ICT SECTOR STAKEHOLDERS COMMIT TO REINFORCING COLLABORATION AND COORDINATION BETWEEN GOVERNMENT AND THE PRIVATE SECTOR, FOR IMPROVED SERVICE DELIVERY

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The Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy (MOCDE) organized the maiden ICT Sector stakeholders Retreat held on Tuesday October 18, 2022 at the Senegambia Beach Hotel in Kololi. The initiative was championed by Hon. Ousman A. Bah and brought together for the first of its kind in the history of the Ministry, all sector players, including senior management of MOCDE, the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority, Mobile Network Operators, Internet Service Providers, Content Providers and Civil Society Organizations in the ICT ecosystem.

The event provided the platform for all players to discuss current and legacy challenges in the sector that continue to affect quality and affordable service delivery.  The Keynote address was delivered by the Honorable Minister of Works Transport and Infrastructure, Hon. Ebrima Sillah on behalf of the Vice President of the Republic of The Gambia, Badara A. Joof.

The Honorable Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Ousman Bah, in delivering his welcoming address highlighted the Ministry’s renewed drive and thinking on digital development, which is anchored on embracing public private collaboration for sustained growth in the sector. He also outlined the establishment of a second subsea cable, payment gateway, National Tier 4 Data Centre, and e-governance as key the priorities for the Ministry in the next eighteen months.

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In delivering the keynote address on behalf of the Vice President, Honorable Sillah reaffirmed the government of The Gambia’s commitment to the realization of its digital transformation agenda and outlined the establishment of the Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy, mainly to spearhead the digital agenda as a demonstration of Government’s recognition of the potentials of ICTs in creating jobs, and improving public service delivery and the wellbeing of Gambians. He further reiterated Government’s firm believe in private sector led growth and its determination to join forces with all sector players to develop the requisite infrastructure and policies to intensify the digital transformation process for The Gambia, for sustained socioeconomic growth.

All participating firms and organizations were given the opportunity to present on individual and common challenges including; network infrastructure, connectivity, quality of service and experience and stumbling policy and regulatory matters. The presentations also outlined current as well as future business development initiatives of the players during the retreat. All of the Mobile Network Operators and ISPs revealed plans to upgrade to new technologies and expand their network coverage to the underserved and unserved communities in order to accelerate the attainment of universal connectivity in The Gambia.

At the end of the forum, stakeholders adopted progressive short-term measures geared towards addressing the challenges deliberated on during discussions. These includes:

o          Adopting a collaborative approach to strengthen digital infrastructure especially on the establishment of a Secondary Landing Station, National payment Gateway, and National Tier 4 Data Centre

o          holding the stakeholders retreat in a more frequent manner(monthly/quarterly/yearly) in order to boost collaborative endeavors

o          concertedly devising a robust mechanism to avert frequent fibre cuts

o          expanding the scope of the forum to include other players in the ecosystem like those in the innovation space

o          strengthening capacity building initiatives in ICTs and promoting employment creation through internships for young people with career aspirations in ICTs

o          Setting up a Technology Executives Council at Home (TECH) to provide strategic support to the digital transformation process

o          Prioritizing local content development and positioning the Gambia as a Content Hub

o          Developing policy and regulatory instruments on Open Access and Infrastructure Sharing

o          Putting in place mechanisms that will ensure affordable access to meaningful connectivity for all Gambians including women and Persons with disabilities

o          Giving more attention to corporate social responsibilities and contributing to the governments overall socioeconomic transformation agenda

o          Prioritizing the transition from IPV4 to IPV6

o          Addressing national and international redundancy constraints

o          Developing regulations on the utilization of the ECOWAN

o          Reviewing the ICT sector tax regime

o          Harmonizing ICT sector resources to ensure adequate funding of interventions

In his closing remarks, The Honorable Minister applauded the high-level representation from Operators, describing it as a demonstration of their commitment to the digital transformation process and national development to a larger extent. He assured the meeting of his Ministry’s resolve in creating the enabling environment in close collaboration with the Regulator of the sector, PURA, to help provide quality and affordable connectivity to all and sundry.

The Retreat concluded with an award ceremony where a Certificate of Appreciation was given to the Gambia Cyber Crime Alliance, Africell Company and Insist Global, as the best three presentations.