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The Need for Digital Literacy in Sierra Leone

I started using computers in 2001. I had just finished my senior secondary school. My Mother was keen to see all of us her children got basic computer training. She had heard a lot from my Father’s friend, a Sierra Leonean who had spent decades in Germany and who is also an IT guru and had worked for Bosche in Germany but had returned to Sierra Leone to help set up a sustainable IT system for the government. He was always in our house and would always talk about the importance of ICT and how it is changing the west. Mama was greatly impressed with his ideas and was quick to ask me to go to Computech Training Centre to go and find out what the intake process was. I started my course in July and got graduated in December. I had learnt courses from Windows Explorer to Power Point. I could use them all swiftly and at ease. I soon started going to internet cafes and learned how to open emails and using them.

However, I realized on finishing my course that the lack of access to computers was killing my knowledge and slowly my interest in computers. The cost of internet services at internet cafes was so much that I could not afford it. I was just a school leaver and still waiting for my examinations results. The internet was very slow and thirty minutes seems like forever. Your time will finish without you accessing your email account. The intermittent power supply system was also a big issue that pose a significant threat to digital literacy in Sierra Leone. I visited the country last August and I could count the number of days I accessed the internet. Mobile companies charge extremely high for internet service in Sierra Leone and most times customers do not get the service they pay for. This compound by the lack of internet security makes it very difficult for the average Sierra Leonean to access the internet.

Sierra Leone is still emerging from a devastating decade old conflict that witnessed over 50,000 people murdered in cold blood, lots of its infrastructure destroyed and millions displaced. An aftermath of the war is a growing youthful population, there is an estimated 42% of young people below the age of 15 and 52% is women. Most of the population are illiterate and lack the basic skills that could see them play a meaningful role in the country’s fledging economy. Digital literacy is crucial in changing the lives of the bulk of Sierra Leone’s population - most of whom lack this. Protection of privacy while using the internet is a very important factor but most cafes in Sierra Leone do not recognize or respect this. Internet cafes are generally overcrowded-one maybe using the internet while a host of others would be standing behind you and watching your stuffs online; this usually send others away.

The government through its ministry of education, science and technology should introduce digital literacy at the primary and secondary schools levels. At this moment only few private schools have made digital literacy a priority. And the cost of attending these private schools cannot be afforded by the majority. People in informal educational sector such as carpentry, plumbing, hairdressing, cleaning, farming et al must all be given the opportunity to have digital education. The internet is key in enhancing perfection in their careers. Training on modern marketing, branding in a connected world, and how to leverage search, content marketing and social media are highly needed for Sierra Leoneans to communicate, collaborate and sustain their digital environment which at this moment is almost none existent. There is also the need for proper regulatory policies on mobile companies and other internet providers, to ensure that consumers are getting value for money.

Having digital education would be futile if people do not have an internet service that is accessible, affordable, available and secured. The handfuls of people who use the internet in the country do not feel secured online. Monotony leads to specialization; having digital knowledge is not enough if people do not have a place where they can utilize the knowledge gained. There is a need for digital libraries in schools as well as in communities in order to handle the problem holistically.

This story was written for World Pulse’s Women Weave the Web Digital Action Campaign. Learn more »

Comments

Keating's picture

Dear Mkandeh

I wonderful reading- Thank you xx

Quote: "The government through its ministry of education, science and technology should introduce digital literacy at the primary and secondary schools levels. At this moment only few private schools have made digital literacy a priority."

YES !!! This is something that every child needs to be taught in every school, not just private schools.

Thanks so much, once again for enlightening me with what is going on in your world education wise.

Love and hugs

Robby

Mkandeh's picture

Thanks Robby

Thanks Robby for the support. I also think digital literacy is something African leaders must include in school curriculum. It is especially important for people in rural communities where literacy rate is very low.
Thanks again
XO

MS Kandeh

PohChing's picture

Internet Access

Providing fast and total access to internet by relevant authority is a democratic action taken , furthermore, the internet is a communication and education tool. But like a sword, it has two ends, one end its good points and the other end, the bad ones when it is being misused, for example porn websites that are watched by the underage, or fabrications of information that are being believed....or at some countries in this world when there isn't a total freedom of speech, writing comments on the internet can become a risky exercise for these internet users or for those who can be classified as internet activists.

Mkandeh's picture

Thanks Pohching

I really do appreciate your feedback Dear. Together we can make the change.
Bless

MS Kandeh

loueda's picture

Knowledge is not enough- Access!

Hello, Mkandeh.
Thank you for sharing your post. I am thinking about your comment that education is not enough if there is not access to the technology. Reading about how long it takes to check an email brought back memories of when the internet was first introduced in America. I shared your story with a friend and then we shared memories about waiting many minutes for webpages to load. We both agree that it can be very frustrating, especially when one knows how much information is available out there in cyber land. I can hear your earnest desire to make technology available to such a young population in Sierra Leone. I am curious, do you see any danger in internet influences changing the local culture or values? Or, do you believe that access to technology is only a positive for youth in your home country?
Thank you, again, for sharing your experience.
Cole

Mkandeh's picture

Internet influences

Appreciations Cole. For every opportunity there are threats attached to it, so i do agree that the internet could influence changes in our cultures and values but what i do believe as well is we can tap on the opportunity to educate the wider world about our culture and values. By this i don't see our cultures and values dieing easily. Its all depends on how we use the internet. Even with the limited internet access, there's been a significant transformation in the way the youths dress and behave. The internet is also necessary in branding and marketing of the country and its people. there are also lots of opportunities online which young people can take advantage of in building a career for themselves; thus we would have less number of idle and unemployed youths; who from time to time politicians used for their own selfish gains.

Thanks again

MS Kandeh

loueda's picture

Internet Influences

Your comments about sharing your culture with the world really resonate with me. I grow so much every time I learn about a culture other than my own. I am able to see myself in context of my own culture. I begin to awaken to my own assumptions about life and human nature. This new insight makes me a better community member locally. Personally, I am grateful when cultures open in a way that allows an outsider access, but I want to be involved in a way that protects the health and sustainability of the place.

I am heading to Cape Town in a few months because they rebranded their city as a global creative industry hub. The internet allowed for that process to occur (like you said). I will continue to consider your comment about the strength of your culture... not dying easily in the face of the global monoculture. I am inspired to read your comments... balanced but with strength and hope.
Thanks again.

Kristina M's picture

Digital Literacy

MS Kandeh,

I agree that digital literacy is crucial to changing people's lives. I hope as Sierra Leone continues to emerge from it's difficulties, the government realizes that building access to technology is also infrastructure in today's world and will start putting more emphasis on it.

Kristina

Mkandeh's picture

Digital literacy

Thanks Kristina,
Same hopes here darling.
Thanks

MS Kandeh

Thank you for sharing, I like your statement on the internet, thank you also for the reminder African government to introduce digital literacy in primary and secondary schools. You have my support
Hi

sylvie

Mkandeh's picture

Appreciations Sylvie

Thanks for the support Sylvie.

MS Kandeh

muhorakeye's picture

Merci pour votre partage, je

Merci pour votre partage, je suis fortement interese par votre de déclaration sur l'internet, je vous remercie aussi pour le rappel gouvernement africain à introduire l'alphabétisation numérique dans les écoles primaires et secondaires.merci

Muhorakeye Esperance

Mkandeh's picture

Appreciations

Thanks a million for your support Muhorakeye Esperance. We have to keep reminding our governments on the needs of the people until these needs are met and at this moment, digital literacy for primary and secondary schools is one urgent need if we are to achieve development and contest with other countries in the globe.
Merci pour votre soutien

MS Kandeh

erincriley's picture

Wonderful!

This is brilliant. Thank you so much for sharing your story. This quote was really intense: "Sierra Leone is still emerging from a devastating decade old conflict that witnessed over 50,000 people murdered in cold blood, lots of its infrastructure destroyed and millions displaced. An aftermath of the war is a growing youthful population, there is an estimated 42% of young people below the age of 15 and 52% is women."

Thank you for providing such statistics in your pieces. It really shows how devastating Sierra Leon was in the past and how much you have had to overcome so many challenges. You show that many women need to have an education in computer and digital literacy!

Mkandeh's picture

Thanks

Thanks for your comments Erincriley.
Blessings

MS Kandeh

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