‘Willing to be part of anything that makes us smarter’

  • November 9, 2017

Says Hon. Vincent Sowah Odotei, Deputy Minister of Communications, Ghana, in an exclusive interview with The Times of Africa, at the Indo-Africa ICT Expo 2017

What is that one primary IT solution that Ghana is looking for on priority at this platform?

At the moment, we really need to drive the stride to make sure we achieve universal access across the country – whether it is the mainstream or the rural areas or the ICT sector in public service – that is basically the approach we are looking at.

Two key things that we are doing now include the national identification of our citizens through digital system. Therefore, solutions that we are looking for, really focus on expanding universal access across the rural areas.

Is the existing digital infrastructure that you have in Ghana sufficient for dealing with the demands of urbanization?

No, it is not enough. However, we believe that by partnering with the private sector we should be able to solve this problem. Though, the main challenge still lies in rural areas; there is a massive digital divide that exists between the urban and the rural areas.

In the past, we have primarily invested in infrastructure in the metropolitan expanses, but the focus is now shifting towards bringing the rural population under the umbrella of digital revolution.

There is a concept of ‘digital gender divide’ that is now garnering attention, wherein we see that there is very little opportunity for women to step and succeed in the IT industry. Is the ministry taking any measures to bridge this divide?

Yes, we have initiatives for women and girls such as a special programme called ‘Girls in ICT’ where we are trying to reach and provide digital literacy to girls residing even in the remotest parts of the country.

We provide them with laptops and end-user equipment and also give awards to the girls who excel.

We have a dedicated ‘Girls in ICT’ programme in the country. In the past, such initiatives used to be a one-day thing, but we have made it a year-long activity. We are also trying to collaborate with technical institutions where we try to encourage the women who have taken ICT as a subject and support them with practical training for employment purposes.

The exhibitors present at the expo are keen to know that if they come to Ghana, what kind of incentives they would get for the ‘ease of doing business’?

We have a ‘free-zones enclave’ where we provide tax reliefs to companies willing to come. We are working on technological parks now where we will provide other incentives to companies who come to Ghana.

There is an IT-centred alliance called ‘Smart Africa’ with 18 African nations as members on board. Will we see Ghana become a part of any such association in the near future?

We are willing to become a part of anything that makes us ‘smarter’. We intend to have a ‘Smart city expo’ early next year where we are going to invite people to come and exhibit their products. In fact, in November this year, we are going to have a technology fair to showcase what we have as a country. It is going to be a domestic fair not an international one so as to provide a platform to the people of our country to show their innovative solutions and to boost their networking with each other.

Next year, we will invite the world to foster digital tie-ups with Ghana.

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