The path towards information society is the main theme of this report. The status of the infrastructure of ICTs in the economy and on society can only be felt if their availability, accessibility and use in the country are adequately understood. The answer lies in understanding the impact of the growth of ICTs and also in understanding their potential as enablers for service provision in several areas including education, health care, commerce, industry and so on.
In relation to the above, the major findings of the pilot phase of the Scan ICT survey can be divided into three different categories:
- Human Resources Development
- Infrastructure and
Human Resources Development
Human capacity is a crucial factor for the development of any society. The study has demonstrated that the lack of people with ICT skills in The Gambia results mainly from the fact, that there are very few schools that have ICT incorporated in their curricula and the number of professional training institutes or basic computer training centres is also insignificant. The other important aspect to be considered is the need for formal introduction of ICT. This should include computer-based teaching and learning in education, starting from the tertiary education level and gradually extended to the lower levels. At the same time, the Government should invite the private sector to participate in research and development programs. Applied research should be encouraged, not only to address some of the country’s most pressing problems, but also to build a critical mass towards the creation of a national ICT industry.
As referred in previous sections, the national ICT infrastructure is poorly developed. The telecommunications network is almost limited to the urban and semi-urban areas. In the rural areas the citizens have to face not only the scarcity of access points to basic telecommunications services, but also the poor quality and the high costs of such services. In our opinion, the Government should combine the different initiatives and build partnerships with the private sector and international funding agencies, aimed at reducing the gap between rural and urban areas with regard to ICT infrastructure. Taking into consideration that the Gambia is financially a developing country, it will be very important to choose the right solutions both technically and economically. In that regard, small projects such as the telecentres and the internet cafés could certainly have a bigger impact for the development of the community than any mega-projects, because of the cost implications for the beneficiaries and sustainability of the processes.
In relation to Policy issues, the Government has put a lot of efforts into creating an enabling environment for ICT development, by establishing an ICT Information Policy and the respective Implementation Strategy, as well as introducing reforms in the telecommunications sector. However, the dynamics of the national economy requires more substantial changes to satisfy the needs and expectations of the ICT market. In our opinion, the Government must undertake the necessary steps immediately, in order to accommodate the present and future ICT needs and related initiatives in the country, taking into account the Regional and International development trends in the ICT sector. Affordable and reliable sources of energy are a big hindrance to ICT development in the country and therefore, demands a high investment.