The need for African countries to build their digital economies and enhance regional integration could not have been better emphasised than at the 2018 International Telecommunication Union (ITU) Africa Regional Development Forum held recently in Accra.
The conference was organised on the theme, “ICT 4 SDGS: Towards the implementation of WTD17 Outcomes,” and was attended by representatives from the academia, private sector and state institutions from all over Africa.
It provided an opportunity for ITU members across the continent to share achievements and experiences as they strove towards strengthening partnerships and projects.
The conference focused on five thematic areas, which were: Strengthening human and institutional capacity building; strengthening and harmonising policy and regulatory frameworks for the integration of African Telecommunication/ Information and Communications Technology (ICT) markets; development of Broadband access and adoption of broadband; spectrum management and transition to digital broadcasting and building confidence and security in the use of telecommunication/ ICTs.
ICT has come to play such an important role in our lives that it is difficult to imagine life without its application.
With the click of a button, mobile money transactions and other financial engagements can be executed across the world, making it indeed a global village.
The opportunities presented by ICT and its applications are huge and so extensive that all must be given access to it, regardless of which corner of the country they live in.
It is truly indispensable in every aspect of our lives.
As was noted by the Minister of Communications, Mrs Ursula Owusu-Ekuful, at the ITU Conference, Ghanaians and Africans as a whole need to adapt to the impact of technology in their lives or risk being left behind.
Information Technology (IT) also opens up the world to innovative youth who, through creativity, can come up with applications useful to everyday life and have it marketed in the multi-billion dollar applications and software industry.
Last year, the government, through the Ministry of Communications, successfully launched the National Digital Property Addressing System which, in addition to the ongoing National e-ID Registration and Mobile Money Interoperability System, provides the foundation to formalising the economy.
Under the Girls in ICT programme, an ITU project which is also a flagship programme of the Ministry, over 600 young girls from deprived basic schools in the Ashanti Region benefited from a training programme designed to break the myths surrounding the use of ICT by girls in the country.
They were given basic computer literacy and coding training, and excelled at both.
They also interacted with female IT gurus.
Other programmes such as the integrated e-immigration system, e-procurement and e-parliament, e-justice, e-health, e-cabinet which are at various stages of implementation are part of the Digital Ghana Agenda.
For Ghana to achieve an effective digital economy, there is the need for the private sector to collaborate with the government in this regard.
Companies and organisations can find avenues to provide start-up funds for youth who present viable proposals.
It is also essential that the digital divide is bridged, particularly the digital gender gap where many women do not have access to ICT facilities.
Steps should be taken to ensure that technological advances do not further increase inequalities and marginalise persons with disability, rural communities, children and the elderly.
Measures should also be implemented to ensure cyber security, privacy and child-on-line protection.
Closing the ceremony, a Deputy Minister for Communications, Mr George Nenyi Andah, called on the ITU Africa member countries to support Ghana’s quest to be elected to the ITU Council, adding that Ghana would put together a workshop made up of all stakeholders,the government, regulator, the private sector and academia to critically review the various projects and determine how to adapt and implement them as Ghana continued its digital agenda and more towards the achievements of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
He called on member countries to step up efforts to implement the Regional Initiatives discussed at the programme to deepen ICT penetration in their respective countries.
In an interaction with some journalists at the event, the Regional Director for the ITU Regional Office for Africa Telecommunication Development Bureau, Mr Andrew Rugege, said member countries had up to 2021 to implement the Regional Initiatives.
Mr Rugege stated that the ITU Africa Region had received $2 million to provide member countries with technical support to implement the Initiatives, which were country specific, indicating that the cost of implementing the Initiative was the responsibility of each member country.
As participants in the end of the ITU Conference agreed to pursue a common agenda in advancing Africa’s digitalisation drive, Ghanaians are encouraged to identify available opportunities in the sector to make the nation a force to reckon with in ICT
The writer is the Public Relations Officer for the Ministry of Communications