Sierra Leone Press Needs IT Training, Experts Say

The Sierra Leonean media has fallen behind in the use of IT, said Tonya Musa, a media consultant and lecturer at Fourah Bay College, in an interview after a training program for journalists last week.

"Media in greater parts of West Africa, especially Sierra Leone, are still below the digital divide, but we have to understand that Sierra Leone is just coming out of war and is trying to pick up in other areas of development," Musa said.

Former Liberian President Amos Sawyer made similar comments at a recent lecture, calling the media's use of IT one of the challenges facing governance in post-conflict states. Both Sierra Leone and Liberia lack the technological tools to disseminate information, as they have been deprived of these facilities by war, he said.

In this era of digital information, media practitioners in Sierra Leone have yet to explore the value of communication technologies such as webcasting, simulcasting, online publishing, online TV and satellite transmission, Musa noted, stressing the need for digital systems to be incorporated by the press.

Sierra Leone Deputy Minister of Information and Communications Mohammed Koroma, who was a practicing journalist before his appointment last year, admitted that IT is new to the country's journalists and stressed that the press must embrace technology through training programs.

"We need to cry to the media world -- the BBC, The New York Times, The Washington Post -- to come and improve our ways of living and disseminating information," he said. "We have to cry to the outside world for help to develop our IT sector, because we are very far behind."

The Independent Media Commission, the country's media regulator, must also incorporate IT training programs into its system as a prerequisite for establishing mass communication, Koroma added.

Musa, however, said there is a need to localize technological development for the benefit of the majority of Sierra Leoneans.

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