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28.01.2005 General News

Ghana hosts ICT summit next week

By GNA

Accra, Jan. 28, GNA - Presidents Abdoulaye Wade of Senegal, Paul Kagame of Rwanda and Yahaya Jammeh of Gambia would grace the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) scheduled to begin in Accra on February 2.

Representatives from all over Africa would also converge at the Accra International Conference Centre and the Kofi Annan Centre for Information to take part in the African Regional Preparatory Conference to discuss the Region's proposal on governance through the Internet and financing the development of Information, Communication and Technology (ICT).

It is expected that the development of ICT would help accelerate efforts to reduce poverty worldwide and forms part of the target of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) of the United Nations.

WSIS aims at building a people-centred, inclusive and development-oriented Information Society among other goals. However, financing the process in Africa seems elusive.

Professor Kwesi Ansu Kyeremeh, Chairman of Ghana's Committee on WSIS, told the GNA that there were numerous avenues to generate funds on the regional level and even on the national level without the support of the Western World.

He said President Wade had proposed the setting up of a digital solidarity fund for the Region to help to build resources for infrastructure and educational facilities on ICT but some had kicked against the idea because the responsibility of who should contribute would eventually lie with donors.

However, he said it was imperative that Africa moved ahead to source for funds to develop ICT through the Information Society in order to bridge the ever widening digital divide between the Continent and other parts of the globe.

Prof. Kyeremeh said for Ghana, funds could be made available through the District Assemblies' Common Fund to build infrastructure at the grassroots level.

He explained that if the districts were made to be part of the whole process, it would be easy for them to allocate funds for ICT programmes instead of relying on the Central Government.

Prof. Kyeremeh also said individuals; corporate organisations and educational institutions could take up the challenge to develop programmes on information technology to generate resources. This, he said, was related to the question of the impact of ICT on the ordinary people, which he said, was very enormous.

He said if a simple telephone which was part of ICT could help save the life of a woman in labour, who without the facility might be put in a wheelbarrow to be carried to hospital, then the process would reflect positively on the lives of the people.

He said the development of ICT in Ghana would benefit people ranging from the female porters in the cities to Managing Directors in the offices.

The Professor urged Ghanaians to turn ICT into a product and invest in building its components and also develop programmes that would feed all manner of people with valuable information on their daily needs.

At the Ministry of Communications, the Acting Chief Director Mr Kweku Ofosu Adakwah, said Ghana was making strides in getting basic ICT to the ordinary Ghanaian on the street.

He said the Ministry was introducing Community Information Centres (CICs) in all of the 230 electoral constituencies in the country. The centres would bridge the ICT gap between rural and urban areas, provide community information needs and enhance national integration and create awareness in rural areas among other purposes.

Components on the centres include Internet enabled computers, software based on local information needs, telephones, radio and television. This would benefit the general community, school children, women and women groups and local government authorities.

Mr Adakwah said services to be provided would include community services such as accurate prices of agriculture produce on nearby markets to assist farmers in marketing, provide weather information to guide farmers, fishermen and travellers and also give social and business services.

For a start, 57 centres have been located at Nkwanta, Akim Swedru, Nkawie, Sefwi Wiaso and Berekum. The rest are Navrongo, Wa, Yendi, Dodowa, Ajumako, Amoako and Anyinase.

Mr Adakwah said stakeholders intended to utilise all avenues to sensitise the people on ICT and its benefits and had already organised workshops for chiefs of two traditional areas with the aim of passing on ICT related information to the ordinary people through opinion leaders.

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