Sod-cutting ceremony for the construction of 30 Community ICT Centres (CICs) at Akyem Asuom on 2nd June, 2020

Osabarima Ofosuhene Appenteng II, Asuomhene and Nananom  

Hon. Ohemeng Tinyase, Member of Parliament, Kwaebibirem, 

Hon. Seth, Municipal Chief Executive,

Residents of Asuom,

We live in very unusual times which have taught us that without technology, it will be very difficult for us to have a fairly normal life, as this corona virus persists throughout the world and forces us to live at a safe distance from each other. For the first time in our living memory, we’ve been forced to greet Nananom and ourselves without handshakes, our children need to study remotely, we need to have virtual meetings and talking to loved ones on phone or by sending messages is the only way to keep in touch among others. We have been locked in, businesses, social, economic and religious activities shut down and E commerce, telemedicine, working from home, and other remote or virtual activities are the best means of keeping our economy alive. Hand washing, Veronica buckets, face masks and hand sanitizers have become part of our everyday lives too.

Indeed, this period has clearly demonstrated that Information and Communications Technology (ICT) is vital to keep us all safely connected today. The whole world was caught unawares with the scale and intensity of this pandemic which has brought our inadequate digital infrastructure into sharp focus. Ghana is better than most in our region but we still do not have the robust and adequate ICT infrastructure that can provide us with the tools we need to live and work remotely. Some interventions provided by the MOC which have aided our covid response include facilitating the establishment and management of the Emergency Call Centre (112) and the National Information Contact Centre (311), the Emergency Communication System and the Covid-19 symptom tracker App(*769#) to facilitate contact tracing and quarantine monitoring, assisting telcos to zero rate all health and educational sites and provide daily covid alerts to all subscribers free of charge,  providing all public sector workers with tools to facilitate remote working through the Smart Workplace platform which has connected over 200 MDAs and provided them with virtual office functionalities; giving Telcos free spectrum for 3 months to ease congestion on their networks among others. Many of these initiatives are the first in our subregion.

The Ministry of Communications, through the Ghana Investment Fund for Electronic Communications (GIFEC), has led the expansion of ICT infrastructure and services to underserved and unserved communities across the country through the implementation of various universal access programmes and projects. From capacity building and training of thousands of students, teachers, rural communities, farmers, fisherfolk, traders, artisans; provision of ICT tools and devices to thousands of users, establishing coding. Clubs, smart communities, Digital for inclusion projects, computer labs for hundreds of schools across the country, Rural Telephony sites, providing assistive learning capability to persons with disability in our universities and Special schools etc, this government is determined to fully utilize our Universal Service Fund to promote digital inclusion in Ghana. Within the next 18-24 months, we will provide connectivity to all unserved and underserved communities through the expanded Rural Telephony Project which will cover 2000 communities across the country. We are determined to leave no one behind as connectivity is as important a utility as water or electricity. If we didn’t realise that before, this pandemic has taught us this lesson.

ICT facilitates every aspect of our lives; from health, education, commerce, entertainment, governance, Agric, and many more. Every Ghanaian citizen must have access to this transformational tool but sadly most do not. Although a lot has been done to provide access to affordable internet and narrow the digital divide, much still needs to be done to provide ICT inclusiveness in Ghana. That is why we are here today.

Key amongst the GIFEC initiatives is the Community ICT Centres (CICs) project, which seeks to provide access to ICT services in communities without such facilities. The CICs are all equipped with computers and internet service, and now more than ever, are playing a very important role as learning centres for pupils and students during this period when schools have been closed. The youth can keep up with their academic work and access various eLearning tools and platforms from the CICs even if they don’t have internet at home.  

These CICs also double as community resource centres to provide business services and community development information within remote communities. They also serve as connectivity hubs for Ministries, Departments and Agencies, health facilities, educational institutions and, even online businesses to utilize for their work. These agencies will be required to pay a small fee to cover the operational expenses of the CICs.

The Centre managers have been equipped with the relevant know-how to guide all the users of the facilities, be they young or old, professionals and nonprofessionals, literate and non-literate in how their use of the centre can be beneficial, whiles ensuring that all relevant COVID-19 protocols such as social distancing are observed. The use of hand sanitizers, facemasks and hand washing practices will be strictly enforced. No face mask, no entry and the facemask should be properly worn, not under the chin!!

It is my pleasure to cut this sod on behalf of His Excellency the President of the Republic, Nana Akufo-Addo, for the construction of thirty (30) new State-ofthe-Art CICs across the country. 100 out of the over 200 existing CICs will also be renovated and equipped with upgraded computers and other equipment. To help expedite the expansion of access to centres like these across the country, I call on District Assemblies, MPs, public spirited individuals and corporate organisations to partner with Government through GIFEC to ensure that every underserved and unserved community in the country becomes a part of the digital society. If they provide the buildings and furniture, GIFEC will provide the computers and accessories and trained personnel to manage it.

The Ministry of Communications expects the contractors executing these projects to complete all 30 CICs within six months and we will be closely monitoring progress to ensure its done according to schedule.

I urge Asuoman, and all the 30 beneficiary communities to cooperate with the contractors and workers and give them the necessary support to enable them complete their work successfully. You must own the project and upon completion, ensure that this investment is protected and fully utilized for this and succeeding generations to derive maximum benefit from it.  

May God continue to bless our homeland Ghana and make us great and strong, the shining beacon that shows the way for others to follow. 

Thank you for your attention.