Improving Quality Education and Research Capacity through Advanced ICT Services: Lessons of NREN Implementation in Sierra Leone
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Sierra Leone is just 12 years from a devastating conflict and still suffers from serious gaps in its infrastructure. The average adult has had just 3.3 years of schooling, and adult literacy rates are around 43%. Among its six million people, 60% live below the national poverty line. While there are many needs in Sierra Leone, previous experience has shown that universities can play a key role in social and economic development. To achieve this, universities need adequate Information and Communication Technology (ICT) facilities, sufficient collections of educational online resources, and with so much now online - reliable internet connections. This paper outlines ongoing work to support Sierra Leone as the country develop its higher education and research capacity to tackle development challenges. The paper provide guidelines to government, institutions, and development partners on how to approach the provision of advanced ICT services to the higher education and research community in Sierra Leone. The paper describes the proposed ICT services and expected beneficiaries. The timing is appropriate as it coincide with the rollout of fibre optic connectivity to universities and schools in Sierra Leone. The premise of the report that the organization of ICT services and connectivity for higher education and research institutions is best provided by a dedicated organization called the National Research and Education Network (NREN) is based on international best practice and the current plans of the stakeholders in the region. Finally, the paper discusses the lessons learnt from collaborations with development partners to improve research capacity and access to research resources and the establishment of a vibrant National Research and Education Network for national development in Sierra Leone.