Mrs Ursula Owusu- Ekuful, Minister of Communications, has reiterated Government’s commitment to champion inclusive access to information and digital equity.
She said over the years especially, in the last two years, her Ministry had put in place policies and infrastructure in rural and peri-urban areas in order to address the regional imbalances.
Mrs Owusu- Ekuful made these remarks in a speech read on her behalf during the commemoration of the 2019 International Day for Universal Access in Accra.
The event, hosted by the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) and supported by the Ministry of Communications, was held under the theme: “Access to Information: Leaving No One Behind”.
Mrs Owusu-Ekuful said the many transformative of her Ministry’s programmes was how they were using infrastructure to advance women’s rights and bridge the gender inequality in information and communication technology (ICT).
She said to bridge this gap, the Ministry, through the Ghana Investment Fund for Electronic Communications (GIFEC) is implementing the Rural Telephony Project, Smart Community Project, and the Satellite TV Project.
She said at her Ministry, they have established the linkage between access to information and freedom of expression in their policies and programmes.
She said they were working in tandem with the Ministry of Information to realise the vision of the President to ensure, the Right to Information and Freedom of Expression, leading to an open and accessible internet lined-up with government’s initiatives.
“We are witnessing a rapid digital transformation of our societies and aware of the indispensability of digital technology.”
She said the unprecedented digital transformation of the new era was leading to new forms of inequality.
Mrs Owusu-Ekuful said to combat this, digital innovation must go hand in hand with the obligation to adopt and improve legislation for public access to information and investing in relevant infrastructure to drive sustainable development.
Mr Abdourahamane Diallo, UNESCO Representative to Ghana, said Access to Information (ATI) is being recognised more and more as a requisite for sustainable development.
He said a recent UNESCO research, using Sustainable Development Goal (SGD) indicator 16.10.2, revealed a need to improve tracking and processing information requests and appeals; as well proactive disclosure.
Mr Diallo said the study also found out that oversight and appeal bodies needed strengthening as they are the essential components of ATI law enforcement, adding that “UNESCO is committed to assisting the government through the Ministry of Information to strengthen these components.
Madam Nicola Nana Yaa Hodasi, a Political and Economic Advisor at the Embassy of Federal Republic of Germany, acknowledged important initiatives taken by the government to move more towards an open government; such as the Ghana Open Data Initiative.
She said there are still some challenges, particularly at the district level, where information is often stored on paper and access meant a lengthy process through the district assembly, often dependent on finding the right person at the right time at the right place.
Since 2016, UNESCO marks 28th September as the “International Day for Universal Access to Information” following the adoption of a resolution (38C/70) in 2016 declaring every 28 September of every year as International Day for Universal Access to Information (IDUAI).
The IDUAI has particular relevance with Agenda 2030 with specific reference to SDG 12 on investment in rural infrastructure and technology development, SDG 11 on positive economic, social and environmental links between urban, peri-urban and rural areas and SDG 16 on initiatives to adopt and implement constitutional, statutory and policy guarantees for public ATI.
Infrastructure and technology development are essential elements in building knowledge societies as inequalities to access information sources, contents and infrastructures cast doubt on the information society’s global character and, consequently, hamper the growth of knowledge societies.
UNESCO promotes, through the Global Broadband Commission, for accelerating broadband rollout worldwide and examine applications that could see broadband networks improve the delivery of several social services, including education, environmental management and safety.
Posted by: Kingsley Nyarko Twum