By: Anthony Sedzro
Within ten months of the administration of President Nana Akufo-Addo, the government has shown much commitment to using technology to improve governance. The government is willing to encourage technology in all sectors and, in doing so, it will give priority to Ghana’s technology entrepreneurs.
Ursula Owusu-Ekuful, Ghana’s Minister for Communications, says the government will promote local entrepreneurs operating in the Information Technology industry to help them scale up and also contribute to improve efficiency in governance.
According to the Minister, it is not just lip service but the government has taken practical steps to actualise this commitment.
“Within eight months of taking office, the government of Nana Akuffo-Addo has demonstrated that it is determined to scale-up the uptake of technology in government sectors to improve efficiencies,” Ursula Owusu-Ekuful asserted recently in a Keynote address she delivered at the second Tech-In-Ghana Conference (TIGC) held at the Accra Digital Centre on November 21.
The event organised by AB2020 was hosted by the Communications Ministry and it brought together telecommunication experts home and abroad, Ghanaian technology entrepreneurs, government officials and business executives.
“(Government) is also willing to use (its) purchasing power to promote local entrepreneurs, particularly within the tech industry,” Owusu-Ekuful, who is also a legislator representing the Ablekuma West constituency in the Greater Accra Region, said.
“To illustrate this, against a lot of very striving opposition, government decided to use a Ghanaian company to roll out our National Identity Card (ID) project. The company is the Margins Group; it is a home-grown company with world-class infrastructure with the ability to deliver the project that can hold its own among the best in the world.”
Many government projects are often given out to foreign companies with the explanation that they have the expertise and capital to execute the project. But, according to the Minister, this government insisted on giving out some technology projects to Ghanaian technology entrepreneurs to help them grow, despite suggestions to give it to foreigners as usual.
“There were a lot of people who were insisting we look towards India, the U.S, Czech, Ukraine and other countries, but the government decided to go with a Ghanaian company, “ she say.
The government rolled out a National Digital and Property Addressing System, named ‘ghanapostGPS,’ a modern approach to allocating addresses within a defined space with the aid of the latest geocoding technology, in October. The system, which was launched in conjunction with the Ghana Post, seeks to formalise the Ghanaian economy.This landmark project was also given to a local Ghanaian tech company, the Communications Minister pointed out.
“In the same vein, other stalwarts mostly from the U.S. also participated in the bid for the country’s new Digital Property Addressing System. At the end of the day, a Ghanaian company headquartered in Dansoman [a suburb of Accra], won the bid and the government, also, against some opposition, decided that it is going to promote local entrepreneurship in this area,” Owusu-Ekuful explained.
She went on: “These two have been able to succeed in gaining contracts from the government, and I have no doubt that many of the entrepreneurs in this room can, also, if they put their money to it, gain the recognition and support of government to promote the product that they have through their own intellectual property.”
The Minister said Ghana has big ambitions for the ICT sector as government is determined to work with companies to build a vibrant technology industry in this country not just for us but the entire sub-region. This is because president Nana Akufo-Addo’s idea for the [IT] sector is the development of a Digital Ghana agenda to position the country as a regional ICT hub.
Government intends to focus on helping the citizens to embrace the use of ICT in all sectors, including education, Owusu-Ekuful, who was once the head of Corporate Affairs of Airtel Ghana, disclosed. “Government will soon institute computer coding at the basic levels of education to ensure that the next generation become technology savvy and impact society. In this regard, the government will introduce a ‘one-laptop-per-child’ policy to enable the children to navigate computer education,” she further revealed
To show the new administration’s commitment to the IT sector, the Minister said by end of 2018, the government will populate the Accra Digital Centre with, at least, 100 IT-related companies.
Giving a keynote address on Ghana’s Tech Trends at the conference, Kenechi Okeleke, Lead Analyst, GSMA Intelligence, London, said the country’s technology scene is one of the most promising in Africa. He revealed that his research indicates Ghana has 20 active technology hubs and five (5) of the country’s technology start-ups were able to raise a capital of US$9.4 million in 2016 alone.
On mobile phone penetration on the African continent, Ghana boasts a realistic figure of 67 percent, compared to an African average of 44 percent. In addition, Ghana has one of the highest users of the mobile money transfers with 8 million users or 40 percent of the population. The availability of cheaper smartphones on the market means this trend is set to continue, according to Okeleke.
TGIC conference is the brainchild of AB2020, a company that connects and promotes businesses, investors, and entrepreneurs operating in Ghana and Sub-Saharan Africa. The first Tech-in-Ghana conference was held in London in February this year.