By Belinda Ayamgha/Priscilla S. Djentuh
Accra, June 6, GNA - The government of Ghana has reiterated its commitment to achieving an information society; a goal which will be given added impetus with the country's hosting of the second Africa Open Data Conference in July 2017.
Ghana, one of the first countries in Africa to start an open data initiative in 2012 after signing on to the Open Government Partnership, has undertaken several interventions towards building an information society.
According to Mrs Ursula Owusu-Ekuful, Minister of Communications, Ghana will not only be part of the digital revolution and open data but will take the lead in showing the sub-region the benefits, including promoting business development, furthering research and innovation and accountability in government.
She made the statements at the launch of the Africa Open Data Conference scheduled to the held in Accra from 17th to 21st July, 2017 on the theme: 'Open Data for Sustainable Development in Africa'.
'That is why we want to move to an open data society where information generated is freely available in a usable format for anybody to use,' she stated.
Mrs Owusu-Ekuful said there was the need to have in place some building blocks that would ensure generation of usable data and the use of open data in a safe and secure environment.
These included ensuring that open-data was a whole government initiative and not done in isolation.
'We need databases which can talk to each other, as well as platform to link the various databases and make them accessible to the public,' she said, adding that there was also a need for infrastructure to be put in place to secure the data that will be generated.
She noted that in line with this, government would ensure the passage of the Freedom of Information Bill by the end of 2017.
She added that by end of 2019, Ghana would have a vibrant open data community with impact to show, following the Ministry's initiation of the 'Data for Development' programme under the e-transform project in 2014.
Mr Vincent Sowah Odotei, Deputy Minister of Communications and Chair of the Advisory committee for the conference, said open data was a critical infrastructure in modern economies and a means to growth, efficiency and effective development in governance.
He said transparency by making information open and available to citizens would keep them abreast with affairs of the country and engender a sense of ownership and involvement in the development of the nation.
He noted that open data helped to open up economies, with research showing that countries with open data were able to develop exponentially and create value and jobs.
Mr Odotei said open data would make it possible for everyone to access information that concerns them without any hindrance.
Ms Katherine Townsend, Co-Founder of Open Data Collaborative, conveners of the conference, stressed the importance of journalists in the conversation as they played a unique and vital role in the open data space.
'You're in the space where you're able to translate for the data owners and people mired in spreadsheets…you're the vital point between the people and the data owners,' and urged them to be partners in the development of the agenda and discussions during the conference.
The first day of the conference, she explained, would focus on Ghana, with participants visiting innovation hubs and speaking to people in various sectors, and would include plenaries and training sessions, among other activities.
Dr Grace Bediako, National Development Planning Committee, speaking at the launch, said government was committed to implementing the open data initiative in ensuring achievements of the Sustainable Development Goals.
She explained that a lot of the SDGs had already been reflected in the country's development framework; Ghana Shared Growth and Development Agenda (GSGDA II), and as one of the main development goals, open data would further expand the growth of the nation so that no one would be left behind.