The Minister for Communications, Dr Edward Omane Boamah, has reiterated government’s commitment to deepening internet interaction in the country by ensuring its accessibility to Ghanaians in different parts of the country.
Dr Boamah said internet freedom was a priority policy area for both governments of developed and developing countries and, therefore, it was important for Ghana to ensure that its citizens had access to the network as an open platform.
These were contained in an address delivered on his behalf at a Forum organised in Accra, yesterday, by the Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) to dialogue on internet freedom and citizen’s empowerment for participation and accountability in Ghana.
Dr Boamah noted that the internet had become a powerful tool and an indispensable partner of national daily lives and should, therefore, not be a reserve for the privileged few in society.
“We believe that it is only when people have easy access and can afford to use the internet that they will be empowered to contribute their quarter to the overall development of our country,” he added.
According to the Minister, government was working towards the universal accessibility of electronic communication, to facilitate access to basic telephony in the country, through the establishment of the Ghana Investment Fund (GIFEC).
He noted that the Electronic Communication Act, 2008 (Act 775), as amended, had given the legal backing to the agencies which would widen the scope and margin to improve access to electronic services including ICT and the internet.
Dr Boamah disclosed that the government, through GIFEC, had been able to establish internet accessibility in 38 Colleges, 204 Senior High Schools, 24 basic schools and 52 Nursing Colleges, among others, with the aim of bridging the gap in the internet society.
The Minister commended the MFWA for creating the platform for such discussions, noting that government was ready to partner with them and any other Civil Society Organisation (CSO) to help provide affordable and accessible internet freedom to all citizens, wherever they were.
In a statement, the Chief Executive Officer of the National Information Technology Agency ((NITA), Mr William Tabi, said the Agency’s ultimate goal was to help government provide information to all citizens while demanding feedback.
“As an agency, we are devoted to internet freedom as well as ensuring that people have access to information to enable them hold accountable the people they elect into power from the information they are provided on the internet,” he noted.
Mr Tabi implored all citizens to participate fully in internet information seeking to aid in the planning and development of policies that would contribute to the country’s development.
An ace broadcast journalist and the Chief Executive Officer of the Ghana Chamber of Telecommunications, Mr Kweku Sakyi Addo, was of the view that internet freedom and citizenry participation and empowerment could only be achieved if there were infrastructures that delivered and made it available to be accessed.
The key to change, Mr Addo said, relied on the preparedness to use data as the internet went a long way to enlighten the citizens and empower them.
The Executive Director for MFWA, Mr Sulemana Braimah, explained that the forum on internet freedom, formed part of activities under project by the MFWA and the UK-based partners and associates to promote internet freedom in the country.
According to Mr Braimah, Ghana had a free media environment, good human record and a community that fostered the growth of the internet but that citizens’ engagement and their level of awareness of its usage in general and on government policies and programmes remained low.
He noted that there were some activities that limited the freedom of the internet, which he outlined as accessibility, affordability and capability, adding that these things were seen as a challenge to the growth of the nation as the country could not be left behind, especially in the role that the internet played in improving government policies and empowering development through citizenry interactions.
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