Communications Minister’s Speech at The ITU-RDF Conference, 2018

OPENING REMARKS BY THE MINISTER FOR COMMUNICATIONS, HON. URSULA OWUSU-EKUFUL
AT THE ITU REGIONAL DEVELOPMENT FORUM (ITU RDF 2018)
ACCRA INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE CENTRE, GHANA
18 JULY 2018
The Chairperson,
Nii kinka Dowuona IV Osu Mantse
The Director of the Telecommunication Development Bureau (BDT), Mr. Brahima Sanou
Colleague Ministers
Members of Parliament
ITU Director for Africa, Andrew Mugege
Representatives from the African Union Commission (AUC)
Representatives from the African Telecommunication Union (ATU)
Distinguished Delegates
Invited Guests
Ladies and Gentlemen,

On behalf of the President of the Republic of Ghana, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, I’m delighted to welcome you to Accra, Ghana for the 2018 ITU Africa Regional Development Forum under the theme “ICT4SDGs: Towards the implementation of WTDC-17 outcomes”. It provides an Invaluable opportunity for ITU members across our region to share achievements and experiences as we work towards strengthening partnerships, enhancing regional integration and building digital economies to foster innovation in Africa.

Our President, Nana Akufo-Addo is currently co-chairing the UN Sustainable Development Goal Advocates group and is keenly aware of how vital ICT is for the attainment of all the SDGs. The theme is therefore apt and We are grateful to ITU for the honour of hosting the 2018 Regional Development Forum in Ghana.

The disrupting power of technology is impacting every area of our lives and forcing us to rethink and innovate daily. It’s a classic case of adapt or die. We need to build and integrate a resilient broadband infrastructure across the continent, provide the requisite IT knowledge and skills to our people, especially the youth and position them to take advantage of the opportunities provided by the multi billion applications and software industry.

In 2016, the global Digital Economy was worth $11.5 trillion or 15.5% of the world’s GDP and Mckinsey estimates that the internet could contribute $300bn to Africa’s GDP by 2025. With more than 60% of its population under the age of 25, Sub-Saharan Africa is the world’s youngest region. With its dynamic, young population, vast natural resources and untapped internal markets, Africa is uniquely positioned to maximize the unprecedented opportunities the digital revolution offers. We are the last frontier.

The emerging technological landscape in Africa is an opportunity to accelerate inclusive growth across the continent. Exponential technologies such as Internet of Things (IoT), Blockchain, Artificial Intelligence (AI), Big Data, Robotics and 3D Printing are already playing a critical role in helping Africa address age-old developmental challenges across various sectors including health, agriculture, education land administration and financial services.

Mr. Chairman, Ladies and Gentlemen, as you may recall, at the World Telecommunication Development Conference (WTDC-17), held in Buenos Aires, Argentina in October 2017, we acknowledged the crucial role of ICTs in accelerating efforts to attain the Sustainable Development Goals. The same commitment was made at the 2018 World Summit of the Information Society, WSIS Forum in Geneva earlier this year.

The message that resonated throughout was clear: in a world in which information and communication technologies play an increasingly important role in socio-economic development, no one should be left behind, regardless of their circumstances or the remoteness of their place of origin.

A major outcome of WTDC-17 was the ITU-D Action Plan comprising five regional initiatives to be implemented by Regional member States. For the Africa Region the initiatives are:

1. Building digital economies and fostering innovation in Africa
2. Promotion of Emerging Broadband Technologies
3. Building trust and security in the Use of Telecommunications/ICT
4. Strengthening human and institutional capacity building and
5. Management and monitoring of the radio frequency spectrum and transition to digital broadcasting

We need to effectively collaborate in order to fully reap the benefits of the digital economy for Africa and this three-day Forum offers an excellent opportunity for technical experts, policy makers, innovators and investors to deliberate on the implementation of the five Regional Initiatives within the scope of the ITU rolling Strategic Plan for 2017-2020 and to exchange valuable experiences and best practice as we focus on the opportunities and challenges of the digital revolution and explore how we can work together to enhance regional integration through digitisation.

The Regional Development Forum will be followed by a Regional Workshop on Spectrum Monitoring from 23-24 July, 2018 for Radio Communications experts and we encourage Member States to stay on and participate in that as well.

As we deliberate on how to collectively strengthen human capacity building and effectively harmonise policy and regulatory frameworks for the integration of African ICT markets, we also recognize the continuing existence of a yawning digital divide particularly, the gender digital divide, with many women still shut out of this digital revolution. We must ensure that technological advances do not further exacerbate inequalities that marginalize women, persons with disability, rural communities and the elderly. We should deliberately build an inclusive one which supports an ecosystem to promote equitable access for all.

We must also work together to address the risks and challenges the emerging landscape presents including cyber security, privacy, surveillance, child online protection, disruption of the workforce and potential job losses, digital exclusion, electronic waste and carbon emissions. We stand ready to work with the ITU and other regional organizations to implement solutions to all these emerging challenges.

As part of the Digital Ghana Agenda we are embarking on an ambitious infrastructure development programme, with a national broadband infrastructure and connectivity for the unserved and underserved at the heart of the agenda. The introduction of paperless port operations, the integrated e-immigration system, e-procurement, e-parliament, e-justice, e-cabinet and smart workplaces among other initiatives, which are all at various stages of implementation and the development of an interoperability system to integrate government databases, represent significant milestones in Ghana’s journey to
digitalization. To prepare and build the requisite human capacity to manage this robust infrastructure we are putting in place, we are about to launch a massive IT training project across the country as part of our universal access programme. We will upskill our youth!!

Last year, the Government of Ghana through the Ministry of Communications and Ghana Post successfully launched the National Digital Property Addressing System, which with the ongoing National e-ID Registration and mobile money Interoperability System provides the foundation to formalising our economy. We will be utilizing blockchain technology to digitize our land titling and records system and aggressively roll out e-education and e-health initiatives as well.

Technological innovations are driving digital disruption and Africa has leapfrogged the rest of the world to become a mobile first market.

Africa’s mobile money market has expanded and diversified in recent years and Sub-Saharan Africa is leading in the adoption and use of mobile technology to enhance financial services and promote financial inclusion. Mobile has emerged as a vital tool to extend key services to underserved communities, complementing the efforts of governments and by 2020 there will be over 500 million unique mobile subscribers in the African region and the penetration rate will have risen to 50% according to GSMA. Mobile technologies contribution to Africa’s GDP is expected to rise to $142 billion, equivalent to 8.6% of GDP, by 2020. Africa must reap the rewards of the digital revolution.

Joint action by policymakers, multilateral organizations and all stakeholders in our vibrant ICT sector is required to realize the full potential of ICT and utilize ICT’s to achieve the SDGs by 2030 . We look forward to working collaboratively on Africa’s journey to digitalization and the development of an inclusive society in which everyone can benefit from the power of ICT.

A warm welcome to Ghana and I wish you a productive and enjoyable stay.

Thank you