Communications Minister, Mrs. Ursula Owusu-Ekuful has urged African countries to heavily invest in digital infrastructure and skills.
This, she said would ensure the continent’s full participation in the “global knowledge economy.”
“Without the requisite investment in digital infrastructure and digital skills, any discussion on the benefits of digitalization will be moot as technology has the power to formalize our economies, improve efficiency and reduce corruption,” she said.
Mrs. Owusu-Ekuful was speaking at the Ghana Investment and Opportunities Summit (GHIOS) 2020 on Wednesday, January 22, at Mayfair, London.
Speaking on the topic—Accessing the African common market through Ghana: Technology, Digitisation, and Industrialisation – A focus on the Communications Sector, Mrs. Owusu-Ekuful echoed the need to treat access to the internet, voice, and data as an essential utility just like water or electricity.
“We must invest in the digital infrastructure that is powering the world’s fourth industrial revolution and ensure that all African countries are key players and not bystanders in the global knowledge economy,” she added.
Mrs. Owusu-Ekuful further spoke about how the government of Ghana is reaping hugely the benefits of its investment in Information, Communication Technology (ICT).
Various sectors of the Ghanaian economy have seen massive transformation as a result of the government’s bespoke policy to invest massively in ICT. These sectors are being transformed to create richer, stronger, more developed and inclusive economies.
“Recognizing that ICT is the critical tool to hasten socio-economic development and formalize the economy, the government of GHANA embarked on massive reforms in the educational and ICT sectors as part of the ambitious transformation agenda being implemented currently to realize the vision of a Ghana beyond Aid, so eloquently articulated by our President Nana Akufo-Addo,” Mrs. Owusu-Ekuful told the Summit. “Indeed, we want a prosperous, self-assured Africa Beyond Aid.”
Mrs. Owusu-Ekuful further threw more light on what the government of Ghana led by Akufo-Addo has been doing since it took over office in 2017.
The Ghanaian minister said the government improved access to senior high school through the Free Senior High School program, by removing cost barriers and that “enabled us to drive the number of students in our senior high schools from 800,000 to a record 1.2million. Children who would have slipped through the cracks have been moved from the streets into school.”
She also mentioned several projects being implemented by the government to formalize the economy through technology, in the areas of Policy and Regulation, ICT Infrastructure Development, Universal Access Initiatives, ICT Capacity Building, Data Management, e-Governance, Cyber Security Awareness, and Preparedness.
Mrs. Owusu-Ekuful told the Summit: “We have instituted the National Identification program and the National Digital Property System to serve as a national digital information hub for the identification and location of people and places in the country.
“Our mobile money interoperability program has also deepened financial inclusion, provided seamless transfer of funds between several service providers, mobile money wallets and bank accounts and made Ghana the fastest growing mobile money market on the continent. These three initiatives form the foundation of our emerging digital economy.”
Mrs. Owusu-Ekuful further stated that by the end of the first quarter of this year, an electronic platform for the payment of all government goods and services provided by all MDAs will be implemented to promote efficiency and transparency in revenue collection and transition the country to a cash lite society, improving the security of transactions as well.
“Many of these initiatives, in fact, all but one were developed and implemented by local Ghanaian IT firms. We believe that government must use its purchasing power to encourage the growth of the indigenous digital services sector and encourage tech entrepreneurship as well,” she stated.
Again, Mrs. Owusu-Ekuful spoke about how Ghana’s Finance Ministry and her Ministry have combined to set up a Common Monitoring Platform (CMP) to monitor communications traffic, provide tax revenue assurance, manage fraud and monitor mobile money transactions to assist the NCA and GRA with their regulatory functions. This, she said is providing real-time verification of transactions in the telecommunications sector and visibility over actual revenues earned in the sector.
Touching on efforts by the government to narrow the gender digital divide, Mrs. Owusu-Ekuful to the Summit that Ghana government institutionalized the Girls-in-ICT Initiative, expanded it into a bi-annual one and included mentorship sessions where accomplished female ICT professionals interact with and encourage the girls to take up courses in Information and Communication Technologies.
“They also get to spend a week in Accra to experience women in technology at their workplace and be excited to take up careers in ICT later in life. With just a few days training in computer literacy and coding, young girls between 9 and 13 years of age, some of whom had never seen a computer before, were building their own websites,” she said.
“The results of all this will be fully visible in a few years but we have already begun seeing early signs of success in confident, self-assured, articulate young people, ready to take on any challenge.”