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A Controversial Conference Adopts Somaliland ICT Vision 2025
Hargeysa, Somaliland, January 26, 2008 (SL Times) – A vision to guide Information Communication Technology in Somaliland until the year 2025 had been adopted at a controversial 3-day conference held in Hargeysa during last week.
The conference envisioned a “Somaliland that is ICT driven, built upon good governance, an enabling infrastructure, universal access for all, heightened skill development that is aligned to local environment and ethics as embodied in participatory regulatory frameworks which all contribute to the socio-economic, cultural and technological growth of Somaliland”.
The meeting was attended by around 200 people who were said to represent ICT providers and users in both the public and private sectors as well as among members of the civil society.
The meeting was opened by the Somaliland minister for Post and Telecommunication Liban Duale Asayr who said the government was committed to develop a long term ICT strategy and policies while creating an enabling regulatory environment.
A 15-member board purporting to be the “National Information Committee” was also introduced at the conference by a facilitator from the UNDP.
According to UNDP officers who led most of the conference discussions, the NIC mainly represented telecommunication companies, government regulators and line ministries, media, the youth, women groups and the civil society. However media business leaders complained that they were under-represented both in the preparatory stage and during the conference as well.
“As the chief disseminator of information, the media should have been sufficiently involved in the discussions on the ICT, but what we see is a process that the public knew nothing about how it started in the first place and by whom,” said Abdillahi Dahir, publisher of the Somali language daily Saxansaxo.
Other controversial issues raised during the conference included the legality of the NIC and the government’s draconian new press bill. However conference facilitators maneuvered successfully to block any meaningful discussions and settlement of these two issues from taking place.
Representatives of the country’s 2 Journalists associations also questioned the independence of the so-called NIC.
Abdifatah Eideed from the Somaliland Society for Independent Journalists & Writers said “People in this country are fed up with public organizations that were supposed to be independent ending up as government lapdogs.”
Eideed insisted that the NIC mandate and composition be revisited to ensure that it is representative and independent enough as well as financially viable.
Eideed who is also the assistant editor of Haatuf newspaper added that in the face of the government’s increasing intolerance of freedom of the press, people’s access to one of the most important and easiest means of expression becomes threatened.
However some of the conference participants showed support for the introduction of restrictions on the media freedom. One such participant was the representative of the Somaliland Academy for Peace and Development Bobe Yusuf Duale who accused the press of committing immoral practices such as violation of privacy and slander against officials.
“The press should not become a license to insult people” said Bobe while admitting that his response actually stemmed from an opinion letter in which one of Haatuf’s readers criticized him for allegedly not defending Somaliland’s right for self-determination sufficiently enough during a symposium conference held in Djibouti last month.
Source: Somaliland Times