By: Zacharia Jalloh, Strategic Communications Unit MIC
The Minister of Information and Communications Honourable Mohamed Rahman Swaray on Thursday 5th August 2021 honored an invitation by the Mass Communications Department of the University of Makeni for the delivery of a public lecture on the recently enacted Cyber Security and Crime Act 2021 at the University’s auditorium.
It was a spectacular scene at the University campus as the Honourable Minister and his delegation received a warm welcome to grace the program organized by the executive of the Mass Communications Department of Unimak.
The Minister started off by commending the hard work of the newly elected executive of the department and implored them to use their knowledge and capability in enhancing the growth of the media. He didn’t waste time to gauge their level of awareness of students of the Act passed by the House of Parliament by asking them if they are aware of the Act, and the students did not disappoint as almost all of them in the hall raised their hands in acknowledgement.
The Honourable Minister said the reasons for the enactment of the Cyber Security and Crime Act was as a result of the internet becoming a critical infrastructure and facilitator of engagements for individual users, businesses and governments across the world. According to the him, it is against this backdrop that H.E President Julius Maada Bio during his state opening of parliament in 2018, promised to use digital technology to transform the economy to a middle level economy as we live in a digital era.
“A successful economy is hinged on a secured, safe and resilient national digital ecosystem. Cybersecurity is, therefore, very critical to the economic development of our country and essential for the protection of the rights of individuals within the national digital ecosystem,” averred Minister Swaray.
The lecture was interactive as students were grappling with what the Minister was saying about the importance of Cyber Security. He furthered informed them about the exponential increase in the use of digital technologies in our daily activities with about 6.9 million (87% compared to 65% pre-2018) of the country’s population using mobile voice coverage and about 25% (compared to 12% in 2018) accessing broadband internet. He also informed them about the 700,000 social media users (Facebook and whatsapp) in the country with an average growth of about 15% which was recently validated by Sierra Polls survey report which shows that 68% of the respondents are using social media.
“As a responsible government we must create a predictable and trusted environment that ensures the development and provisions of such services for our citizens, increasing their choices as well as guarantee their digital freedom and rights,” said the Minister as he assured the students of their safety and protection on the internet.
In July this year, after serious public scrutiny, the house of parliament unanimously passed the landmark Cyber Security and Crime Act 2021. The law is the most progressive piece of legislation parliament has passed in our life time that borders around the conduct and protection of the users of the cyberspace. The Minister continued to say, the passage of the legislation is in fulfillment of many treaties Sierra Leone had signed up to, for example the Malabo convention and the ECOWAS directives on cybercrime that are consistent with the provisions of the Budapest convention all of which are in tandem with the provision of fundamental human rights and privacy, and freedom of speech.
The Minister made it very clear that the Act is not to witch hunt politicians but focuses on cyber crimes on electronic devices. “This Act helps protect the information that you, me, governments, businesses and others keep online or in the cyberspace which includes our communications that is phone calls, emails, video messaging, internet banking, military infrastructure, bank accounts details and other critical national infrastructures,” said the Minister.
In concluding, the Honourable Minister encouraged the students to nurture the culture of reading and to eschew hear say and unsubstantiated claims. He challenged them to study hard as they might one day be Minister of Information and Communications.
The session ended with questions from the students and the Minister articulated all of their questions to their satisfaction.