Prospecting Technology Advancement in Liberia
By Taa Wongbe
February 12, 2004
With the new peace agreement in Liberia and the existence of a new interim government, Liberia looks to a new chapter in redevelopment and emphasizing on essentials like health, education, agriculture, infrastructure, electricity, water, housing and communication. However, with the limited resources available, the country will look to private companies to assist in the rebuilding of Liberia; particularly, Information Technology.
Much of the world, it seems is taking little notice of the emersion of the immense use of technology in Africa. This is perhaps because Africa has more pressing problems at hand than poor technology infrastructure. It is easy to dismiss these discussions and technologies as lacking importance or as inappropriate in light of more pressing needs such as education, primary health care and aids awareness. This organization does not seek to patronize the lack of technology advancement in Liberia and other African country, but however seeks to acknowledge the potential trends of the use of technology in Liberia and the rest of Africa and the need for human capital to support these new technological advancements. Obviously, technologies that directly address those areas deserve our focus and energies as priorities.
I am convinced, however, that there is no emerging use of technology that holds greater potential to indirectly and directly affect change in the above-mentioned areas and others than that of the Internet. In large portions of rural Africa the issue of getting connected is not an urgently important one, but in the urban centers all over Africa like Monrovia, it has long since taken root as a high priority need for thousands of Liberians. Internet cafes and public access centers are thriving in nearly every country and Liberia is no exception. European and US based companies are investing in former state owned telecoms all over Africa. The Africa One Project, an undersea cable that will surround the continent, holds out great promise for the future. The percentage of users is growing at rates faster than almost any other area of the world.
For third world countries like Liberia to enter and compete in the computer age, Students and Teachers would need training in Information Technology. In Liberia, more than 80% of school children graduate from school without ever having seen or touched a computer in the classroom. Furthermore, the teachers are not trained in the use of computers and there is no form of Information Technology education training in the schools’ curriculum.
There is a need for the Education Ministry to institute a curriculum with technology focus. The curriculum will help students learn about basic computer and prepare students for the Cisco Certified Networking Associate (CCNA) exam and Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer (MCSE) certification, certifications that position students for immediate openings in a needed Information Technology job market.
Companies like Geekcorp.org (http://geekcorps.org/ ) have been instrumental in helping countries in Africa with teaching technology. But they do not venture in countries that are war torn.
Technology is advancing and Liberia cannot be left behind. Technological advancement will help in student participating in programs by the African Virtual University, an interactive-instructional telecommunications network established to serve the countries of Africa. The objective of the AVU is to build capacity and support economic development by leveraging the power of modern telecommunications technology to provide world-class quality education and training programs to students and professionals in Africa. However, without the existence of supporting infrastructure, Liberia cannot be a part of this growing new avenue of education.