The Minister of Communication, Professor Mike Oquaye, on Thursday said government had identified Information Technology Enabled Service (ITES) as a priority sector to accelerate economic growth. "Government is fully aware that traditional exports, coupled with the current agriculture and the domestic private sector, are currently not contributing sufficiently to the socio-economic development of the country," he said.

Thus government is embarking on the ITES drive, which is estimated to create 35,000 additional jobs to the current 2,000 jobs in the offshore sector by 2011, with an added value to the economy of 750 million dollars. Addressing a press conference in Accra to highlight the efforts made to ensure that the economy was ICT driven in Accra, Prof. Oquaye noted that with the steps taken so far Ghana would soon become a destination of investment in the IT-Enabled Service, particularly business process outsourcing.

He said government had received credit facility from the International Finance Corporation (IFC) under the eGhana project to set up an Information Technology Enabling Services (ITES) Secretariat. "The Secretariat is designed to boost viable private sector economic activities in ICT, build capacity of small and medium-sized enterprises and generate new and sustainable employment and develop the private sector enabling environment," he added. Prof. Oquaye said as part of the process, a 50-acre ICT Park to house ICT related businesses was underway and six million dollars had been set aside to support SMEs including Business Process Outsourcing (BPO).

"The government has also contracted the Ghana Standards Board to develop a comprehensive quality assurance certification and testing standards to improve the quality of ICT products provided in the country and improve the country's international competitiveness." He said efforts were far advanced to resolve some of the key challenges confronting the ICT business operations, prominent among which was the creation of a backbone infrastructure to provide open access broadband connectivity nationwide on which the private sector would link to provide ICT services to their clients. The Minister said the first phase of the project being implemented from the concessionary loan facility of US$30 million secured from the Government of China had commenced.

He said an additional US$70 million was being negotiated from the Chinese government to start the second phase of the project including the eGovernment Connectivity Infrastructure component. Prof. Oquaye noted that the government had introduced a number of policies and legislations to reduce the risk of investment and improve sector responsiveness and competitiveness.

The minister therefore called on the private sector, as well as development partners to take advantage of these development opportunities as Ghana geared herself up to create opportunities of the deployment of ICT in governance.