The National Information Technology Agency (NITA) has announced that it is going to register all Information and Communication Technology (ICT) practitioners and companies in the country to ensure standardized categorization of industry players.
Head of Legal and Regulatory at NITA, Kwame Baah Acheamfuor made the announcement at NITA’s maiden virtual stakeholder conference to seek the input of industry players on the ICT Standards and Guidelines put together by NITA.
He noted that currently, there are many ICT organizations and persons with ICT background who claim to have some prowess that cannot be proven, simply because the existing standards have not been properly enforced.
It would be recalled, for instance, that recently, the Ministry of Health website was flagged for having used “Illegally acquired WordPress themes and plugins” and was therefore suspended. That was probably because the Ministry used the services of a website developer who has no experience and or not credible.
Long before that, a big public institution like the Social Security and National Insurance Trust (SSNIT) employed the services or ICT Manager who was later exposed as having no qualification and credibility for the job, and that cost the country millions of dollars.
“Very often we get people doing ICT jobs for government and the systems they build either collapse in a short time or are not scalable because they did not meet standards,” the NITA Legal and Regulatory Head said.
Kwame Baah Acheamfuor noted that the registry would, therefore, seek to ensure that persons and companies which claim to have ICT backgrounds show proof of their qualification, competence and credibility before they can undertake ICT jobs, particularly for government.
He explained that the registry would require people to provide verifiable information such as employment records, criminal records (if any) and referees to enable NITA do thorough background checks on them before getting them on the register.
The ultimate goal of the double-barrel ICT registry is to weed out the quarks and ensure that qualified persons and organizations with proven record are given jobs on merit.
The NITA ICT registry will therefore capture and properly categorize ICT technicians and ICT graduates as merely persons with “ICT Education” but without competence, experience and credibility for any high-profile jobs yet.
“You have been to school but you don’t have any experience yet so we will not categorize you as a professional as has been the case so far,” Baah Acheamfuor said.
He noted that those with at least two years of experience would also be categorized as “practitioners”, and those who have at least built a local area network (LAN) for organizations what they built have lasted and not collapsed, would also be categorized as “professionals”.
“This will cure the tendency of any and everyone coming out of school or from some apprenticeship to claim they are professionals,” he said.
Kwame Baah-Acheamfuor said government agencies which, hitherto, gave jobs to people and organizations without verifying their claims, would then be required to go to NITA and select from the list of qualified and credible professionals and organizations for government ICT jobs.
The NITA Legal and Regulatory boss is therefore calling on all persons with ICT background and organizations into ICT to go to the NITA website and register with proof of their claim, so that their details will be captured for reference.
He also asked industry players to familiarize themselves with the standards and guideline published on the NITA website and make their contribution prior to the launch of the final list of standards.
The Standards and Guideline include Data Centre Standards, Guideline/Standards for LAN/WAN, Management of IT Infrastructure for MDAs and MMDAs, Electronic Records and Data Management Standards and Systems and Applications Standards.
Kwame Baah Acheamfuor noted that in time past, regulators focused on money and later they focus on developing the telecoms market, but now there is need to ensure effective collaboration between the ICT sector and all other sectors so regulation is moving that direction with the necessary standards.
Private Sector confused
Country Manager for C-Square, Estelle Akofio-Sowah, who spoke on behalf of the private sector said they cannot wait for NITA to start implementing the standards and guidelines to properly define government-private sector relationship and also ensure sanity in the technology industry.
She noted that till date, most private sector players have not been able to clearly identify what the actual role of NITA is in the industry, whether a regulator or a player.
“That confusion is a big barrier which makes it very difficult for the private sector to engage with NITA because we do not know what the terms of engagement should be and what discussion to have with NITA.
“But with the coming into force of the standards and guidelines I think we can now have a more meaningful conversation with NITA for the development of the country on the back of technology,” she said.
Regulation and Engagement
Estelle Akofio-Sowah noted that the challenge facing the ICT industry in Ghana is not lack of regulations but lack of implementation of existing regulations.
She therefore urged NITA to engage industry players more and regulate less in order to ensure effective collaboration between government private for the development of a solid ICT sector to drive the digital Ghana agenda.
The C-Square Country Manager noted that the Vice President leads an aggressive digitization agenda, standards are required to ensure that the various government agencies have the proper infrastructure and are also managing the processes properly as they get hold of data.
Data and investment
According to her, development cannot happen rapidly without data, but currently, Ghana lacks data to inform investors properly on where and how to invest so government agencies would be required to go strictly by the standards and guideline to collate and manage data in a manner that can inform investment and development.
“Data is the new gold and we need to have data at our fingertips to ensure proper development,” she said.
Estelle Akofio-Sowah noted that beyond data, infrastructure is also critical, because if the available infrastructure do not meet the required standards, experience on the digital platforms will be like setting up a business close to a rough and dusty road.
“The dust will drive customers away and eventually the business will collapse but when the road is fixed, more businesses will get on it and thrive,” she said.