A Newer and Newer Liberia

By Sean McDonald. Reposted from the FrontlineSMS:Legal blog

In an unfortunately familiar near-panic, negotiating with a would-be immovable airline desk agent, I learned something about Liberia in specific, and progress in general.  Solutions are better than rules and the new will never succeed without building on the old.

I was in Monrovia to attend the first ever Mobile Innovations Conference (MICO), which focused on ways to use mobile phones to augment the work of Liberia’s burgeoning civil society. The Conference, which was hosted by the International Research and Exchanges Board (IREX) and USAID, brought together media organizations from all over the country, election officials, the nation’s largest mobile service provider, USAID, cabinet ministries, civil society representatives, superintendents’ (governors) offices, and a handful of technology organizations.  Through presentations and brainstorming sessions (and, as with any conference, lunch), we began to talk about both the opportunities and the challenges that face Liberian civil society.

Liberia is a country that is still hamstrung by the ravages of their civil war. Literacy hovers at 30 percent. The poverty is staggering and pervasive. There is little-to-no infrastructure. The better-off have reliable electricity provided by privately owned generators that run on scarce and expensive fuel. The undersea cable that is hoped to bring an affordable Internet to Liberia won’t make landfall until at least next year.  It seems bleak.

Just like that day at the airport........(read more on the FrontlineSMS:Legal blog)