry of Information and Communication funds SLENA, a semi-autonomous agency, to perform the responsibility of news generation and to serve as a news depot for the public, Government ministries, institutions, departments, parastatals and interested foreign missions/governments, international organizations, institutions and media houses, which is slightly different from the dissemination function of the GIS.
NATIONAL COMMUNICATION STRATEGY PROJECT (NCSP)
The new vision for the Government of Sierra Leone (GoSL) in achieving good governance and an open democratic society is through the National Communication Strategy Project (NCSP). Government has instituted the Attitudinal and Behavioural Change (ABC) campaign and, with the support of UNDP, the Open Government Initiative (OGI) to maintain and consolidate the gains of the hard-won peace in the aftermath of the 11-year brutal civil war that left thousands killed, wounded or abused.
To support and ensure success of the above good governance and democratic initiatives, the GoSL is re-instituting a revitalized and invigorated NCSP with the support of the UNDP, and other donor-driven development programmes funds. The NCSP will develop an enhanced innovative information management system that will sustain the hard-won peace and create an investment friendly open society through which information will flow freely, back and forth, between the government and the governed, to promote national and international confidence in government. This is consequently aimed at promoting local investment and foreign direct investment in both the private and public sector economies to improve the country’s UN-Human Development Index, youth development programmes, gender parity index and re-brand the national image all aimed at achieving the nation’s Millennium Develop Goals (MDGs).
The NCSP will accomplish these goals through the following objectives:
1). Improve the visibility of government:
Bringing government to the people and the people to government through innovative communication strategies. This is aimed at providing opportunities for the electorates to have direct interaction with government officials. The main organs of government [the Executive, the Judiciary and the Parliament] will be the target. Other government functionaries such as heads of parastatals, whose functions and activities become topical issues, would be called upon, from time to time, to interact directly with the electorates.
2). Effective communication with the citizens:
The NCSP will implore the use of strategic and innovative communication tools such as town-hall meetings, battery powered stereos at village level, the use of town-criers and battery powered megaphones and the use of transliteration and translators to relay strategic messages in local dialects at local level and many more communication strategies to accomplish its aim of free flow of information to the people in an outright outreach campaign,
3). Improve internal and external communication with the media:
The NCSP will fully engage the media as an honest broker and stakeholder in newsgathering, news production and news dissemination. The NCSP will keep the national and international media updated and informed of all newsworthy correspondences, encourage media presence in news generation activities and send mass-mailing in a form of press releases to all media outlets for radio and TV broadcast, print and online media publications etc. The NCSP will invest in improving and enhancing the human resource capacity building of members of the media and help with the production capacity of the national media. The NCSP will increase the country’s presence on international media.
4). Sensitize government officials and the public about the right of access to information, freedom of expression, the importance of gender parity and youth development and participation in nation building.
SIERRA LEONE BROADCASTING SERVICES (SLBS)
SLBS is the national TV station. It is a semi-autonomous body in the business of newsgathering and dissemination. The Sierra Leone Government is in the process of transforming the SLBS to a national cooperation as SLBC wherein the SLBS and UN radio will be merged together to form the radio and TV modernisation project in Sierra Leone.
THE NATIONAL TELECOMMUNICATION COMMISSION (NATCOM)
NATCOM is an autonomous and independent body that licenses and regulates the activities of telecommunications providers, an Act of Parliament in close liaise with the Communication Directorate for the reviews of the regulators and telecommunications providers.
THE GOVERNMENT PRINTING DEPARTMENT
The Government Printing Department is an integral part of the Ministry. It was established purposely for the printing and binding of White Papers, Bills, Acts and Regulations, other legal documents, Gazettes, government accounting documents, documents that require security in the printing process, government publicity and educational documents, including exercise books. The Government Printing Department also runs the Government Bookshop.
THE SIERRA LEONE POSTAL SERVICES (SALPOST) Ltd
SALPOST is a limited liability company that is responsible for the exchange of letters, packages and parcels in the country and the world. With the advent of electronics media age and the World Wide Web, sustainability for SLPOST in performing these functions has posed serious challenges for its management team. SALPOST is therefore looking for funding and investors to delve into innovative ways, such as e-communication, e-commerce, and e- post setting up of retail outlets for packaging, copying, typesetting, light printing etc to meet those management challenges, meet the needs of the bulk of its literate and sophisticated customer base and also cater to the mostly illiterate population that still depends, for the most part, on the old and traditional ways of communication.