On January 21st, 2020, the Minister of Telecommunication and Technology, Dr. Abdiweli Soufi Jibril sent a Letter of Intent to the Sierra Leone Minister of Information and Communication Mr. Mohamed Rahman Swaray asking for help and collaboration as well as the use of the top-level Internet domain .sl which is registered for the government of Sierra Leone.“We, the Ministry of information and Communication Technologies of Somaliland, would like to submit this Letter of Intent (Lol) to acquire your support and collaboration in the ICT industry, including having a commercial partnership with your esteemed office regarding the internet Top Level Domain.” Dr. Abdiweli wrote.
Dr. Abdiweli, the Minister of Technology and Telecommunication of Somaliland has promised during his confirmation hearing at the Parliament to move Somaliland to its own domain and issued a directive prohibiting the use of the .so TLD that belongs to neighboring Somalia.
In addition, the Minister promised to get Somaliland its own telephone country code, making Somaliland a technological hub among other lofty goals if confirmed by parliament.
It is unclear if Dr. Abdiweli was familiar with the concepts governing ccTLD and aware that the .sl is in fact Sierra Leone’s country code top-level domain prior to committing before Parliament, and that sharing a country code top-level domain with another country is an unorthodox way of solving the problem.
Although Dr. Abdiweli declined to comment on whether Sierra Leone has given him a response to his request for collaboration and use of its ccTLD, the Ministry of Telecommunication and Technology has settled on the generic govsomaliland.org for Somaliland’s government portal.
According to sources present at the latest ICT Conference held by the Ministry of Information and Technology where the Somaliland Government Portal was unveiled, the new portal was described as “a disappointment and nothing more than a WordPress site with many links that lead to nowhere”.
Sources at the Ministry of Communication and Technology who spoke to the Somaliland Chronicle on condition of anonymity state that the new government portal cost more than US$120,000 which includes the purchase of US$15,000 worth of Internet Protocol addresses.
Despite the hefty price tag to develop the website and purchasing of more than half a million dollars worth of hardware by the ministry last year, the website is hosted on the budget Bluehost service provider.
In September 2019, following an extraordinary session of President Bihi’s cabinet, the government of Somaliland announced the implementation of e-government as well as the inclusion of information technology in the national curriculum, but neither has materialized.
On January 20th, President Bihi sacked the Director-General of the Ministry of Telecommunication and Technology Mr. Ali Abdillahi Dahir along with many other officials.
No reason was given on why Mr. Dahir was relieved of his duties.
The West African nation of Sierra Leone does not stand out as a technological heavyweight, and besides the fact that it owns the .sl country code top-level domain, it is unclear in which other areas Sierra Leone can assist Somaliland in developing its information technology sector.
In contrast, Taiwan, Somaliland’s new ally is considered a global powerhouse in information technology and although it has not been announced yet, information technology is one of the areas that Taiwan is expected to assist Somaliland in as part of the agreement signed last year by the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of Taiwan and Somaliland as part of the bilateral ties between the two countries.
This article first appeared in the Somaliland Chronicle and is republished with permission