Ghana’s Minister of Communications and Digitalization, Ursula Owusu-Ekuful walked away with one of the most distinguished awards at the maiden FIN Awards for her towering leadership role in the digital Ghana agenda.
She was adjudged the Digital Personality of the Year, together with her counterpart from Nigeria, Dr. Isa Ali Ibrahim Pantai – Minister of Communication and Digital Economy for the largest West African country.
FIN (Foreign Investors Network) Awards formed part of the two-day maiden Africa Cashless Payment Systems Conference held at the plush Movempick Ambassador Hotel in Accra. The conference saw industry experts from the continent discuss how to use digitalization to bridge the trade gap in Africa with the context of AfCFTA.
The FIN Awards saw some 38 organizations and personalities win 42 awards for their immense roles in the digitalization of Africa and driving Cashless economies on the continent.
Ursula Owusu-Ekuful’s FIN Award comes barely a month after she was adjudged Digital Leader of the Year at this year’s Ghana Information Technology and Telecom Awards (GITTA).
As sector minister, Ursula has been working very closely with the Vice President to deliver all the solid infrastructure and innovation that now constitute the key components of the digital transformation journey.
Together with the Vice President and their respective expert lieutenants, they have delivered on major infrastructure like the Ghana Card, digital address system, Common Monitoring Platform, paperless port, ICUM, Ghana.gov, National Dashboard for fraud monitoring, Digitalized Property Rate and Land administration, digitalized medical supplies delivery, Mobile Money Interoperability, GHQR and many others, which are defining the country’s digital journey.
Ursula Owusu-Ekuful has also been at the head of initiatives such as the rural telephony and digital inclusion project targeted at connecting unserved and underserved communities in the country to digitally include at least some four million rural dwellers with affordable internet connectivity.
That project is being done through the innovative Rural Star UMTS 900 technology, which was developed and implemented for the first time in Ghana due to pressure from the Minister for an inexpensive robust system that provides data and voice services to underserved communities and is now being used globally.
The project provides up to 70% cost reduction in operations and maintenance of the RT infrastructure, adding some 2,016 sites have been earmarked to be completed by the end of 2022, out of which 500 are already active and improving the socio-economic lives of over 2,000,000 Ghanaians in rural communities across the country.
Girls in ICT
The Minister is also known to have taken a very dedicated personal interest empowering girls with ICT, which saw the training of 584 in ICT during the peak of Covid-19 pandemic.
The aim is to bridge the wide gap between males and females in ICT, as a 2017 UNESCO report states that only 35% of world students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) are female, and the data on girls offering ICT in particular is only 3 per cent.
Recently Ursula Owusu-Ekuful stated “Our determination to develop the skills of young girls has led to the expansion of our commemoration of the International Telecommunications Union’s annual Girls in ICT Celebrations to encourage and empower girls and young women, to consider studies and careers in the growing field of ICTs. During this period, selected girls are given basic computer literacy, coding/programming skills to help demystify the notion of ICT as a highly technical field reserved for brilliant and exceptional students. We have also included mentorship and an open day for the best 100 girls.”
The Minister also noted that some additional 1,000 girls in the Western North Region of Ghana have also been given ICT training and the gesture will be extended to the North East Region soon, thanks to the GHC10 million support they received from MTN.
Again, under her watch, Ghana is rolling out the World Bank-funded designed to improve the allocation of public resources, boost the efficiency and broaden the coverage of priority government services, and nurture entrepreneurship and job creation through ICT.
According to her, the intended beneficiaries of the scheme include the government, through more efficient and cost-effective delivery of services and administration; the business sector, via lower transaction costs and greater accessibility to government; and individuals, particularly women and the young, through improved public services.
She noted that as government drives the adoption and use of digital technologies across the country, it is also aware of the opportunity it creates for cyber attacks, so the Ministry is putting measures in place to ensure that the digital interventions rolled out as part of the Digital Ghana Agenda are secured from cyber-attacks.
Under her watch, the Cybersecurity Act, 2020 (Act 1038) has been passed to affirm government’s commitment to protection of the country’s digital infrastructure, applications and services, plus protection for all infrastructure designated as Critical Information Infrastructure (CII) across both the public and private sectors.
The CIIs are across 13 sector and they include National Security and Intelligence, ICT, Banking and Finance, Energy, Water, Transportation, Health, Emergency Services, Government, Food and Agriculture, Manufacturing, Mining and Education, plus some private sector institutions who have been notified as such.
Those were just a few of the many initiatives Ursula Owusu-Ekuful has led as sector Minister, for which she was adjudged Digital Personality of the Year at the FIN Awards this year.