Monday, September 19, 2011


You may take note of this simple but profound African proverb. It says: “If your grandmother divulges a confidential matter about your mother to you, you don’t challenge her that you are going to verify the truth from your mother!”
In October, 1998, under the leadership of the then Ministry of Communications, now Ministry of Information, Ghana held the first National Communications Policy Conference, dubbed ‘ComPol’98’ at the Accra International Conference Centre. This writer happened to be the Secretary to the Planning Committee of that Conference with Prof. Kwesi Ansu-Kyeremeh, then Director of the School of Communication Studies of the University of Ghana, Legon as Chairman. 
 The object of Compol’98 was to formulate a comprehensive Communications Policy for Ghana. Because of our ‘bureaucratic’ way of doing things as a nation, the final policy document remained at the Cabinet level and could not reach Parliamentary for debate before the 2000 elections and the then ruling NDC Government was voted out of power.
In September, 2001, the then NPP Government, also organized another national conference at GIMPA to review the Communications Policy document prepared by the NDC in 1998. That day was a Tuesday, 11th September, 2001, when the terrorists of this world used aircrafts full of human beings to crush into the twin-World Trade Centres in America. That incident is what is now dubbed the “9/11 bombing” in the history of America and mankind. (This is for students of history). 
Finally, in 2003, Ghana’s Information and Communication Technology for Accelerated Development Policy was passed into law by Parliament and became known as (ICT4AD). The document can be accessed on the Ministry of Communications’ website,  in that document, there are what is referred to as ‘14 Pillars’ and ‘Pillar 8’ is devoted to the Concept of Community Information Centres (CICs).
According to Ghana Investment Fund for Electronic Communication (GIFEC), the Agency under Ministry of Communications, responsible for the implementation of the CICs prorammes and projects, Government has acknowledged that Ghana’s entry into the information age would require the extension of access to ICTs to all sectors of the economy. For example, how can the health, education, agriculture, tourism, trade and industry etc, flourish without the deployment of ICT applications?
And how can this feat be achieved if the majority of our people remain not only illiterate but computer illiterate at that? To deal with this situation, “Pillar 8” of the Ghana ICT4ACD) requires that the digital gap between the rural and urban centres in the country must be bridged.  One of the strategies outlined in the “Pillar 8” Concept is to establish Community Information Centres in all the 230 electoral constituencies in the country.
In simple terms, the Community Information Concept is an innovation for community literacy and ICT connectivity. The strategy is to take ICT very close to the door steps of rural, deprived and underserved communities, especially the youth so that they can all benefit from computer literacy programme regardless of their geographical locations in the country. It was against this backdrop that ‘the one child-one computer’ initiative came into being in this country. This is why the recent distribution of over 60,000 computers to some basic schools in the country by the Ministry of Education is very, very commendable.
Since 2003 when the ICT4AD policy came into being, efforts have been made by successive governments to implement the CICs concept. The Ministry of Communications through GIFEC has been putting relevant ICT infrastructure in various districts for the establishment of CICs in general. 
Specifically, in 2007, the then Minister for Information and National Orientation, Mrs. Oboshie Sai Cofie, inaugurated two CICs pilot projects at Dodowa, Dagme West District, and Great Accra Region and at Saltpond, Mfantseman Municipal Assembly in the Central Region. These were the very first CICs that the Ministry of Information was actively involved in terms of content development and management in collaboration with the Ministry of Communications with the support of United Nations Development Programme UNDP.
In 2011, over three years after the establishment of the Dodowa and Saltpond CICs Pilot Projects, this writer, as part of his dissertation for B.A. Communication Studies at the Ghana Institute of Journalism (GIJ), decided to undertake a study to evaluate the performance the two CICs Pilot Projects.

The basic objective of the study was to find out whether the CICs were achieving the purpose for their creation in terms of bridging the digital divide between the urban and rural communities. The result of the study was very interesting. Space will not permit us in an article of this nature to go into detail. 
Suffice it to say that the two Pilot Projects were performing far below capacity. The simple reason was that the State is yet to provide the necessary resources both human and material for these CICs to perform to full capacity.
 For instance, one major challenge thwarting the effective operation of the Centres is lack of constant power supply. Electricity supply to these vital Centres for national development is as regular as the rain-fall-patterns   in the desert. And the respective Municipal and District Assemblies are yet to provide stand by Generating Plants to the Centres. The result is the frequent break-downs of the ICT equipment at the Centres. 
 Just to mention the root cause of their infrastructure problems and based on data collected scientific and empirical evidence indicate that if this problem can be fixed all other things will take care of themselves.
 Even though both centres have Internet connectivity the study showed that the network system is rather slow to the annoyance of CICs Users. The national backbone system, within the frame work of E-Ghana Project must expedite action to reach the rural communities without delay. 
In terms of services delivery, basic computer literacy training programmes for the rural youth at the CICs is on course. At least, Saltpond CIC has 44 computers and one server which is commendable, as against only 10 computers and one server at Dodowa CIC.  One thing that the study revealed, which was gratifying was the fact that the CIC Managers have been fully integrated into the MMDAs main stream of administration. At the moment, their salaries are guaranteed. This was not the case in 2007 when the pilot project were inaugurated.
The research further revealed that out of several online services delivery such as online Birth Certificate, online Driver’s License, online Passport and others which were supposed to be done at the CICs for the benefit of the rural dwellers, only one was being provided at both Dodowa and Saltpond. This is the access of West Africa Examination Results online by students in rural communities. And the study has established that this single online service was the most cherished by respondents who took part in the research.

For instance, respondents in Saltpond stated that but for the CIC in their community, they would have to be travelling to Cape Coast, a distance of about 23km to check their exam results on the Internet.  This fact alone is a testimony that the concept of CICs is feasible, viable and must be made accessible and affordable for the benefit of the rural majority of our nation. The study has proved that if the MMDAs can invest in the CICs, the Internet facility alone would  be a major source of internal revenue generation for the Assemblies.
As we speak, GIFEC is embarking on ICT expansion revolution by distributing computers to almost all state institutions including the Prison Service. And it was in the course of this national service that three of its staff met their untimely death recently in the Northern Region. Such dedicated citizens who lost their lives in the course of their official duties must but be recognized and national monuments instituted in their memories whether they were drivers or labourers.
 I suggest that the officers who died in the course of serving the nation,  must be declared national heroes and all national honours bestowed upon them posthumously without discrimination. That is, whether they were drivers or labourers, they died while on an official duty. Ghana’s 1992 Republican Constitution abhors discrimination against citizens of the nation.

Records at GIFEC show that CICs have been established in various Districts in all the ten  Regions of the country and are at various stages of progress. 
  In the  Ashanti Region, out of 27 Districts, 11 of the number  have their CICs completed; 10  are equipped with ICT infrastructure and all 10 of them are connected to the Internet as at December, 2010.
In the Brong Ahafo, of 22 Districts, 11 have their CICs completed; 8 equipped with ICT infrastructure and all  8 connected to the Internet facility as at last year.
  With regard  to the Central Region, out of 17 Districts, 11 have their CICs completed with 10 of them equipped with ICT infrastructure and 8 enjoying Internet connectivity.
In the Eastern Region, of 21 Districts, 11 so far have their CICs completed with 9 of them equipped with CIC infrastructure with 8 connected to the Internet as well.
The Great Accra Region has 10 Districts, out which 3 have their CICs completed and all 3 equipped with ICT infrastructure but  2 are connected to the Internet so far. (It seems to me that the case of Greater Accra is unique because, it is largely cosmopolitan and almost of giant telecommunication operators have their headquarters in this Region and ICT infrastructure can be found everywhere anyway). The focus of the project is rural communities and so Ga rural must receive attention.
In the Northern Region, out of 20 Districts, 7 have their CICs completed and all the 7 have ICT infrastructure and all 7 connected to the Internet. 
Moving to the Upper East Region, records show that out of 9 Districts, 8 of them have their CICs in place and 7 have CIT infrastructure with all 7 enjoying Internet facility.
In the Upper West Region, of 9 Districts, 14 have their CICs completed; 10 CICs are equipped with ICT infrastructure and all 10 of them connected to the Internet facility.
The Volta Region has 18 Districts out of which, 9 have their CICs completed, with 7 of them equipped with ICT infrastructure and 6 currently envying  Internet connectivity.
Finally, in the Western Region, of 17 Districts, 9 of them have their CICs completed as at December, 2010;  9 of them  have their CICs are equipped with ICT infrastructure and 8 of them connected to the Internet.

In summary, out of 170 Districts nationwide, 91 of the have their CICs completed as at December, 2010. 80 CICs are equipped with ICT infrastructure; out of which 74 have Internet connectivity.  If GIFEC continues with this technological revolution, Ghana will sooner than later  be launched on the global space of Science and Technology Kingdom!