By: Willie Bee Tingba, Jr.
President, Liberia IT Students’ Union (LITSU)
Topic: Liberia Has Made Strides in the Technological Space:
My fellow students of zeros and ones; Greetings. Today, I feel and honored and privileged to be given the opportunity to publish this message. Before I begin, let me thank the Almighty God for allowing us to see this day and the rest to come. I would also like to extend, on behalf of all the Liberia Information and Technology Student Union (LITSU), a warm greetings to our President, Dr. George Manneh Weah, our Vice President, Madam Jewel Howard-Taylor, the Speaker and members of the House of Legislature, the Chief Justice and members of the Supreme Court, the Cabinet, other Government officials, peace loving citizens and foreign nationals residing here in Liberia.
As we do every year, on the 26th of July since our founding fathers proclaimed the independence of this Republic, it is our solemn and patriotic duty not only to celebrate our independence, but to also reflect deeply on the path that brought us here today, our successes, challenge and our future.
On Thursday July 26, 2018 we will celebrate our 171st independence day. The events that led to this day began in 1822, when free slaves from the United States of America were relocated to the West Coast of Africa, to a place that would later be known as Liberia. This Independence Day is expected to be celebrated in different parts of the country as well as other parts of the world where Liberians will organize different events to mark the day.
Since the founding of this nation, we have battled, we have persevered, and we have survived as a nation because of faith in God, our resilience as a people, and our determination for peace, reconciliation and development. Indeed, we are a nation today because Providence has been on our side, and our experiences have set us on a forward path of higher achievement as a people.
Today, I write as a passionate ICT advocate and president of LITSU, to expound on the topic, “Liberia Has Made Strides in The Technological Space”. My goal is to draw from previous year’s achievements to help us determine and design the future.
My fellow students, after Liberia’s horrific, senseless, and bloody civil war; a new day began. That new day also began with the rebranding of Liberia through modern technologies. At the beginning of the rebranding efforts circa 2004, Liberia celebrated her 158th independence.
The new day and rebranding of Liberia through technology began with the coming of mobile operators and other small technology schools and firms. Later in year 2007, as the Sirleaf-led Government took over, a wave of changes and new developments in the area of ICTs began to happen. Some of these include: Liberia’s first ICT Conference, the advent of Open Source Software in Liberia, the creation of the Telecommunications Act of 2007 that “reclassified” the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications making it the Policy maker, thereby subsequently giving birth to the Liberia Telecommunications Authority as the Regulator, and the Liberia Telecommunications Corporation as the National Operator; the introduction of BIOMETRIC Systems; the introduction of online radio stations; the authoring of Liberia first book on ICT by Dr. Darren Wilkins, the JFK’s Telemedicine program, Digital Driver’s License, Digital Birth Certificate system, the coming of the ACE Submarine Cable and the CSquared Metro fiber optic network are just a few.
Today my fellow students, we have mobile telephony, computers, internet connection, video conferencing devices, social media and mobile applications in order to communicate with others from across Liberia and the globe. It was not possible earlier. The advantage of change in communication is that it is easy, fast and quick way to communicate.
In former years, it took weeks, if not months for a communication through the mailing system to be achieved. Today, just by the click of the mouse, an email can be sent and response can be gotten in minutes. Better yet, converging technologies have made it possible for communications to take place in real-time. In the financial spectrum, so much progress has been made from bank to bank transaction from bank to customer transaction. As a student, I can now simply use my smartphone to transfer or receive funds; or make tuition payment in a few seconds, just by touching or flipping through a few screens. In the past, I would have to stand in long lines at the various financial institutions. This is the beauty of modern technology.
The education sector continues to advance. In recent times, the African Methodist Episcopal University (AMEU) tested Liberia’s first online learning system which is intended to initially serve graduate students, and subsequently serve the entire student population. This will save students who have busy schedules time and offer them an opportunity to obtain their degree while handling other life related matters. The AMEU online learning initiative also provides students in other parts of the country, including those that are residing in Glahyee Zorpea, Yarwin mehnsoloh District, Nimba County, Grand Gedeh County, Maryland County, Grand Kru County, with internet access to have be able to obtain quality online education.
Another recent national achievement includes the Central bank of Liberia’s (CBL) implementation of the national payment switch, which connects all nine commercial banks in Liberia. This translates into better banking experience for citizens and businesses. In addition, the Liberia Revenue Authority (LRA), for the first time since its establishment, is now allowing corporate customers to pay their taxes online. This initiative is part of the huge efforts by the LRA improve its revenue collection capacity. All these developments have been happening under the new administration of President Dr.George Manneh Weah, and I believe the best is yet to come.
Clearly, my fellow students, we have come a long way and made tremendous progress. The progress that was made in the past set the path and pace at which we want to move and build the future of Liberia through technology. It is clear that the Government of Dr. George Weah has the will to inject ICTs in its Pro-poor Agenda, as was evidenced by the development of the digital registration system at the University of Liberia.
So, my fellow students, we now know where we have come from. The question now is how can we use the progress made and lessons learned to prepare Liberia for the future? What does Liberia’s future look like in the next few years?
Considering what we have achieved and what we have learned, I believe Liberia now needs an institution dedicated to the promotion of ICTs. This proposed institution can be known and styled as the “Commission of Innovations and Technology”, “Ministry of Innovation and Technology” or as it is in Argentina, the “Ministry of Science, Technology and Productive Innovation” This institution will coordinate innovation and technology activities in the country. The institution when created will automate government activities and hospital administration, re-engineer government business processes, and provide consultancy services for all government Ministries, Agencies, Commissions (MACs). This institution will champion e-government, e-health, e-commerce, e-agriculture programs and so on. With e-agriculture, for example, Liberian farmers including my grandmother “Ma Kamah Tingba” who resides and operates a small farm in Glehyee Zorpea, Yarwin Mehnsoloh District, Nimba County, will get the opportunity to see her product advertised and sold across the world.
For the future, we may need to start looking into new and emerging technologies and align them with our economic needs. Cloud computing, Big Data, Nanotechnology, Artificial Intelligence, Robotics, predictive analytics, machine learning and business intelligence, cybersecurity, etc are opening new possibilities to help us manage, operate and change our way of living. We look forward to a time in Liberia, when machines and robots will become part of our economy.
Finally, my fellow students, technology and innovation are critical to growth and development in Liberia. We must learn from the past and build on the progress made to develop our country for a better future. As future leaders of this youthful nation, I urge you to continue being creative, innovative and patriotic.
Let me stop here by saying that technology is here to stay, we cannot escape from it, let’s get used to it.
ABOUT THE AUTHORWillie Bee Tingba, Jr. is a student reading Infrastructure Management/Computer Science at the United Methodist University (UMU). He is a student ICT Advocate, and currently serves as the President at the Liberia Information Technology Students Union (LITSU).He can becontacted on the following numbers and email addresses 0777538605/0880321976. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org / email@example.com