Minister of Communications and Digitalization, Ursula Owusu-Ekuful has stated that a large chunk of Ghana and Africa’s digital infrastructure are being managed by expatriates and that is not right.
In her keynote address at the 11th Ghana Information Technology and Telecom Awards (GITTA), the Minister said Ghana is grateful to the expat consultants for helping build solid digital infrastructure on the continent, but it is time for them to step aside and allow local experts to take over.
“We cannot continue to rely on external expatriate consultants to man our digital infrastructure – much as we live the expats, it is time for us to be self reliant and COVID has taught us that,” she said.
According to her, as part of President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo’s digital Ghana agenda, the government is focusing on developing the digital skills of the youth to create the critical mass of young entrepreneurs that will rise up and man the country’s digital infrastructure.
The Minister recalled that the National ID infrastructure and the Ghana.gov platforms were, for instance, built by local technology firms with some support from expat consultants, but those two infrastructures are at least owned and managed locally.
National ID platform was built by Margins, while the Ghana.gov platform was built by three local fintech companies – Hubtel, ExpressPay and IT Consortium.
MoMo intellectual rights
Ursula Owusu-Ekuful regretted that even though mobile money technology, for instance, was developed by Africans for Africans, all the intellectual property rights for mobile money are now owned by expatriates who saw the potential earlier and paid the young African developers a pittance for the rights.
“Today, those expats sit outside of Africa and are making millions of dollars off the creativity and innovation of young and talented Africans and that is one of my abiding regrets,” she said.
The Minister said going forward, “we must insist that the African young minds and innovative brains that think through and develop technologies that are geared towards solving the peculiar challenges of the African continent should have their intellectual property protected and be supported to reap the rewards from it.”
She said intellectual property protection ensures that innovators benefit from their work and is therefore one of the surest ways to engender more innovations if the right environment is created.
Fourth Industrial Revolution
Ursula Owusu-Ekuful believes it is the duty of all African governments to lead the way in ensuring proper protection of intellectual property, particularly, during this all important fourth industrial revolution, which is the digital revolution.
“We missed the first, second and third industrial revolutions – Africa cannot afford to miss the fourth industrial revolution – it is our chance – and all of Africa’s captains of the technology industry must ensure that we take our rightful place in the comity of nations developing and using digital technology,” she said.
The Minister said government is in the process of improving rural connectivity to link the unserved and under-served areas of the country to the digital transformation process and ensure digital inclusion, which is critical to Ghana’s full participation in the fourth industrial revolution.
“Sometimes we forget that the country is bigger than Accra, Kumasi and Takoradi – but we need to ensure that we do not leave anybody behind in our question to modernize and improve service delivery through digital technology,” she said.
According to her, government is taking it upon itself to finance the infrastructure on which the network operators will deliver the necessarily services in the classic PPP (public private partnership) arrangement.
She said when that is done, some four million Ghanaians in the remotest parts of the country will be connected to voice and data technology that will help improve their lives.
Over 50 individuals and organizations were rewarded on the night for their respective contributions to the digital transformation of the country. The Minister herself, was honored for being Leader in Ghana’s Digital Transformation.