From Awareness Times Newspaper in Freetown

Sierra Leone’s Useless Internet Service
By Sylvia Olayinka Blyden
Aug 26, 2010, 17:14

I see some excitement with Minister I.B. Kargbo making some sounds of pride over the so-called first position that Sierra Leone scores in some questionable Poll conducted by some obscure entity who have probably never had to suffer the pains of trying to access the Internet from within Sierra Leone. I really do not know what people are being gleeful over. We are living in the Dark Ages in this country as far as Internet Access is concerned and the Communications Minister should actually be hanging his head in shame than showcasing what he believes is a source of pride!

I started working with the Internet in 1994 using simple e-mails via Baobab service as a Medical Student in Freetown. My first full exposure to the World Wide Web was in 1995 during my stint at the Medical University of South Carolina. I fell in love with the Internet back then and since 1995 to date, I have been hooked to the Internet but the last few years in Sierra Leone have been the most frustrating for me as an Internet Hobbyist and Professional Website Developer. I have not even bothered to learn the excitement of Facebook and other Social Networking sites as the Internet here is so slow, it can be frustrating.

So, as an Internet Hobbyist with at least 15 years of Internet experience under my belt and as one who has worked on Internet development in four different continents at various points in time, my own reading of the results that has placed Sierra Leone ‘Number One’ in terms of Limited Downloaded Threats from Internet is that we have so few people successfully logging on to the Internet in Sierra Leone that the risk of threats being downloaded from the Internet is infinitesimal!

Our people have been suffering in silence all this time but let me use this opportunity to state unequivocally that our National Internet Service availability is a shame to this country. How we honestly expect to rebrand this country and make it attractive to investors when we cannot even provide reliable Internet service in this country, is a wonder!

When I returned home from America, I used my entrepreneurial skills to start operating the country’s first 24-Hours Internet Cafe along Lumley Roundabout in 2003 and by July 2005, I was operating a second 24-Hours Internet Cafe along Rawdon Street in Central Freetown and was poised to expand even further with the now-defunct DATATEL as my ISP. Today, I have shut down both of the Internet cafes just like many other Cafe operators; in total frustration at the slow speed of the Internet Bandwidth being served to commercial customers.

There are many reasons for why the Internet Service in Sierra Leone is so slow and totally unreliable; one of the primary ones has to do with exorbitant charges by NATCOM on residents wishing to operate private or commercial Internet VSAT links. There are numerous other reasons why the country’s ISPs simply cannot shape up. However, these reasons can be surmounted by a well-focussed and streamlined communications policy which is sorely lacking.

Lamentably, it appears that the policy makers are either too archaic to properly understand the Internet or they are limited in their understanding of the important proportional link between national development and a good Internet Access.

Indeed, all this while, us users have to groan in silence as we are subjected to the pains of living in a country which could clearly win the prize as the place where they have most useless National Internet Service ever.

So please it is important for Hon. Minister I.B. Kargbo to realise that our Internet Threats’ Number One position is nothing to gloat or be happy about. It is simply a sign of the sheer uselessness of our ability to access the Internet. If we cannot adequately access the Internet then we simply cannot be exposed to or be affected by Internet Security Threats!

Bottomline, Sierra Leone’s Internet Service is a massive shame. I only hope the folks at NATCOM, the Ministry of Communications, the Vice President’s ICT Office will soon wake up from their slumber and give this country the quality of Internet Service it needs to speed up its development and truly take it into the 21st Century. Right now, this country is many decades behind the rest of the World as far as Internet Service Provision are concerned and this is why we are ranked Number One. An introspective look will reveal that our current Rank is actually a reflection of what is truly a big shame to us and is really nothing to write home about.

© Copyright 2005, Freetown, Sierra Leone.