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Ghana’s Minister of Communications outlines the Government’s commitment to making ICT one of the wealth-creating engines of growth for his country.

When will the phone system improve for business and the average citizen?

The present system is bad so it will take quite a long time. We now have GT and Westel. GT is going through a major procurement exercise that will improve the services provided. We are also talking to the mobile operators (as their services leave much to be desired) about how they ca improve their infrastructure. This is a very critical assignment for me. There is a need to have good infrastructure in place before you can get the benefits of ICT therefore sorting this out is a priority for us.

When will the negotiations over the fine Westel has been given for failing to hit the licence roll-out targets be settled? Without a settlement, it’s not going to invest any more money in Ghana.

The negotiations are going on. Both sides have signalled their position. I am pushing for an early clearance of this case. The fact that you’re fighting with a major player doesn’t help. It’s hard to hold anyone responsible for this state of affairs. We put the players on the field when we didn’t have a proper regulatory regime.

When will the regulatory framework for VOIP be ready?

The NCA is trying to crystallise its thoughts on VOIP. It’s difficult to predict when a decision will be made but they must make their position known to the market. The uncertainty is putting off all investors.

What role is the Kofi Annan Technology Centre going to play?

There is going to be an ICT hub somewhere in the region and we would prefer it to be Ghana. We want it to help train the personal, the human resources we need for our journey into ICT. It will provide the opportunity to gain practical experience. It will offer the middle and top level skills in terms of software development and other areas. It needs to be able to add some value.

What are doing to promote Ghana’s ICT expertise overseas?

Nothing much now. When we launch the national ICT policy in June, there will be a planned programme of activities to sell our ICT activities to the world.

What are you doing about removing the range of obstacles that face those investing from overseas?

We need a good regulatory environment where we can hold GT responsible for delays,

How will you work with Ghana’s ICT industry?

There has been frustration because there’s no clear direction. Things are not co-ordinated. We were unable to offer central direction. The new ICT policy will provide a clear vision supported by an implementation plan. I’m going to do a lot of consultation. I’ve always believed in that. I don’t think we can have the luxury of going wrong. We’re probably late already. It will be difficult even with good plans because plans are only good when you have the financial resources to back them.

So where will the resources come from to support the plan?

That won’t be a problem for two reasons. Firstly it has the President’s own commitment. Secondly we’re hoping to rely on the private sector for the majority of the funding.

But how much will the public sector put in?

I’ve no immediate sense of how much or for what. We’ll know when the ICT policy implementation plan is in place. We will make some contribution to the process. The speed with which the Kofi Annan Technology Centre came together gives you some idea of what we can do. The construction work has been funded by the Government.

What’s your vision for what Ghana will be like in ICT terms in five to ten years time?

It’s difficult to compare a place like Ghana to India. In the next few years I’d like to see Ghana be considered a middle league ICT player in Africa.

I have been given this specific ICT assignment. The President has said that in terms of wealth creation and job creation that ICT will be a major engine of growth. I am here to provide the necessary leadership and direction to enable Ghana to reach that level at the quickest speed and to act to overcome the barriers to achieving it.

I hope to achieve this in genuine partnership with the private sector to enable them to carry out their activities. The fastest way to get things done is to allow it to provide for itself. ICT is an enabler and we see ourselves as an enabler for the private sector.

What incentives are in place for foreign investors?

The Investment Centre has some interesting incentives. We’re also starting discussions to see how we can support ICT in particular. Active discussions are currently under way.