By: Abdul Karim Koroma – Ethiopia

Sierra Leone’s Deputy Minister of Internal Affairs, Hon. Sheka Tarawalie, has said that inasmuch as ICTs would bring tremenodous and enormous benefits to Africa, a failure to put priority on cyber security could mean disaster for all. 

Speaking at the 7th E-Gov Africa summit at the Commonwealth Resort of Munyonyo, Kampala City, in Uganda, with the theme ‘E-Gov Policies, Practice And Innovations: The Road Ahead For Africa,’ Hon. Tarawalie outlined Sierra Leone’s ICT progress culminating to the landing of the ACE fibre optic cable, but emphasised that, “Indeed we know the advantages that ICTs bring in accelerating progress in all sectors, but we are also not oblivious of the fact that there are those out there who would want to manipulate and abuse the system by stealing people’s personal details, promoting pornography, hacking on classified documents, and spreading pedophilia, and money laundering. The cyber criminals are always out there, and what we are now saying is that we need to put priority on cyber security so that the disadvantages will not outweigh the advantages.”

Tarawalie said the Ministry of Internal Affairs will train special police personnel and immigration officers for the specific purpose of fighting cyber crimes. He revealed that government has already been working on a dedicated information security system in collaboration with the Chinese company ZTE.

He also noted that there would be no substantial progress in ICT access for the people without a strong political will. “In Sierra Leone, President Ernest Bai Koroma has demonstrated a passionate political will by rendering unflinching support to ICT progress. And his being the Chairman of the ICT Council tells the story,” he maintained. Minister Tarawalie also said ICT progress is not a one-ministry affair. “We can say the Ministry of Information and Communications has so much to do with ICT, but without the electricity provided by the Ministry of Energy, it would not mean much; and now we are saying, without cyber security, it could become a distasteful experience.”

The Minister thrilled his audience to a rousing applause when he said, “On a somewhat personal note, I think I am the Minister that is most representative of the Commonwealth. As you already know, I am from Sierra Leone, a Commonwealth country; my wife is from Rwanda, which is now a Commonwealth country; and she in fact grew up, went to school, and started work here in Uganda, another Commonwealth country; and then, perhaps the big one, my wife and I actually met and got married in England, the headquarters of the Commonwealth…”

The Deputy Minister’s trip was wholly sponsored by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) on the request of the CTO.