Gambia poised for a digital revolution

Friday, July 27, 2018

His Excellency President Adama Barrow and his minister of Information and Communication Infrastructure, Ebrima Sillah, have outlined the communications and digital policy of the government which is aimed at connecting The Gambia to the world’s digital economy.

At a meeting in Brikama, West Coast Region, as part of the ongoing countrywide tour, the president of the republic announced that the government is about to roll out a new street lightening project that would provide 5,000 street lights across the country, and the same time, deliver easy internet connectivity for Gambians. Each of these street lights, according to him, would be fitted with a 24-hour CCTV surveillance camera and wireless internet hotspot for the use of the public.

The electro-digital blueprint will help boost security and cut down crime rates by improving the surveillance capacity of our security services, while providing affordable and easy access to internet.

In addition to the 5000 street lights, he announced that: “another 2,000 street lights will be installed through World Bank funding, and will be fitted with bulbs that would save energy by 75 per cent”.

The president made these revelations in reaction to a woman councilor who appealed for government to help bring back street lights in Brikama. She said the dark streets shield crimes and criminal activities by “unscrupulous” individuals who use the cover of the darkness to rob and attack unsuspecting people.

President Barrow assured the people of Brikama that their concerns would addressed, stressing that the project will kick off in the town, taking into account its strategic geography and demographic constitution. 

Speaking at various places in the West Coast Region, Ebrima Sillah, new minister of Information and Communications Infrastructure, weighed in on the ICT plans highlighted by the president, earlier. He outlined government’s digital policy for all sectors of the economy, emphasising that technology is the future.

Guaranteeing that the country’s digital revolution would take off, the minister announced that Gamtel has completed a nationwide survey and identified places where WiFi hotspots would be installed for use by the general public. The pilot project, according him, would include Brusubi Roundabout, Westfield, Serekunda Market, Brikama, Gunjur, among other places. He added that all fishing boats in coastal communities in Kombo North and Greater Banjul would have WiFi navigation systems with weather forecast capabilities to ensure safety at sea.

In terms of rate collection, the minister explained that all taxes and rates collected on behalf of government, city and area councils would deliver cellphone confirmation to the payee. He said the technology would help prevent siphoning of tax monies and facilitate easier payment systems for citizens.

Minister Sillah also explained that all compounds in The Gambia will be registered on a central digital platform. Village and district authorities would also be on the same platform to ensure proper monitoring and accounting, by a way of automatic notification to the authorities, of foreign strangers or guests that might be hosted in any compound, village, town or city in the country.

In the area of security, government would install a 24-hour emergency hotline system that make the nearest police station reachable by speed dial.  Once there is a crime or a suspicion of illegal acts being committed, these numbers will be used to send alerts to a nearby police installation. Sillah maintained that, through this, security would be boosted and its dividend to national development fully reaped by the state.

The health component of the plan would create a similar registry for pregnant women that would allow them easy contact with the nearest health facilities. According to the Minister, it would allow health workers to monitor, respond and send alerts to couples when the time for clinical visits are due.

For tourists visiting the country, each hotel room will be fitted with a programmed cultural and historical mini-documentary. Tourists will view the explanations of the country’s rich history and cultural heritage, plus the country’s exotic eco-destinations in languages they understand. It will guide them to choose where they want to visit while they are here.

“Technology is the future,” Minster Sillah said, maintaining that virtual classrooms are also part of this national digitization plan.

 Also speaking at the Brikama meeting, the Minister of Local Government assured that they are aware of the challenges the Brikama Area Council face in meeting its responsibilities. The provision of basic needs for all communities in their jurisdiction remained challenging, especially when mining revenues were transferred to central government, he posited.

“Government is studying the situation and drawing up a plan to bring solutions to the local government capacity structures, accordingly,” Minister Drammeh said.
Source: State House