Last year in Ghana, 2 million citizens came online for the first time. Through rural internet connections, they were able to access information and resources previously unavailable. And the country has plans to connect millions more in the years to come.
At the ITU Plenipotentiary Conference 2018, Ghana’s Minister of Communications discussed the role of information and communication technologies (ICTs) in her country.
“In my opinion we’re the most important industry in the whole world, because we make every other industry work.” –H.E. Ursula Gifty Owusu-Ekuful
“I think ICTs are indispensable for socio-economic development in every sector,” said H.E. Ursula Gifty Owusu-Ekuful. “We’re seeing it enhancing education, health, e-commerce and it is making life easier for our peasant farmers around the country; and small businesses are being enabled and facilitated by ICTs.”
So how has the country been able to make big leaps in rural connectivity in such a short time?
“We’re utilizing our universal service funds in collaboration with the private sector to deepen connectivity around the countryside, and this year alone we’ve managed to connect up to two million people who were otherwise unconnected. We worked with an equipment manufacturer and an IT company and a mobile network operator to develop a unique system which they call the “Rural Star” which has enabled us to deepen penetration in our rural areas phenomenally. We’re quite proud of it,” explained Owusu-Ekuful.
“They call me the mother of ‘Rural Star’ and it encourages me, because when you see what being connected has done to our rural populations around the countryside – young people being able to learn and do research on the Internet; peasant farmers able to sell their produce online; the uptake of digital financial services and mobile money around the country which has transformed lives – it’s something that we are determined to continue and hopefully within the next 2-3 years every part of the country will be connected,” said Owusu-Ekuful.
For the Minister, the role of ICTs for development is clear. “In my opinion we’re the most important industry in the whole world because we make every other industry work,” she believes.
She also believes that other countries can learn from the experience in Ghana. “What a wonderful opportunity the ITU provides for all of us to share experiences to learn from one another… and be encouraged when we realize that we are really on the right track and are doing things that have worked in other places or if and when others can also learn from my experiences.”