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Information Technology in Gambia
 
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(2008)

IT Equipment Use in the Workplace:
ICT Infrastructure & Statistics:-
In Gambia the rate of use of computers into workplaces is very high; 66.2% of institutions on the average owned / accessed more than one computer whilst 12.0% owned only one PC.

Photocopying machines are normally found and used in most workplaces, on average about 45.8% institutions used photocopying machines but some local government areas reported low usage of copying machines in the workplaces in Mansakonko (11.2%), Kerewan (17.1%) and Janjangbureh (12.5%).

Nationally, the overall availability and usage of other information and communications technology equipments like fax machine and printers in offices is quite high at a rate of 38.5% and 58.7% respectively. The rate of penetration of digital projectors is very low in the offices.

Fax machine Public Key Infrastructure:
The development of a legislative and regulatory framework for the use of information technology in a secured environment is limited.

Communication Links:
There is only one public television station and no private television station in the Gambia but satellite and cable viewing is possible. There are also one public radio, five private radio and three community radio stations.

Projects for Development:
A number of projects have being designed and implemented by government and public institutions to enhance accessibility and use of IT equipments and services in the country.

Equipment for Use in IT Services at Households:
Households mainly obtain information through the use of radio, mobile telephone and television programmes for increased productivity and growth. At national level about 90% of households have radios, 40% have a television and 56% use mobile telephone to send and receive information.

Other information technology equipments and facilities are found in both urban and rural households. The survey results showed that about 2% of individuals in households used computers in the last 12 months whilst only 1% of individuals in households have internet facilities in the same period.

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Internet Access:
The Gambia was the first country to participate in the UNDP's Internet Initiative for Africa programme to assist in creating a low-cost Internet backbone running at 512Kbps via Teleglobe in Canada, with local high speed POPs to provide national coverage.

The first ISP connected to the system was QuantumNet. Online services that are commonly used in the by people are email, web browsing, web hosting, discussion forum and file transfers. Four Internet Service Providers (ISP); Gamtel, QuantumNet and Netpage are licensed to operate and to provide dial-up internet access to the public and to institutions. The technology services provided through dial-up system are cheaper in the Gambia than in many African countries.

With regard to internet connectivity, the survey results revealed that on the average 46.2% of institutions covered have had internet connectivity whilst 22.1% of the workplaces interviewed have their own websites.

Training in the Use of ICT:
Status of ICT in Education sector:-
Computer in officeThe importance of information technology underscores the importance of adopting IT in schools. The availability of computers in the education sector is still very low, on the average and at national level; student-to-computer ratio is 142 students per PC. The availability of computers to pupils increases with increase in the level of education. In fact, 256 students in Lower Basic School have to share one PC whereas 10 pupils in tertiary / higher education share a computer. In the urban areas, there are about 29 students per PC in the Senior Secondary schools whilst there are only 11 pupils per computer in the Vocational schools.

With regard to training received in the use of the IT, there are disparities according to gender. Our survey results shows that there are only 18 percent of the female students enrolled in tertiary education who are in an ICT dominated field whiles there are about 60 percent of the male pupils in the same category who are in an IT dominated field. However, the results concern with Vocational/Technical schools show a higher participation of female in ICT field than the males. There were 17 percent of female student in this school category who are in an IT dominated field as against only 15 percent of male pupils in the same school category are in an ICT dominate field.

The proportion of students and teachers using the internet is very high. About 98.4% of pupils and 98.9% of teachers used the world wide web for email messaging.

Limitations to Access to IT:-

Education-low literacy levels:
To develop the economy and improve the lives of local people we therefore need a basic level of education underpinned by developing a learning culture. The ability to use new technology that is ever changing, acquire relevant knowledge and convey information in a manner that empowers individuals to maximize their natural potential perhaps stands out as the most basic prerequisite. In this regard, opportunities to use ICTS has to be precluded by training and learning.

Low Skilled Workforce:
The proliferation of IT training will provide a future base but now it is important we recognize that the relevant knowledge base and therefore skills required to be competitive or have the competitive edge are lacking. Before we even get in to the IT fields or the lack of it in schools, what first comes to mind is the ongoing debate about the atrocious level of English proficiency in schools. Language forms a fundamental part of development and it is through this that the principle of skill acquisition is based on regardless of which skill one needs to acquire.

Awareness & Sensitization:
“Information is power” to empower and power to act. The completely learning process for us in Africa and The Gambia specifically, is challenged by how quickly we raise the level of awareness of ICTs. At present, the information technology industry in  is focusing more on selling PCs, basic computer training, networking and a few other basic services. The innovation to demonstrate to people what a simple computer program can do for them or their business that can translate to the need for PCs is lacking.

Affordability of Equipment & Services:
Universal usage to and affordability of are inextricably linked. The cost of computers and the price of accessing the World Wide Web are one of the main issues that influence the spread of ICTs. Purchase of equipment is still far beyond the reach of the average citizen. The high price tags compared to other necessities in life act as a barrier to getting to use ICT equipments and services.

Gender Differences:
The high cost of PCs and connectivity keep IT services far beyond the reach of most women. The infrastructure is largely urban-centred. Internet content is overwhelmingly in English. Insufficient attention is given to content in local languages and the use of the Internet for women with low levels of literacy. Gender roles and other cultural factors translates to the fact that women have less time to make use of the latest equipment.


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