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General News of Wednesday, 25 February 2004

Source: GNA

ICT Policy ready- Minister

A National Information Technology Commission (NITC), to be chaired by the President or his Vice, is to be established to provide national leadership for the country's move towards becoming an ICT society.

The NITC would be responsible for advising the government on all matters relating to the development and implementation of ICT policies and strategies to accelerate the process of transforming the country into an "information-rich, knowledge-based society and economy." Mr. Albert Kan-Dapaah, Minister of Communications and Technology said this in a statement in Parliament on Wednesday.

"Ghana has been systematically putting in place the necessary platform for launching our nation into the growing world of information and communication technology."

"The latest of such efforts has been the completion of our National Information Communication Technology (ICT) for Accelerated Development Policy," the Minister announced.

He explained that the ICT policy document set out "the road map for development of Ghana's Information Society and Economy and provides a basis for facilitating the socio-economic development of the country."

The Minister said the document covers 14 areas including accelerated human resource development, promoting ICTs in education and promoting foreign and local direct investment drive in ICTs.

Mr. Kan-Dapaah said the 14 "priority focus areas of the policy referred to as the 14 ICT4AD Pillars" would also concentrate on promoting rapid ICT physical infrastructure development, modernize agriculture and facilitate development of the private sector.

Mr. Kan-Dapaah said the Ghana Information and Communications Technology Directorate would be set up to act as the national ICT4AD implementation and coordinating body.

He said the government was committed to setting up relevant institutional structures to facilitate the "deployment and exploitation of ICTs within the civil service and public service. "To this end policy directives and measures shall be put in place to facilitate the setting up of information technology services divisions within the government ministries and public sector organisations and agencies," he said.

The Minister said to implement the ICT policy, a four-year rolling plans would be developed and the policy would have an operational life span of between 15 to 20 years.

Mr. John Mahama, NDC-Bole said ICT was key in enhancing economic growth and useful in accelerating agricultural development and information about the weather could for instance be made available through the technology.

He said the local contents of information on the internet was low as compared to information from outside Ghana and Africa and called for an increase on local materials.

Alhaji Mohammad Mumuni, NDC-Kumbungu, said there was the need to bridge the digital divide by developing the human resource base to handle the country's ICT.

He said there was the need for the government to work quickly on a bill that would check computer fraud.

Mr. Akwasi Afrifa, NPP-Fomena, said there was the need for the Ghana Education Service (GES) and the West Africa Examination Council (WAEC) to develop syllabus to ensure standardization in the teaching and awarding of certificates on ICT.

He said most of the ICT training institutions were private and it was important to check their activities.

Mr. Joe Donkor, Deputy Minister of Education, Youth and Sports, said the GES was already involved in ICT with the introduction of various programmes including distance learning and there was the need to sustain the activities by training the human resource.

Earlier, papers including the enhanced Highly Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) Debt Initiative Relief Agreement between the government and the OPEC Fund for International Development; and the Report of the Committee on Gender and Children on the annual budget estimates of the Ministry of Women and Children Affairs for the year 2004 were laid before parliament.