Ghana has secured a $3million facility from the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) to boost digital skills across the country.
Communications Minister, Ursula Owusu-Ekuful made the announcement on Thursday, November 11, 2020, during the signing of an agreement between ITU, the Norwegian Government, and the Government of Ghana to support the Digital Transformation Centres (DTC) Initiative in the country.
The new partnership is expected to scale up and strengthen digital skills training for underserved communities in Ghana, in collaboration with Cisco and the Ghana Investment Fund for Electronic Communications (GIFEC).
It will provide around 14,000 citizens with job-ready digital skills, in particular women entrepreneurs, pupils, teachers, and marginalized groups, through 200 centres across the country.
Launched by ITU in partnership with Cisco and its Country Digital Acceleration Program and Cisco Networking Academy in 2019, the Digital Transformation Centres (DTC) Initiative is operational in nine countries in Africa, Asia-Pacific, and Latin America.
Its main goal is to support countries to equip people with the skills needed to effectively participate in today’s digital society and economy.
Speaking at the virtual event, Mrs. Owusu-Ekuful touted the initiatives of the Akufo-Addo government that have facilitated ICT infrastructure development, provision of equipment, and capacity building programmes over the past 3 years which have made a positive impact on the lives of individuals and institutions across Ghana.
Since 2017, she said the Ministry of Communications, through the Ghana Investment Fund for Electronic Communications GIFEC provided telecommunications connectivity to over 2,000 communities as part of the flagship Rural Telephony Project, enhancing the socio-economic lives of over 1,200,000 citizens in rural Ghana.
“We are in the process of expanding access to an additional 2016 communities to connect some 3 million people thereby providing 95% of our population with voice and data connectivity within the next 18 months. That is some of the use we are putting our universal access fund to and have secured a credit facility to finance this project upfront,” Mrs. Owusu-Ekuful said.
Leaving no one behind
According to Mrs. Owusu-Ekuful, the government is scaling up efforts to ensure that the developments are experienced in every part of the country, assuring that “we are leaving no one behind.”
In the government’s effort to guarantee the effective use of the equipment deployed in underserved and unserved communities, the Communications Minister further noted that “we are building the capacity of persons in the formal and informal sector, as well as teachers and students.”
Over the past four years, a total of 502,600 persons have been trained in ICT programmes including 182,000 children trained to provide solutions to social problems through the Coding for Kids project.
In spite of Ghana’s steady development in ICT over the years said Mrs. Owusu-Ekuful, it is evident that the ICT industry is male dominant and that the government recognized the need to bridge the gender digital divide, especially in underserved communities.
To achieve that, she said the government has instituted the ICT Skills for Entrepreneurial and Women Empowerment project, in collaboration with UNESCO, to provide ICT for women and girls in the informal sector.
So far 400 women have been trained in Asumura, Goaso, Berekum, and Asankrangwa. In addition to this, over 3,500 girls have been trained in coding and basic ICT as part of the Girls in ICT initiative, an ITU programme, which seeks to arouse the interest of girls in the subject of ICT.
“It is thus relieving for the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), to include Ghana in the Digital Transformation Centres (DTC) programme, which will, in the long run, develop digital skills for citizens mainly at the basic and intermediate level,” the Minister said.
The virtual ceremony was attended by Doreen Bogdan-Martin, Director of the ITU Telecommunication Development Bureau, Houlin Zhao, Secretary-General of the International Telecommunication Union, His Excellency, Aksel Jakobsen, State Secretary of International Development for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Norway, and Ms. Wendy Mars, President of Cisco’s Europe, Middle East, Africa, and Russia region.