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Ghana working outside the box to scale up Internet penetration—Govt.

The Government of Ghana has come to the realisation that unless it works outside the box, internet penetration in the country will remain optical illusion.

Speaking at a news briefing in Accra on the upcoming Freedom Online Conference (FOC), Deputy Minister of Communications, Mr George Nenyi Andah said the country is in dire need of strategic interventions and innovative policies to scale up its current 40 per cent internet penetration so that citizens can become partakers in digital economy.

He argued that crawling from the Internet World Stats (IWS) on 2018 which put Ghana penetration at 33.6% to mere 40% does not call for celebration, rather thinking out of the box to scale up access and affordability.

Currently, IWS puts other nations in the Sub Saharan Africa as follows; Tunisia 67%, South Africa 53.7%, Seychelles 70.1%, Senegal 58.2%, and Nigeria at 55.5% in 2018.

In 2018, Nigeria had 92.3 million internet users. This figure is projected to grow to 187.8 million internet users in 2023. The internet penetration amounted to 47.1 percent (NCC data) of the population in 2018 and is set to reach 84.5 percent in 2023.

According to the Minister, “40 per cent internet penetration is nothing to write home about, because now the world is moving towards data and voice calls will in the next three to four years become like an added value service, therefore, the core platform that mobile network operators will be selling is data.”

Business Hilights Ghana Bureau Chief reports that the two-day conference which begins today, Thursday and tomorrow Friday the 6th and 7th of February under the theme; ”Achieving a Common Vision for Internet Freedom”, will attract 200 delegates from 40 countries, including Ambassadors and government representatives from member-nations of the Freedom Online Coalition.

He revealed further that the 2020 Conference is aimed at creating awareness on the need to protect the fundamental human rights of individuals and ensuring the freedom of the citizenry on the use of the Internet.

Additional facts showed that the event is under the auspices of the Ministry of Communications and will come off at the Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Training Centre (KAIPTC) in Accra.

While agreeing that previous administrations over the years, instituted various measures to enhance internet accessibility through policy formulation, investment in cyber security infrastructure and skill set in order for the nation to address the challenges with internet accessibility, he was of the view that more efforts was required to scale up the internet connectivity across the country, in order to drive the “Ghana Beyond Aid” agenda and accelerate national development.

He said “We have invested heavily in fibre infrastructure development and working closely with the telecos to extend internet connectivity. As far as policy framework is concerned, we’re giving enough space to sanitise the internet space and that’s why we went to Parliament for an increase in the Communication Services Tax (CST) to support the activities of the Cyber Security Authority.”

The minister further argued that with the quantum of fibre cables being connected across the country, government should be able to negotiate for affordable internet rate with the MNOs in the near future.

Corroborating the Minister’s stand, the National Cyber Security Advisor, Dr Albert Antwi-Boasiako, explained that currently Ghana chairs the 31-member Freedom Online Coalition (FOC) including countries like Argentina, Costa Rica, Canada, France, Kenya, Ireland and United Kingdom that had instituted legislations and policies to protect the fundamental rights of their citizens on the use of the Internet.

He noted that the two-day summit would therefore provide a platform for member countries of FOC to deliberate on issues emanating from the use of the Internet and share ideas towards addressing them.

Some of the key issues expected to be deciphered at the international conference include but not limited to Digital Inclusion, Safeguarding Children’s Rights in West Africa, Child Online Protection, Online Misinformation, Digital Safety of Human Rights Defenders, costs and challenges of internet service providers in Ghana.

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