BACKGROUND TO THE MINISTRY OF INFORMATION AND COMMUNICATION
The Ministry is one of the oldest Ministries of the Government of Sierra Leone dating back to the colonial period. It was established to gather and disseminate information on Government activities and programmes. In 2007, the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting was renamed “The Ministry of Information and Communication” in a bid to widen its scope and activities to include ICT. Following this development, the Ministry was re-branded, its scope widened and activities regenerated to include Information, Communications and Technology. With the emergence of ICT as the engine of growth in modern day economy, the Ministry has grown in scope and importance.
The Ministry is the primary stakeholder of ICT related policies and is tasked with overseeing the development, review and implementation of the Government’s information and communication agenda. The Ministry has mandated the preparation of ICT Policy document and is responsible for its regular review and update.
As Government business and the need for increased service delivery grew, the capacity of the Ministry to effectively perform the expanded functions became questionable. New institutions and management structures had to be developed, resulting in the hiving-off of some of the functions originally performed by the Ministry. Despite this shift, the Ministry still maintains an outdated structure that does not reflect its current operational functions, and therefore considerably impedes its efficiency. We recognize this shift in function and the existing structure, and have accordingly recommended an organogram reflecting the mandate of the current Ministry of Information and Communications.
Associated with the structural incongruity is the problem of lack of human resource capacity in the Ministry. This has been compounded by the recent addition of new units to the existing Ministry. Implicitly, effective management and development of the human resource capital remains one of the major challenges faced by the Ministry. It lacks a comprehensive structural organogram, personnel deployment plan, and training plan.
“To provide the people of Sierra Leone with reliable and timely public information; promote the development of information and communications infrastructure; and ensure the availability of accessible, efficient, reliable and affordable ICT services with the purpose of enhancing the quality of life of the people of Sierra Leone and contribute to the socio-economic development of the country.
To transform Sierra Leone into a competitive and prosperous country, through the development, expansion and innovative use of information and communications technologies.
The Ministry draws its mandate from Section 56 of the Constitution (referring to the Assignment of Responsibilities to Ministers and the President) and by the Gazette 2002. There is separate legislation for Sierra Leone Broadcasting Service (SLBS) now the Sierra Broadcasting Corporation (SLBC), the National Telecommunications Commission (NATCOM), Sierra Leone Postal Service Ltd (SALPOST) and Sierra Leone Telecommunications Company Ltd (SIERRATEL) all of which are in the portfolio of the Ministry.
The mandate of the ministry includes the following:
- provide policy guidance and strategic direction on all matters concerning the media, access to public information, broadcasting, telecommunication, postal service and information communication technology.
- Facilitate universal, ubiquitous and cost-effective access to information and communications infrastructure and services throughout the country.
- Promote the utilization of ICT in all spheres of life to optimize the accelerated socio-economic growth and development through dissemination of public information and provision of innovative information and communication technologies.
- Formulate and implement policies of information and communications technology
- provide press and information services to Government ministries and Departments, locally and externally.
The Functions of the Ministry
The Ministry has two main professional directorates, the Directorate of Information and the Directorate of Communications, each headed by a Director.
The Directorate of Information is responsible for all mass media and public education activities, while the Directorate of Communication is responsible for ICT related activities. The Ministry also has the Administrative division which is the coordinating body of the Ministry. This division is headed by the Permanent Secretary. He is the chief Adviser to the Minister on strategic planning and development of policies. He liaises with Heads of the other Directorates for expert advice, when necessary.
The main functions of the Ministry include the followings:
- To ensure, through the office of the Government spokesperson, that all institutions of Government work collaboratively to achieve coherent and effective communications with the public
- To prepare and produce publicity and information materials and disseminate public information locally and internationally.
- To print legal, security and accounting documents as well as educational and general publicity materials for government and semi-government institutions;
- To speak on behalf of the Government
- Develop appropriate policies and strategies that enhance provision of innovative information and communication technology.
- Spearhead the development of appropriate regulatory frameworks that facilitate the promotion and development of the information and communication technology (electronic media, broadcasting, postal services and IT) sector.
- Champion and promote ICT literacy and utilization in the country in order to enhance regional and international competitiveness.
- Promote and coordinate national ICT research and development.
- Develop supportive and enable infrastructure to ensure equitable access to ICTs by all citizens including disadvantage groups and rural communities.
- Create a conducive environment for investment in the areas of ICTs through public private partnerships.
- Represent the Government of Sierra Leone on all matters relating to the ICT sector.
Office of the Government Spokesperson
One of the functions of the Minister is the role of Government Spokesperson. He is assisted by a professional Assistant Government Spokesperson, two press officers and an administrative assistant. The Office assists the Minister in coordinating the information flow from the public to State House and the Government, and from State House and the Government to the public. They prepare daily briefings for the President and organize press conferences on specific issues of concern to the Government and the general public. The Office liaises with GIS and SLENA and is currently the Webmaster for the State House website. It is also developing the Government website for all ministries.
Structure of the Ministry
The Ministry has the Minister at the apex of leadership and a Deputy Minister; the Permanent Secretary, Directors of Communications and Information. The two directors are in charge of the Communications and Information Directorates. The Administration Directorate has one Deputy Secretary, two Assistant Secretaries, Procurement Officer, the Accountant, the Staff Superintendent, Graded Clerks and two Messengers.
The Administration Directorate is the coordinating body of the Ministry. It provides vital services for the entire Ministry including procurement of goods and services, provision of stationery, toiletries and other working logistics. The head of the Administrative Directorate is the Permanent Secretary. He/she is third in command after the Minister and his Deputy. He/she is the Chief Adviser to the Minister on strategic planning and development of policies. He/she liaises with Heads of the other Directorates for expert advice, when necessary. He/she is also the Vote Controller and Accounting Officer responsible to the Minister. He/she ensures that all procurements have value for money and that the finances are properly managed.
3.4.3 The Communications Directorate
The Communications Directorate has a Director of Communications; two Deputy Directors, one for policy and the other for e-Government; seven Chief Technology Officers; 16 ICT Managers, fifteen Senior ICT Officers, Nine ICT Officers, twenty-four Assistant ICT Officers, twenty-three IT Technicians Level 1 and fourteen I. T Technicians, Level II. However, a good number of staff have been posted to Ministries, Departments and Government Agencies.
The Communication Directorate develops and manages Government’s website including that of State House. It liaises with NATCOM and IMC on matters of Communications strategy and policy development in order to ensure that the views of the Regulator and those responsible for implementation are heard. It also liaises with the mobile phone companies and internet service providers. There is an ICT Council chaired by His Excellency the President. The work of the Council is facilitated by the Director of Communications. In the past ICT experts evaded the Civil Service because of low salaries and incentives. This has become a thing of the past as the salaries of the ICT Cadre has been dramatically increased. It may also be worthy to point out that the Directorate liaises with all ICT related projects under the purview of the Ministry including the West African Regional Communications Integrated Project, WARCIP; the ECOWAS Regional Backbone Infrastructure and e-Governance, ECOWAN Sierra Leone; the National Optical Backbone.
The Information Directorate
The Information Directorate is responsible for the dissemination of Government Policies, aspirations, achievements, challenges and future plans to the citizenry. This is done through the media. The Directorate hold Press Conferences every Thursday where their responsibilities are discharged. Press Briefings also discuss topical issues of the week and the implementing Ministry, Department and Agency (MDAs) and the Press are given the opportunity to talk on the issue.