Internet Governance in Liberia

Tuesday 28 September 2010

By Abdullai Kamara, Center for Media Studies & Peace Building

From Liberia, we like to report that the IGF process has subsisted since June with the online forum. This was later metamorphosed into a physical event on August 20.

This forum involved the Government - both the Ministry of Telecommunications and the regulator - Liberia Telecommunications Authority. The discussion also included ISPs, the media, academics, students and especially corporate and ordinary users. In direct notations, there were up to 150 persons subscribed to the forum, while some 50 persons attended the National Meeting.

A major challenge in the process was the slow but eventual involvement of government. There were general delays, but eventually the regulator and then the Ministry got involved. The hosting of the face to face forum was itself delayed because of slow responses from the government. This has however been resolved. Another line of challenge was popular participation. While a number of persons accepted getting subscribed a much lesser number of persons participated on a regular basis, and responses to participation in the physical session was held back.

However the challenges, the main issues of concern to participants were access and security.
Access was blamed to many things including the limitation of infrastructure as well as general illiteracy of the internet. The quality of service was also of concern as a way of spreading access. Security of the internet was linked to the sustenance and future stability. As much as security was a general issue, it was tied to the individual assertiveness. This was seen from the micro level on the personal computer, and on to include online engagements with external sites and services.

Among issues that arose from the discussion was the acceptance that the internet is a key to the future, a part of everyday life and should be protected and made available for all. The meeting also considered that the upgrading of mobile technology has increased internet use in Liberia

The participation of government could push the discussion forward, as they have more information to guide the process. A warm note was made of the fact that there is no censorship in Liberia, but the cause is the limitation of infrastructure, which is in fact a shortcoming.

Recommendations on the way forward

Participants were in general agreement that internet/computer literacy is a key to internet access
The cost of software could be addressed by the utility of open source software, which has limited risks

Awareness - participants agreed to the need to join forces in increasing awareness about internet use across Liberia. Service providers, government and community agreed to support such initiatives through different means.

Participants urged the government and ISPs to consider decentralizing services through the reduction of Service costs and providing capacity in IT use nationwide;