The Ministry of Telecommunication and Technology of Somaliland has outsourced the creation of the Address System for Hargeisa, the capital of the Republic of Somaliland, to a private company called GEOSOL.
GEOSOL is currently managing the land records of Hargeisa Municipality for exuberant fees to the public and Mr. Abdirahman Aideed SOLTELCO, the former mayor of Hargeisa, is reported to be a major stakeholder in GEOSOL.
The Ministry of Telecommunication and Technology has so far paid 400 million Somaliland Shillings or roughly 74,000 US dollars to GEOSOL. Details of the agreement with GEOSOL are scarce and it is unclear what the contract entails and if Hargeisa Municipality is a stakeholder, the project’s price tag, and if GEOSOL will charge the public for the address assignment service or if this engagement will be rolled out nationwide in the future.
”We are introducing a postal addressing system for the first time in Somaliland history. The new addressing system will make it easy for residents should know which district they live in, their street name, door number, and zip code to receive and send national and international parcels and other delivery packages. Furthermore, the service will create new job opportunities for citizens for new services such as deliveries, post services, and E-Commerce.” the Ministry said in a statement published on its website.
Although successive governments have been promising to get postal services up and running, Somaliland does not have a functioning postal service and the public relies on private package couriers for local and international shipments.
In addition, the Ministry of Telecommunication and Technology has spent over 100,000 US dollars in verifying Somaliland’s government social media pages. This is according to anonymous sources with direct knowledge of the project. Verification of social media accounts for public figures and institutions is free but requires a basic understanding of the various platforms to navigate their qualifying requirements.
During his confirmation by Somaliland Parliament, Dr. Abdiweli Abdillahi Soufi has promised that he will work to ensure that Somaliland has its own telephone country code and an internet top-level domain, neither has materialized so far but records examined by Somaliland Chronicle show the Ministry has paid various consultants over 53,000 US dollars in 2021 for telephone country code.
One company tasked with getting Somaliland its own telephone code is Mind Power Consulting a three-person company and seems to have little to do with telecommunications. For the top-level domain, the Minister has asked Sierra Leone if Somaliland can share its top-level domain. Sierra Leone owns the .sl top-level domain.
A source from the Ministry of Telecommunication and Technology, who spoke on condition of anonymity, described how the Minister finds and vets vendors as “nothing more than throwing a rock at google and seeing what comes up”. This is despite lofty goals of establishing an “e-cabinet” system in collaboration with the Presidency, according to the Ministry’s e-government Strategic Plan.
Although the Minister has been promising to deliver an e-government system for years among others including interconnecting various telecom providers, it does not appear that an e-government system would go live soon to enable Somaliland’s highly connected population to consume government services digitally.
Taiwan, a technology powerhouse that has signed an agreement with the government of Somaliland to help with the digitization of citizen services, but it is unclear if Taiwan is offering technical expertise, equipment, or the funding of an e-government system for Somaliland.
Although it is uncommon for governments to elicit help from foreigners including allies for sensitive or classified government systems for national security reasons, many systems currently in use by the Somaliland government have been funded by the World Bank and developed by foreigners with little to no input from the Ministry of Telecommunication and Technology.
Dr. Abdiweli Abdillahi Soufi, the Minister of Telecommunication and Technology did not respond to questions for this report.