Gambia

Interview with Poncelet O. Ileleji

“A Lot of Emphasis Needs to be Placed on Capacity Building in the Industry”

What e-content means in Gambia:

A: E-content, in Gambia, can be basically defined as the complete production of
electronic material for use in one form or the other making use of various ICT
components.

What is the current status of e-content in your country, including national e-content development across all the sectors of the industry?

Gambia, since the advent of the Internet Gateway in the summer of 1998, has experienced a number of significant changes in the use of information communication technology in general, be it from Government offices or various non-governmental agencies and international organizations, etc.

The rise of the number of organizations, schools etc., having e-mail accounts and web presence has shown the importance e-content will play in the future of Gambia by 2010. The Government is putting in place a structure that will bring the rapid development of the Information Superhighway into Gambia, which is what e-content basically depends on. The establishment of the Department of State for Information Communication Technology in Gambia gives credence to this.

E-content as an acronym or phrase not common, but putting it in the form of ‘electronic content development’ will bring a whole wave of developments that will take place in the terms of use of e-content to the minds of many Gambians who have produced e-content in one form or the other.

The recent production of a multimedia CD by the Gambia Investments Promotion and Free Zones Agency or GIPFZA (http://www.investinginthegambia.gm), during the recently concluded AGOA summit in June 2003 (African Growth and Opportunity Act) shows how, on the overall, various sectors are now taking the production of e-content as a means of socio-economic development, and above all, the marketing of Gambia to the International community by the Gambia Tourism Authority (http://www.visitthegambia.gm) and the Gambia Chambers of Commerce and Industry (http://www.gcci.gm) have made various strides through the use of e-content to encourage investments.

The Department of State for Education has a computer literacy program which, in conjunction with partners like World Links (www.world-links.org) and Peace Corps, have shown how important ICTs can lead to e-content production. A good example was the successful pilot stage of the World Links e-learning project that some Gambian teachers took part in involving other Anglophone World Links countries and India from March to June 2003.

One must also note the importance of the Gambia Telecommunications Company (www.gamtel.gm) together with the leading Internet Service provider in the Gambia, QauntumNET (www.qanet.gm) to the impact in ICT use in Gambia. The advent of the GAMCEL (www.gamcel.gm) the Gambia Telecommunications Company subsidiary cellular company and Africell (www.africell.gm), the privately owned cellular company have also contributed.

The transformation of all phone lines from six digits to seven digits is a clear sign of how communication trends are moving with times in Gambia. All these factors cannot be overlooked if we are to talk about e-content because ICTs development is the backbone of e-content development.

Which e-content area is best developed in your country?

Areas of e-content that have really progressed in Gambia are e-government, e-culture and e-entertainment along with the Gambian Graphic and Print industry etc. In the area of e-learning, the Department of State for Education is doing well in the promotion of distance learning through the Gambia College, the World Links e-learning pilot programme, etc.

The Department of State for Health and Social Welfare in Gambia (www.dosh.gm) is making significant strides in e-content development and organizations like Sight Savers International have also done a lot in terms of the promotion and the use of telemedicine.

Which sectors in your country are the leaders in e-content development?

The Government of His Excellency Alhaji Dr A J J Jammeh has definitely taken the lead in the promotion and the use of ICT causing a significant and steady rise in both governmental, and private and non-governmental agencies making use of e-content.

Please describe the progress of e-content development in your country.

The Internet Gateway launched in 1998 played a significant role in the development and use of e-content. However since 2000, a steady increase has taken place, at par with the ICT rapid development in the country.

Please list the major initiatives which have influenced and spurred the development of e-content in your country.

The Internet Gateway, the proliferation of cyber cafes around the country, mobile phone accessibility for all at an affordable rate, national television, more radio stations etc. have spurred on the development of e-content.

What have been the major bottlenecks in the development of e-content in your country?

More needs to be done in terms of the development of a sustainable human resource base to manage the sector as it expands i.e. a lot of emphasis needs to be placed on capacity building in the industry.

In developed countries ICT has become part of daily life and e-content development is primarily left to the initiatives of individuals or organizations. On the other hand, in less developed countries, the development of e-content is largely dependent on ICT infrastructure. Please give a detailed analysis of the situation in your country.

E-content development is dependent on the successful implantation of a core ICT infrastructure since the two are intertwined.

How would you describe the ICT scenario in your country? Please describe it in terms of infrastructure, penetration, acceptance and policies.

The Gambia Telecommunications Company has definitely put structures in place to make Internet access available all around the country. Prices, however, of software and hardware are still things we have to grapple with as we do not produce them although the structures needed to make them function are in place.

As an expert in your country, what would be the five most important pillars of e-content development?

» Human Resource Development is a key factor to e-content development: a strong ICT-suave youth population is essential.

» The maintenance of key ICT infrastructure in the country and adequate expansion to meet the increase in demand in terms of mobile phones, telephones and the expansion of bandwidth for Internet access.

» Local development and greater assemblage of computer parts and accessories locally is necessary.

» There should be more local content development by agencies / organizations of what they do on the World Wide Web.

» The improvement of electricity supply and more use of alternative energy supply to generate electricity for the country at large.

Please explain which is the most preferred medium for e-content development: Print, TV, the Internet, Radio, Mobile/Wireless or a combination of some of these?

Mobile phones have fast become widely popular in Gambia; hence I include them as the most important medium. The number of FM radio stations and the proliferation of Internet cyber cafes shows these are other favorable media including the TV, for e-content development.

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