Wednesday, November 28, 2012


AFRICA ELECTIONS 2012 - GLOBAL EYES ARE WATCHING GHANA
BY MAWUTODZI ABISSATH

Contesting Presidential Candidates in elections 2012  


A very popular Ghanaian proverb affirms: “A child who knows how to wash his hands eats with Kings.”
On 6th March 1957, when Ghana asserted itself as the first country in black Africa to wrench its independence from the colonial Britain, the country became the torchbearer of the black race and a global centre of political attention in Africa.
Since 1992 Ghana has held five successful presidential and parliamentary elections in the midst of democratic turbulent in continental elections. This feat motivated the international community to describe Ghana as the “beacon of democracy in Africa.
In fact, the European Union has politely declined an invitation to come down and observe 2012 elections in Ghana. In their estimation, Ghana has proved beyond doubt that the country has democratically matured and can manage its own electoral affairs without external supervision. This is the highest honor any African country can dream to attain in geo-politics.
Yet, the Former UN Secretary General Dr Kofi Annan has cautiously   noted that, “the best is yet to come.”   Dr Kofi Annan was recently reported in the Ghanaian media as saying, “When elections are conducted in integrity, without being disfigured by election motivated violence that is democracy.”
“Flawed elections can create unrest, setting back development by decades,” the wise veteran international diplomat opined.  Repercussions of election violence in some African countries such as Kenya, Serra- Leon and Cote d’Ivoire are still serving as scars on the conscience of Africa.
In seven days from the date of writing this piece, precisely on Friday, 7th December 2012, over 13million Ghanaian biometric registered voters will go to the polls to elect a president out of eight presidential candidates and  275 parliamentarians.
The writer has observed that the fear of the unknown is causing national psychological anxiety amongst Ghanaian electorates. The anxiety is even more intense amongst the presidential candidates themselves and their partisan supporters than the general electorates. Why? Because of the acrimonial campaign strategies some of the political parties have adopted as the voting date approaches. What to do?
Another Ghanaian proverb admonishes: “An elderly person at home does not sit down   to watch children engage in verbal argument that may lead to physical exchange of blows resulting in someone losing an eye or a tooth.” It was the traditional wisdom in this proverb that goaded Ghanaian elders to set a historical political record in Africa in 2012.  Do you want to know what happened?
On Tuesday, 27th November 2012, in the cultural capital city of Kumasi in the Ashanti Region of Ghana, within the premises of the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KUNST) the National Peace Council did something that was unprecedented in the political history of Ghana if not in Africa.
On that memorable day, the National Peace Council under the auspices of the modern Asante King, Otumfo Osei Tutu II, and with the technical and administrative support of an Accra –based Institute for
Democratic Governance, summoned all the presidential candidates to a rare meeting to pledge the people of Ghana that they would uphold peace, before, during and after the elections. Like prospective jobseekers   shortlisted for interview all eight presidential candidates humbly responded to the call.
President John Dramani Mahama, the National Democratic Congress (NDC), Dr Henry Lartey, the Great Consolidated Popular Party (GCPP), Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, New Patriotic Party (NPP), Dr Paa Kwesi Nduom, Progressive People’s Party (PPP), Mr. Akwasi Addai, United Front Party (UFP), Mr. Hassan Ayariga, People’s National Convention (PNC), Dr Abu Sakara Foster, Convention People’s Party (CPP), who was represented by his running mate, Madam   Akosua Frimpomaa Sarpong Kumankuma and Mr. Joseph Osei Yeboah, Independent candidate,  all publicly signed a declaration to ensure peace during the December 7 polls.
The historic event was held under a broad them:  “Promoting peaceful elections and justice: Taking a stand against electoral violence, impunity and injustice.” The document to which the presidential candidates appended their signatures was dubbed as the “Kumasi Declaration” and was administered by no less a personality than the Chief Justice of the Republic of Ghana, Her Lordship Mrs. Justice Georgina Theodora Wood.  It was more or less like swearing an oath of office. And the people of Ghana will hold them accountable to it.
The forum was made even more glamorous and glorious by the presence of the only two living Former Heads of state of the county since independence. They were President Jerry John Rawlings and President   John Agyekum Kufuor.  These statesmen did not only grace the occasion with their huge and giant physical persona but did share a few words of wisdom with those who were racing to sit on the hot throne they once occupied.
President Rawlings for instance, admonished that there was the need for fairness in the electoral process to prevent any unwanted situation. “Ghana has been blessed with peaceful transitions in the Fourth Republic and nothing must be made to dent this image,” he warned.
President Kufuor cautioned the presidential candidates not to see the signing of the peace pact as something done for themselves but for the nation as a whole. “The security agencies and the Electoral Commission must do their work with diligence and honesty,” he advised.
Besides the two Former Commanders- in- Chief  of the Ghana Armed Forces, the  current  Chief of Defence Staff, Lieutenant General Peter Augustine Blay, the Inspector General of Police, Paul Tawiah Quaye, and the President of the National House of Chiefs, Wulugu Naba Pugansua, Naa Professor John S. Nabila, were among the high profile personalities, who were at packed hall.
But one group of people who ought to be commended to the blue heaven is the religious gurus of our beloved country. From the Chairman of the Peace Council himself, the Most Rev Professor Emmanuel Asante, the Catholic Bishops Conference, the Christian Council, the Charistmatic Authorities, the Islamic Faith leaderships, the Traditional African Religious Authorities right down to ordinary church goes, Ghana must count itself blessed to be inhabited with souls that are amenable to peaceful co-existence regardless of race, creed or faith.
The purpose of this article is not to pretend to be holier than thou, but to politely refresh the memory of all compatriots that the entire globe is watching Ghana with one single eye. The world would want to see whether Ghana would be able once again conduct free, fair and peaceful elections in Africa.
As we go to the polls on that mystical day of 7th December, 2012, let us prove to ourselves and not anyone else that we are unique in the true sense of the word. That God is Ghanaian and Ghana is the chosen land of God to fulfill His own commandment of universal PEACE!
Writer is Deputy Director at the Information Services Department in Accra.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Data Journalism Application and Road Safety in Ghana

By Mawutodzi Abissath

“Thou shall not kill” is one of the biblical injunctions of the Ten Commandments. The implication is that if you kill someone, you commit a crime also known as murder.  And murder is a felony for which, when convicted, the offender is liable to life imprisonment or pay the ultimate price - death.

Yet, in Ghana a reckless drunk driver can take about 45 passengers in a rickety   moving coffin and murder them in a twinkle of any eye and go scot free. Why? Because that kind of murder is referred to as traffic or road accident. This is what is termed as “Free Murder on our Roads.”

From Wednesday, 24th to Friday, 26th  October, 2012, over 200 selected Ghanaian journalists and web developers participated in a three-day Data Journalism  Boot camp here in Accra. This writer defines tempted to interpret “Data Journalism” as “Collaborative Journalism” to suit his purpose.

Basically, the  bootcamp was  a hands-on training programme, using team-based project work where journalists collaborate with IT technicians, especially developers, designers as well as civic activists to use public data to build experimental civic media applications such as  websites, or services. The principal objective is to empower ordinary citizens with facts and figures to better appreciate the world around them to fight for their rights when need be.

It has been established that since the advent of Information Communication Technology (ICT) which transformed the world into a miniature community, journalism is one profession that has been revolutionised beyond compare. It first metamorphosed from traditional journalism to e-journalism, or online journalism, or cyber-journalism.

Then, while in transit, the profession experienced what is known as “citizen journalism,” with its resultant by-products such as blogging, vlogging, flikr, Facebook, Twitter, Word Press, YouTube etc, all capsule in what is now known as “Social Media,”  

Today we are talking of “Data journalism” or “Data Literacy.”  The world is so opening up that the amount of information and data available to the public for analysis, decision-making and action is mind-boggling.

But to be able to decipher and interpret the mounting data resources for the benefit of society, journalists need some basic data wrangling technical skills. That was the essence of the boot camp in Ghana.
 Records show that the Data Journalism bootcamp was pioneered by the African Media Initiative (AMI) and the World Bank Institute (WBI) in Kenya in January 2012 and delivered in other places like Uganda and South Africa.

The Ghana edition of the bootcamp was jointly organised by the Ghana Open Data Initiation (GODI) of the National Information Technology (NITA), AMI, Google, and WBI. After the first day of tutorial, participants broke into five groups and had a very limited time to develop and present their project works within 48 hours. And the final product was expected to be practical and beneficial to society.

In reality, it was impossible to master Data Journalism as a subject matter in 72 hours. So the course was intensive and the project work very competitive indeed!  At one stage tension in the computer lab was so high that some group members virtually turned themselves into detectives, going round to spy on what others were up to. Others were deliberately or otherwise pulling plugs here and there to cause artificial blackouts in their competitors’ camp.

In fact, the event was like a football gala match between Hearts and Kotoko. In some groups, heated arguments ensued among group members themselves where voices were flying across the room like ‘unseen objects.’ It was all pressure without animosity, really!  

In the end all project works were found to be very productive and creative indeed! The first award winning project was on the corruption in the Extractive Industry entitled, “WHERE OUR MONEY DEY?” It questioned how royalties are paid by mining companies but hardly reached ordinary people in the mining communities. 

Nonetheless, the best top-four project works were awarded cash prizes pegged between
$1,500 to $250. The prizes were sponsored by the GODI, AMI, WBI and Google. Mr. Craig Hammer of WBI and Mr. Justin Arenstein of AMI said they were highly impressed by the performance of participants in view of the fact that Data Literacy Bootcamp was being held in Ghana for the first time. All participants received Certificates instantly. But hard cash was yet to enter any pockets.

Dr. Nii Quanor, a veteran Ghanaian IT expert of international repute and current Chairman of NITA Board, took personal interest in the training course to ensure the success of the programme despite some technical challenges at the venue. Mr. William Tevie, Director-General, NITA, Mr. Eric Akumiah, GODI Project Coordinator and others under the auspices of the Ministry of Communications played pivotal roles to place Ghana on the world map of Data Journalism.

Road Safety Technology  
The object of this piece is to share with the general public the highlights of one of the award winning group project works. The Group, simply referred to as Safety Group took a quick look at the socio-economic havoc road accidents had caused and continues to cause the nation for the ten year period 2000 – 2010.


This pie chat shows Greater Accra with the highest rate of accidents (44.6%)
The project itself was dubbed Nanty Yie meaning safe journey. With  reliable data sourced from the National Road Safety Commission, the Police and the Ghana National Fire Service, the journalists in the group wrote a story while  the IT technicians  used geospatial technology to provide graphical illustrations indicating accident-prone stops along various  roads  on the map of Ghana.

Research showed that in 2001, Ghana was rated as the second highest road traffic accident-prone nation among six West African countries, with 73 deaths per 1000 accidents. Over 11,291 road accidents occurred in 2001 with 1,660 fatalities. This figure slightly decreased to 10, 715 in 2002 with 1,665 fatalities. Though road accidents further declined to 10,644 in 2003, fatalities shot up to 11, 7 15 over the period under review.
Ghana records about 10,000 fatal road traffic accidents, every year, out of which 1,600 people perished while 15,000, were seriously injured, robbing the nation of critical human resource. Some accident victims die or become incapacitated, to the detriment of national development.
Further, Ghana loses an amount of GH¢165,000, representing 1.6% of its GDP yearly, in solving problems such as medical expenses of victims, damage to vehicles and insurance cost among others.  The World Health Organisation (WHO)’s records show that Ghana lost about 2% of her GDP annually due to road accidents.
In 2009 Greater Accra with the highest vehicle population in the country, saw the highest trend in road accident fatalities. Some of the accident prone Towns in the region include Accra, Akuse Junction, Ayimensa, Sege, Oyarifa, Ada and Madina.
 The Upper West Region also with the least vehicle population,  in 2000 recorded the lowest road accidents with a few hot spots like Goli, Nadoko and Lawara.

This graph shows the trends of fatalities in various regions over the years.

Research indicates that the Ashanti Region has its own peculiar problems when it comes to road accidents. Being the second largest city with large number of vehicles, it stands  next to the Greater Accra with total road accidents of 12,299 in 2009.
Some accident prone towns in the Region are  Juaso, Asankare, Ohene Nkwanta, Mampong and Tepa Junction. Brong Ahafo Region on the other hand, has only Tanoso near  Sunyani as an accident prone area.
The Central Region is another geographical area in the country where towns like Komanda Junction, Shama Junction and Yamoransa Junction are notoriously noted for road accidents. In 2000, for instance, the region recorded road accident deaths of 509 which increased to 1,026 in 2004.
But one worrying phenomenon observed about Ghana is that some of the worse traffic accidents were recorded on some of the good roads, especially in the Greater Accra region. A typical example is the US $547 million Millennium Challenge Account (MCA) funded 14.1km N1 Highway commissioned by the late President John Evans Atta Mills and former President John Agyakum Kufuor in February this year. Fifteen (15) accidents with huge losses of life and property were recorded on the George Bush Motorway within the first of month of its commissioning .

Road Alert Application
In order to supplement the efforts of the National Road Safety Commission and other stake holders in road safety activities in the country, the Safety Group at the Data Journalism bootcamp came up with an innovative application known as App for Road Alert.
The Group developed the NANTI- YIE Application, downloadable on any smart phone, Android device that alerts motorists when approaching accident prone-areas by means of the GEO location. The philosophy is prevention is better than cure.




The red spots in this map indicate accident prone areas..

   The safety Application is also intended to fire a call message to emergency services like the Police, the Fire Service, and the Ambulance services along a particular road where accident may occur etc. The Safety Group has also developed a web App and mobile web for the benefit of the travelling public.
It is expected that the Road Safety authorities will explore this innovative technology to help prevent accidents on our roads.  There is a Ghanaian traditional adage which says: “He who brings you roads brings you life.” Thus, it is the view of the Safety Group that if roads are supposed to bring life then the same roads must not be allowed to lead to death.
The writer is Deputy Director/Head of IT at the Information Services Department, Accra
Contact: abissath@gmail.com

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

ECOWAS TRANSPORT & TRADE FACILITATION –THE ROLE OF THE GHANA POLICE
By Mawutodzi K. Abissath



The role of the Police is essential in the development of any country in the world. It is impossible for any economy to survive without ensuring internal security and other services provided by the Police service.
In Ghana, the traffic management and highway patrols services conducted by the police contributes a great deal to productivity by reducing travelling time, ensuring safe movement of people and goods among others. Just take a look at a chaotic confusion at traffic junctions in Accra whenever traffic lights go off for only five minutes without a police officer. 
In May 1975, political leaders of the West Africa sub-region came together in the capital city of Lome, Togo to form what is now referred to as Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). One cardinal objective of the founding fathers is the free movement of people, goods and services.
 Almost 40 years the organization has continued to pursue this integration agenda by encouraging members through various fora at all levels to enhance the process. The latest strategy is the new Vision 2020 programme aimed, among others, at transforming ECOWAS into a borderless Community. This new vision means that ECOWAS is committed to strengthening its protocols on Free Movement of Persons and Goods, Right of Residence and Right of Establishment as well as the protocols on the ECOWAS Trade Liberalization Scheme (ETLS).
Conscious of the challenges militating against the realization of this unique Protocol of free movement of goods and people, ECOWAS has set up a National Road Transport and Transit Facilitation Committee (NFC), in member states. The Committee is to collaborate with other sister-countries and coordinate and support the efforts in facilitating trade along the Abidjan-Lagos road corridor.
 The facilitation strategy covers the Tema-Ouagadougou corridor as well. The membership of the NFC includes the Police, Customs Division of Ghana Revenue Authority, Ministries responsible for transport, trade and others.
The object of this piece is to underscore the contribution of the Ghana Police Service in trade facilitation along these corridors and to identify some of the factors impeding the achievement of the integration objective and how to remedy the situation. Road blocks or check points along highways are necessary to provide security for travelers and prevent trafficking of goods and services that rob countries of revenue for development.
A recent study conducted by the West Africa Trade Hub (WATH) based in Accra indicates that the Ghana section of the Abidjan –Lagos corridor that is from Aflao to Elubo, a distance of 558km has 30 roadblocks as of June 2012, translating into approximately one barrier per every 20km.
Comparatively, this makes Ghana a country with the second highest number of checkpoints on this corridor. The Tema-Paga section of the Tema-Bamako corridor has 43 main checkpoints; of these 43 main checkpoints, 30 are manned by the Police, 8 by Customs and 5 mixed, that is, Police cum Customs checkpoints. Some checkpoints are also temporarily erected as and when the Police Service deems it necessary for their function.
Interestingly, statistics shows that the Abidjan-Lagos corridor which links Ghana to most of her eastern and western neighbours is the “engine room” or key to the trade facilitation objective of the ECOWAS sub-region.
It is stated that, “about 65% of economic activities within the West Africa region is undertaken on this corridor.”  Because of the enormous contribution of this corridor to the economic well-being of the people in this part of the world, the World Bank agreed to support the implementation of “the Abidjan-Lagos Trade and Transport Facilitation Project” to reduce trade and transport barriers in the ports and on the roads along the Abidjan-Lagos corridor i.e. from La Cote D’Ivoire through Ghana, Togo, Benin to Nigeria.
The World Bank’s desire to support the implementation of the Abidjan-Lagos Trade and Transport Facilitation Project is to reduce the overall travel time along the corridor through reduction of the number of road blocks along the corridor and the improvement of the condition of the road while ensuring safety in the movement of vehicles. This is being achieved through financing road improvement works and sensitization and training workshops for stakeholders to identify with the objectives of the project.
In terms of road infrastructure, the Ghana section of this corridor is receiving a lot of Government’s attention, with the virtual completion the Akatsi-Aflao section with support from the African Development Bank.  The Tetteh–Quarshie-Mallam highway which was jointly commissioned in February this year by the departed President Professor John Evans Atta Mills and Former President John Agyekum Kufour was funded by the Millennium Challenge Corporation.
 As we speak, information gleaned from the Ministry of Roads and Highways indicates that the Agona Junction-Elubo section of the corridor is receiving financial support from the World Bank again and construction are expected to commence by the end of the third quarter of this year.
The Customs Division of the GRA has been supported under the project to train its staff on single window management at the borders to reduce delays and facilitate movement.  The service is taking steps to harmonize their checkpoints with police service in a bid to reduce delays to transit trucks.
The number of road blocks comes with its attendant issues of bribery and delays. According to the WATH study in 2011, Togo managed to remove all police and gendarmerie checkpoints on its section of the corridor, becoming the best performing country in terms of controls.  Mali and Ghana have highest delays of about 20mins per 100km.
La Cote d’Ivoire on the other hand despite its political crisis was able to reduce bribery by 72% last year and this is commendable. 
Records show that Ghana was able to decrease bribes from 55 GHC per trip in 2006 to 15 GHC per trip in 2009. This was described as of the best performances for Ghana for that period. And the country was praised to the blue sky for this feat. But then from 2010, the trend started changing and within two years Togo took over the first position from Ghana.  It was discovered that the emergence of some “huhudious” unauthorized checkpoints and roadblocks started causing irritable delays to travelers. In fact the West Africa Trade Hub’s study revealed that “80% of the bribes are paid in half of the checkpoints;”  “One active checkpoint every 20km and one inspection at every 2.4 checkpoints for legal trucks.” All these lead to delays which have increased by 30minutes, reaching more than 2hours per trip,” the study revealed.
the question that agitates the minds of well-meaning ECOWAS citizens is whether smuggling, fraud, drug-trafficking, highway robbery and the associated transport and trade crimes can be eliminated by the numerous and sometimes unauthorized checkpoints on this livewire corridor of the sub-region? The police service is being called upon to strategize to develop other effective means of providing safety and security without hindering movements or causing delays.
Having realized that  the role of the Ghana Police is indispensable in effective management of this vital Abidjan-Lagos corridor for the benefit of citizens of the ECOWAS sub-region, the  National Road Transport and Transit Facilitation Committee of Ghana, whose secretariat is the Ministry of Roads and Highways, has embarked on a series  of capacity building workshops  for the   Motor Traffic and Transport Unit (MTTU) of the Ghana Police Service  to equip them not only with logistics but also with knowledge and managerial skills to facilitate transit trade and to ensure the safety and security of travellers along the corridor.
The first workshop took place from July 19-20, this year at Elmina in the Central Region of the country. The event which was held under the theme “Enhancing the Performance of the Ghana Police Service in Transport and Trade Facilitation” brought together over 30 MTTU officers drawn from various districts of the Central and Western Regions. It was addressed by the Deputy Minister for Roads and Highways Hon. Dr Nii Quaye-Kumah on behalf of the sector Minister.
The Police officers were sensitized on the protocols of ECOWAS on trade, the various customs procedures and checks necessary for transit trucks, documentations expected from transit. The Police MTTU officers were also exposed to the ECOWAS brown card insurance and its security features as well sharing experiences from freight forwarders and importers on challenges in the corridor.
 The recommendations and action plan drawn by the Police at the end of the workshop gives the NFC the hope that the next corridor management report will record much lower barriers and enhanced mobility on the Ghana section.
Against this backdrop, the Ministry of Roads and Highways, intends to expand the capacity training programme for the benefit of more Police officers nationwide. The second sensitization workshop is scheduled from August 23-24, 2012 for MTTU personnel in the Greater Accra, Eastern and Volta Regions.
The Ministry expects the usual cooperation and attendance by the security agencies concerned to improve the professional competency road management skills of the Police for the benefit of transport and trade facilitation in the ECOWAS sub-region.
 The writer is Deputy Director and Head of IT of the Information Services Department in Accra
Contact: abissath@gmail.com

Thursday, August 9, 2012

EULOGY TO PRESIDENT J.E.A.MILLS
All ye mortal creatures of God
 Who mirror the visage of man
In the divine image of God!
All ye mortal beings of God
 Who symbolize the microcosm
Of the wondrous macrocosm!

Hail to the Saint anointed!
Saint Atta-Mills,
You were born a Saint
And desired no mortal
To canonize you as one
If Africans have Saints!
,
You were the Unprecedented President
That ever ruled our blessed land
How humble you were!
How noble you were!
How simple you were!
You were the first soul of our land
To be delivered in the manger of gold
At Tarkwa - a land awashed with gold
Yet, you snubbed the adoration of gold
And lionized the appellation of God!

OH! SAINT ATTA-MILLS,
You were the first democratic Leader 
To decree MAWU-SOGBOLISA
As the Supreme President of Ghana 
To the shock of men of little faith!
You converted a mini Chapel
Into a Presidential Cathedral
Where day by day, the Lord was lauded
And you were not ashamed of that act !

OH! SAINT ATTA-MILLS,
You were the first National Captain
To attract multiple Red Cards
From mournful referees at ago
Even when you scored a classic goal
For the nation in the game of senate!
You were the first President
To be baptized a morgue Assistant
And the morgue adopted your corpse
When you obtained the eternal scholarship
To undergo a super natural course!
In the Universal University of the Maker!

OH! SAINT ATTA-MILLS,
You were the first President
To be knighted ASOMDWEE-HENE
By no less noble Kings of Ahafo
And all ten clans of Asafo
Proclaimed you King of Peace
You became the first National Osofo
To sanctify the National Park of Peace!

OH! SAINT ATTA-MILLS!
The anointed Prophet of God
Servant of ODUMAN-ANKOMAN
You received no esteem from your own
As the Master himself was scorned by his own
Yet, you were a gem in the hands of God!
You were the first King of Peace
To experience the highest initiation
While still on the royal throne of peace.
Through your unpredicted transition
You brought blissful benediction
Upon a vicious sorrowful nation!
You have accomplished your mission
For a  nation still in search of  vision!

OH! SAINT ATTA-MILLS,
May your wisdom, as the star in the sky
Guide your wise brothers and sisters
From the East, West, South and North
In search of the Greater Light
And lead them into the Kingdom Of Wisdom!

By Mawutodzi Kodzo Abissath 
(August 5, 2012)

To the memory of Professor John Evans Atta Mills– the Unprecedented President
Who Ruled Ghana from January 2009 - July 2012

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Ghana’s Data Protection Law In The Digital Age
By Mawutodzi K. Abissath


There is this Ghanaian proverb which admonishes: “When the rhythm of the drum beat changes, the dance movement must also change accordingly.”
Information Communication Technology (ICT) has revolutionalised the way mankind has been doing things from birth to death. So, any nation that fails to change in accordance with technology should not blame Jesus if its citizens’ biometric data are not recorded and stored in the database in the kingdom of heaven. But the heavenly database which is known as “Akashic” record requires neither laptop nor digital camera to process philosophically.  
It was in 1998 that the then Ministry of Communications now Ministry of Information first initiated a move to formulate a comprehensive ICT Policy for Ghana. Eventually, it was in 2004 that the draft policy document was finalised and legally christened as Ghana ICT Policy for Accelerated Development (ICT4AD).
Ghana has since made some strides in the field of ICT.  For instance, the Ghana-India Kofi Annan Centre for Excellence in ICT (AITI-KACE) has seen the light. Over 90 fully operational Community Information Centre (CICs) aimed at bridging the digital divide between the urban and rural centres in most of the 170 districts are in place.
At least over 60.000 laptops are being distributed to various schools and there is a dream to supply Ghanaian teachers also with free laptops throughout the country.
Further, plans are far advanced for the realisation of Digital Terrestrial Television Broadcasting system to replace analogue television by 2014, in accordance with the International Telecommunications Union’s global policy.
  A modern National Data Centre complex is under construction here in Accra where all relevant data from archaeology to zoology, from the Gold Coast to Ghana will be stored upon completion. But it must be admitted that Ghana still has some kilometres to travel when it comes to equitable spread of ICT infrastructure. This is because some rural schools are still learning ICT without having seen a computer before, let alone touching an electronic mouse.
What is commendable, though, is the fact that before the National Data Centre becomes operational, Ghana’s Ministry of Communications has adopted some pragmatic measures, by taking legal steps to ensure legal protection of data expected to be stored at the Data Centre. This, the Ministry has done by championing the enactment of the Data Protection Act, 2012 (Act 843) passed by Ghana’s Parliament in March 2012.
 The object of this piece is not to pretend to be providing legal interpretation of the law. That is the responsibility of the Supreme Court of Ghana. Our duty is to inform and educate the people of Ghana that there is a law that seeks to protect their privacy and personal data. Thus,   when filling in legal documents such as Passport, visa, medical or admission forms etc, they must know what to write and what not to about themselves. Period!
When the Law becomes fully operational, Ghanaians will have the right to refuse to give some information or data about themselves or their relatives when they are not sure what the information or data was going to be used for. This is very crucial especially when filling in online application forms.
Irononically, at the time of writing this article, the Coalition on Right to Information Ghana, a civil society group, seems to be on collision course with Ghana’s Parliament for pussy-footing the passage of the Right to Information Bill.
It appears this particular Bill was put before Parliament before the Holy-Ghost descended on the apostles in Jerusalem some 2000 years ago. And yet, no one knows when a traditional birth attendant will be trained in basic computer literacy to deliver the Bill fast online to the concerned coalition members and Ghanaians.
On the other hands, is it enough to insist on one’s right to information only?  Ghanaians also have the birth right to know their legal right to decide what type of data they ought to give about themselves when, how, why, for what purpose and to whom. That is the essence of the Data Protection Act, 2012 (Act 843).
Against this backdrop, on Thursday, June 14, 2012, the Ministry of Communications, under the e-Ghana project, organised a one day workshop to educate various MDAs and private sector organisations on the Data Protection Act at the La-Palm Royal Beach Hotel here in Accra.
The event which was themed “Ensuring the Protection of Privacy for the Information Age” was expected to have assembled over 300 participants. Unfortunately, however, as typical of the Ghanaian lukewarm attitude and apathy towards certain urgent issues of national dimension, only a hand-full of invited stakeholders came for the programme.
 But day turned out to be very, very productive indeed! For the first time some of us had the privilege of being tutored and mentored by legal dynamos  like Professor Kofi Kumados of this world. Prof. Kumado, a Constitutional Lawyer of global eminence, and Dean of Faculty of Law, University of Ghana, descended from his ivory tower, and came down on earth to dissect the anatomy of the Data Protection Law to the appreciation of some of us lay-mortals. 
We were schooled that the Data Protection Act (843) seeks to give practical meaning to Article 18 (2) of the 1992 Constitution on the privacy of communication in the digital age.
 Article 18 (2) stipulates: “No person shall be subjected to interference with the privacy of his home, property, correspondence or communication except in accordance with law and as may be necessary in free and democratic society for public safety or economic well-being of the country, for the protection of health, or morals, for the prevention of disorder or crime or for the protection of the right or freedoms of others.”
Thus, Article 1 (1) of Act 843 established the Data Protection Commission to operationalise Article 18 (2) quoted above. It says, “There shall be established a Data Protection Commission to protect the privacy of the individual and personal data by regulating the processing of personal information, to provide the process to obtain, hold, use or disclose personal information and for related matters.” 
Article 3 mandates the Commission among other things “to implement and monitor compliance with provisions of this Act (843); make administrative arrangements it considers appropriate for the discharge of its duties.”
The Law further authorises the Commission “to investigate any complaints and determine it in the manner the Commission considers fair, and keep and maintain the Data Protection Register.”
Touching on journalism, literature and art, Article 64 (1) stipulates, “A person shall not process personal data unless (a) the processing is undertaken by a person for the publication of a literary or artistic material; (b) the data controller reasonably believes that publication would be in the public interest; and (c) the data controller reasonably believes that, in all the circumstances, compliance with the provision is incompatible with the special purposes.”
A fundamental aspect of the Law every Ghanaian must know is what is referred to as “Data Subject” and “Date Controller.” For a layman’s understanding, Data Subject refers to a person whose data or information is being collected or processed; while Data Controller denotes a person or institution collecting the data or information for whatever purposes.
For analogy, let’s say, if Kofi is a foot-ball player filling in a form to join the Agro Ventures Foot-ball Cub, then Kofi is a Data Subject. And the Agro Ventures Foot-ball Club, which is collecting Kofi’s data as a player is the Data Controller.
According to the Law (Act 843), for Agro Ventures to qualify and be recognised as a Data Controller in Ghana, they must register with the Data Protection Commission. And it was explained that a person or an institution can register both as a Data Subject and a Data Controller as well. 
Act (843) requires that, when the Data Protection Commission comes into being, all MDAs will have to register with the Commission as Data Controllers because they already have data of their employees.
Ghana is not the first country on this planet of technology to see the need for Data Protection Law. Advanced countries like the USA, Europe and Singapore, have been operating data protection regimes for generations. And yet they are still confronted with some data protection challenges.
“For example, a recent survey by Privacy and American Business showed that 81% of Net users, and 79% of users who buy products and services on the Net, expressed concern about potential threats to their personal privacy while online.”
The research indicates that, “While only 6% of Net users said that their online privacy had been violated, 70% to 72% were worried about unauthorised access and use of their e-mails, web site tracking and personal profiling,” write Louis Harris & Associates and Dr. Alan Westin, "E-Commerce & Privacy: What Net Users Want" (1998).
Ghana’s Ministry of Communications in this respect must be applauded for being proactive and initiating the Data Protection Act (843) even before the proposed National Data Centre becomes operational.
Nevertheless, it is suggested that the Ministry must expedite action on the actual inauguration of the Data Protection Commission. But it is instructive to learn that a committee has already been set up to work out the modalities. Ghana must start doing things according to the exigencies of the digital age.

The author is Deputy Director/Head of IT, Information Services Dept., Ministry of Information, Accra, Ghana 

Contact: abissath@gmail.com

Friday, June 29, 2012

DIGITAL CONTENT CREATION AND MANAGEMENT AT THE DISTRICT LEVEL FOR THE BENEFIT OF RURAL PEOPLE IN GHANA
By Mawutodzi K. Abissath
Indeed, the popular adage that “Rome was not built in a day” is a universal truism. Even the Supreme Creator Him/Herself, who could have created the world in a second, took seven long days to accomplish the task of creation, according to scriptures.
M.K.Abissath, Workshop Facilitator
In Ghana, the concept of Community Information Centre (CIC) aimed among other things to bridge the digital divide between urban and rural dwellers is gradually but steadily taking root and shape. The CIC concept falls within the framework of Ghana’s Information and Communication Technology (ICT) for accelerated development (ICT4AD) which formally took off in 2004 in the country.
It is against this backdrop that the Ghana Investment Fund for Electronic Communications (GIFEC) of the Ministry of Communications, in collaboration with the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development, the Ministry of Information and the United Nations Fund for Development (UNDP) a two-day capacity building workshop for District Information Officers (DIOs) and CIC Managers in Accra.
Held under a broad theme of Capacity Building in Digital Content Creation and Management at the District Level, the workshop brought together 40 participants made up of one DIO and one CIC Manager each drawn from selected 20 districts where the CICs are reported to be doing well.
Basically, the objective of the workshop was to update and upgrade the knowledge and skills of DIOs and Managers of CICs to enable them to put to good use new Desktop television equipment that was procured by GIFEC for their respective CICS for the benefit of the rural people with their designated communities.
The Desktop television is a multimedia facility that will enable CICs to telecast relevant socio-economic activities, development news, educational campaigns as well as entertainment and recreational events being organized by the people and for the enjoyment of people themselves at with their communities in their own districts.
The Desktop television technology is an innovative multimedia facility that does not need internet connectivity to operate. It can be used broadcast locally created contents using basic tools such as digital cameras for information gathering, multimedia packaging in audio-visual, text and photograph to tell interesting stories as well do business with the outside world if networked.
Thus, for the DIOs and CIC Managers to acquire the needed skills to make maximum use of the technology, they were taken through digital content creation techniques such as blogging, basic video documentary production, writing for the web, photo editing and video editing techniques and how to upload pictures to illustrate stories on their own blogs.
Even though there have been some technological challenges because one or two participants, especially DIOs were having the opportunity to use the computer for the first time, majority of demonstrated they were up to the task.
 This was reflected in their output when the workshop was broken for group work. At the end of it all participants were able within the short span of 48 hours created blogs and produced short video documentaries after the hands-exercise. As a matter of fact, two days was extremely too short a period to master any new technology. But the creativity and ingenuity of the participants was amply demonstrated for what they were able to display within the time constraint.

Brightening the Corner where you are
Hon. Kofi Attoh, CEO, GIFEC

Mr. Kofi Attoh, Chief Executive Administrator of the GIFEC, who formally brought down the curtain on the two-day workshop on Wednesday, 27th June 2012 at the Ghana Multimedia Incubator Centre (GMIC) here in the capital city of Accra, advised DIOs and CIC Managers to endeavour to add value to their respective CICs for the benefit of their communities and for their own self-actualisation. “You must brighten the corner where you are,” Mr. Koffi  Attoh counseled them.
According to Mr. Attoh, the selection of workshop participants was not done, as he put it, on the basis of a ‘coin-tossing’ fashion as in the case of two football captains to determine who plays from right to left and vice versa. “You have been selected from among 93 other operational  CICs  to be trained because  GIFEC, and for that matter, Government has provided your Centres with Desktop Television equipment  in addition to the usual computers and internet facilities at your Centres,” he noted.
Mr. Attoh explained that the first 20 Desktop television equipment were procured at very high cost and distributed free of charge to the CICs that were deemed to be doing well. This, he said was   to enable them to display the activities, programmes and development  projects taking place in their Municipal, Metropolitan and District Assemblies (MMDAs) for the information, education and entertainment of the rural brothers and sisters, especially the youth.
The GIFEC Boss intimated participants were brought to Accra for training so that they would know how to use the new technology to serve its intended purpose. “If you provide equipment or gadgets for the CICs and the people don’t know how to use them, then its better you did not acquire them in the first place,” he pointed out.
Mr. Kofi Attoh said efforts were being made to provide the new technology to other CICs in due course. Hon. Attoh tossed the idea for GIFEC to consider sponsoring some DIOS and CIC Managers for further training courses at the Ghana Institute of Public Administration (GIMPA) and other institutions of higher learning to upgrade their knowledge and skills to enhance their academic and professional competencies.
Mr. Attoh urged the DIOs to explore the potential of ICT platforms to promote and project   investment opportunities, tourism attractions, the economic activity, festivals, and unique cultural heritage of their respective districts to be uploaded on their districts blogs or websites to be accessed globally to attract investors and tourists to their communities.
“The world is at your doorstep, must bring investors and tourists to district blogs or websites to see your farm produce and other cash crops available in your districts. You must tell your story to world while at the same time informing and educating your people to know development activities taking place in and around them,” he stressed.
Mr. Kofi Attoh advised the CIC managers to collaborate with DIOs by using their technical know-how to support them when they create the local content for it to be uploaded on the blogs become more accessible globally.
The GIFEC Boss urged CIC Managers to be proactive and innovative in the day to day running of the Centres. This, he said they must do in collaboration with expected CIC governing committees including DIOs, District Planning Officers, District Budget Officers,Traditional Authorities, Women Groups as well as some Community Based Non-governmental Organisations.
“You must endeavour to sensitise your Municipal, Metropolitan and District Assembly (MMDAs) members, government officials, farmers, traders, fisher folks, teachers, students, especially the youth on the use of the internet and its advantages and benefits.
“When mountain does come to David, David must go to the mountain,” so to speak, philosophised Mr. Attoh. He gingered the CIC Managers not to sit down with their hands in their laps, lamenting that people are not coming to their Centres to do business.
“You must communicate and educate the people about the internet as a two-way process in which data and information are sent and received between two and more parties. It is your duty to tell the people how knowledge and understanding the use of data and information can lead to their own empowerment and improvement of their standard of living standards,” Mr. Attoh opined.
For example, if the farmer or fisherman has information about more competitive prices of their produce in Kumasi than Accra, they would prefer selling the goods and services to the highest bidder. “And this will make them earn more income to pay their children’s school fees and live about life.”
The GIFEC Chief Administrator, therefore, urged DIOs and CIC Managers to put on their thinking cup and search for new and innovative ways to harness the power of the Information Technology (IT) to enhance the economic, social, cultural, educational and development objective of the people at the grassroots level to minimise the incidence of urban-rural migration or exodus in search non-existing greener pastures and their consequences including wrongdoings.
 Mr. Attoh  that pointed out that this explains why Government is making tremendous efforts at using ICT and innovative ways to address the some of the  multiple challenges confronting rural populations under a single roof, providing simple, single-point access to information and services to rural people  though the Community Information Centres.

Alhaji Botingnaa Alhansan, LGS


Alhaji Botingnaa M.B.Alhansan, Coordinating Director of Local Government Services (LGS), disclosed the Local Government Service Council has adopted ICT policy to ensure that local government services are automated and computerised to promote local and national development strategies.
According to Alhaji Alhasan, the Local Government Service in collaboration with UNDP is working to provide internet access to district assemblies nationwide to automate human resource data for efficient and effective human resource management for better planning and implementation of policies.
 The Local Government Service Coordinating Director has revealed that the Service has adopted a new scheme of service for IT technicians to help retain them the public service. “A career path in IT and Information management Systems can be taken at Local Government Service with clear opportunities for progression,” hinted.
Alhaji Alhasan told participants that the basic entry point for the ICT category staff is “Data Entry Clerk through Assistant Director of Management Information Systems to Director Management Information Systems,” he concluded.
Ms. Vivian Ayeboah, CIC Manager for Ga East Municipal Assembly, Greater Accra, who was elected Class Captain spoke on behalf of course participants. He was full of praise for the organisers of the programme, and assured GFEC that they knowledge they acquired would be put to good use.
Ms. Yeboah, however, used the occasion to appeal to the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development to impress on MMDAs to effectively involve DIOs and CIC Managers in all their activities and programmes to enable them obtain relevant data and information for video documentation and blogging for the benefit of visitors to the Community Information Centres.
Mr. Philip   Prempeh, GIFEC, Mr. Mawutodzi Abissath, ISD/Ministry of Information, Mr. Truth Lumor, UNDP and Mr. Kudjo Tsiagbe, Integrated Multi-Media served as workshop Facilitators.  Topics treated included Digital Content Creation at the District Level, Web Development and Content Management, Entrepreneurship & Small Business Management and Desktop Television Operation at the CICs.

Chick here to view more pictures of the workshop 
http://www.ghana.gov.gh/index.php/information/photo-gallery?view=album&album=5761338317388360305&page=1

Story and Photographs by M.K.Abissath Deputy Director/Head of IT, ISD, Ministry of Information
Conctact: abissath@gmail.com






Tuesday, June 26, 2012

DIGITAL CONTENT CREATION WORKSHOP OPENS IN ACCRA
By Mawutodzi K. Abissath

A two-day workshop aimed at updating and upgrading the knowledge of District Information Officers (DIOs) and Community Information Centres (CICs) Managers opened in the capital city of Accra yesterday, with a call on participants to take advantage of the programme for their own technological advancement and for the benefit of their respective Municipal, Metropolitan and District Assemblies (MMDAs).


The workshop which is being organized by the Ghana Investment Fund for Electronic Communications (GIFEC) brought together 40 participants drawn from selected MMDAs throughout the country. It is under a broad theme: Capacity Building in Content Management -Creating Content at the District Level.
Mr. Michael Agyei Takyi Technical Director at GIFIC, who opened the workshop on behalf of the Executive Administrator, Hon. Kofi Attoh, told participants that the event forms part of GIFEC’s capacity building and training programme in ICT for the accelerated development of the country.

He said it is Government polity to bridge the digital gap between the urban and rural dwellers through the establishment of CICs. “This policy cannot be fulfilled without the role of the DIOs and CICs managers,” he noted.

Mr. Takyi advised the DIOs and the CICs managers to see themselves as partners in development at the District level and closely collaborate with one another and work as a team to ensure that government information, policies and programmes are effectively disseminated to members of the rural communities through the CICs. “After today’s workshop, you must see yourselves as a pair or twins and work together at the CIC in your district,” he stressed.

Madam Victoria Dei-Kumah of GIFEC and Coordinator of the programme assured participants of their welfare and advised them to take advantage of the opportunity.
Mr. Mawutodzi K. Abissath, Deputy Director at the Information Services Department of the Ministry of Information and Mr. Truth Lumor of UNDP were resource persons who took participants through the programme. Mr. Abissath handled Content Creation at the District Level, while Mr. Lumor focused on Website Development and Digital Content management.
(Opened on Tuesday, 26th , the workshop is expected to end on Wednesday, 27th June, 2012).








Wednesday, June 6, 2012

GHANA SPACE SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY CENTER – THE WAY TO GO
By Mawutodzi K. Abissath



Just keep this popular Chinese proverb in mind as you move on in life: “A journey of a 1000 miles or approximately 2000km begins with one step.”
Leadership
Records show that President Dwight D. Eisenhower was the first US President who established the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in 1958. Then President John F. Kennedy on 25th May, 1961, in a speech - challenged American scientists “to land a man on the moon and bring him back safely by the end of the 1960s.”

True to President JFK’s words, the American scientists took up the challenge and when the state put resources at their disposal, precisely on 20th July, 1969, Neil Armstrong and Edwin Aldrin, through Apollo 11 mission, became the first two humans to land and walk on the surface of the moon in human history. This is inspirational leadership par excellent!

That scientific and technological feat was unprecedented in the annals of human ingenuity. It proved clearly that man is microcosm or a small-scale version, within macrocosm or a larger scale form of God. The inference is that man was truly created by God in His own image. Those who don’t believe in the existence of God should just block there nostrils and mouth for ten minutes and they will live to win other souls to their thinking.

So, over 40 years ago, as village kindergarten kids here in West Africa, our teacher told us that we should stay awake and watch some people from America, who would land on the moon that night. At that time some of us did not even know what is called America.

Indeed, at the appointed time, some of us out of mere curiosity, fixed our naked eyes gazing squarely towards the dark sky and faintly saw some dark object rotating round the moon clockwise several times, as the Apollo 11 space craft was negotiating to land on the fragile moon. We gaped with awe!

Ghanaian scientists
Respected reader, I have related the preceding anecdote to illustrate what a visionary leadership coupled with inspirational direction can do for a nation. If Americans can do it, there is no reason why Ghanaians cannot achieve the same feat. As a matter of fact, as we speak there is a Ghanaian Robotics Engineer by the name Dr. Ashitey Trebi-Ollennu, who is not only a mere worker at NASA, but is playing a leading role in Mars Exploration Rover project over there. In fact he was in Ghana a couple of years ago to introduce robotics engineering to some second cycle students in this country.

It is against this backdrop that this writer wishes to commend Ghana’s Ministry of Environment, Science and Technology for officially launching Ghana Space Science and Technology Centre (GSSTC) in May this year. The event took place within the premises of Ghana Atomic Energy Commission School for Nuclear and Allied Sciences here in the capital city.

Priorities

For this writer, the day of the formal launch of GSSTC project, precisely on May 2, 2012, was a fine opportunity for any visionary and inspirational leader in this country, not necessarily a politician, to have come out boldly and thrown a challenge to Ghanaian scientists that, by the year 2030, they must transform say, the Nyanpkala campus of the University of Development Studies into “Ghana Agricultural Space Science Laboratory through the Savanna Accelerated Development Authority (SADA) project. What is the priority of the Ghanaian leadership over the years?

Ghanaian media
But what amazed this author the more was the lackadaisical manner in which the media covered that epoch-making event. The official launch ceremony of the GSSTC was performed by the Chairman of the Council of State, Prof. Kofi Awoonor on behalf of the President on 2nd May, 2012.

One would have thought that for once, the media would have put politics temporarily on the back burner and blown this scientific and technological dream of our beloved country out of proportion. This is to show to the rest of the world that Ghana too, has taken the first step to its 1000 miles journey into the space.
But the agenda setting role of the Ghanaian media seems to be diametrically opposed to Scientific and Technological Development Theory we studied in Journalism school. What is our priority as the fourth estate of the realm in Ghana?
As we speak, other countries are scrambling for space in the space as the colonial masters were once over one another’s throat for lands in Africa which led to the partitioning of the Continent after the Berlin Conference in November 1885. If Ghana does not make haste now, she will not have a place to plant her flag and later build her embassy in space in the very near future.

Benefits of Space Science Centre
Hon. Sherry Ayittey, Ghana’s Minister for Environment, Science and Technology who outlined the vision, mission and objectives of the GSSTC that day said: “The introduction of advanced technology in most developing nations worldwide has been found to be a key component for accelerated development. This is evident in the important roles played by mobile telecommunications and information technology in changing the socio-economic face of Ghana in the past few years,” she noted.
According to Hon. Sherry Ayittey, “the vision of the Space Centre is to uncover and exploit the capabilities of space science and technology for national socio-economic and technological advancement and development through education and cutting-edge research, “she said.

The Minister enumerated several benefits Ghana stands to gain from the establishment of the Space Centre: “Under Agriculture, we will be able to monitor crops in Continental Climates through assimilation of satellite information; and also space technologies to describe a specific situation using all relevant information available on the territory.”

She cited water availability, soil types, land cover, climatic data geology, population, land-use, administrative boundaries and infrastructure (highways, railroads, and electricity or communications systems.)” for illustration.
Other important benefits Ghana was billed to gain included: “For National Security, space technology application will be used by the security forces to police land, air, and sea of territorial space of the country. It is also required for maintaing law and order such as monitoring major activities in real time.” Ghana is now an oil producing country and her vessels must be protected against rascal terrorists, who have been harassing cargo ships on high sea.

2012 G8 Summit
Only a couple of days ago, President Barrack Obama of US invited the Ghanaian President Prof John Evans Atta Mills, and three other African heads of state to participate in this year’s G8 Summit that took place at Camp David, Maryland . Records show that in the history of G8 Summits, Ghana is the only African country whose Presidents have been invited twice to attend that prestigious summit. The first Ghanaian President to be invited was President John Agyekum Kufour and President Prof John Evans Atta Mills was the second. This is not by accident.
On President Mills return from the G8 Summit, the Ghanaian Minister of Food and Agriculture, Hon. Kwesi Ahoi, who was among the Presesident’s entourage to the Camp David summit told Ghanaians that our beloved country was granted 600 million dollars from a three-billion-dollar fund for the new Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition being championed by the G8 countries.

Thanks to ICT tools the whole world saw it live on television how President Obama was very serious and pointed out that there was no earthly reason why Africa should not be able to feed itself. The chosen few African leaders who were called to partake in the bread and wine on the G8 Summit table went there because of food security in the first place. So, if in the next ten years Africa is able to feed itself and export surplus foodstuffs to America, President Obama’s vision would have been fulfilled. Are African leaders taking any notes?


Suggestion
Since of one of the goals of the Ghana Space Science and Technology Centre is to help in the advancement of the Agricultural sector through the provision of relevant information in water availability, soil types, land cover, climatic data, geology and land-use and so on, it is suggested that at least, five percent (5%) of the $600 million G8 grant should be invested in the Space Centre project. This is where the Nyanpkala Agric Space Science Laboratory project comes in.
Ghanaians must not only think of what to eat today, but what will ensure the survival of posterity as well. This is what I will term as sustainable development. And that is why the wanton destruction of the country’s rivers by “galamsey” operators ought to be seen as a national tragedy.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Policy Fair 2012 - Road Sector and Family Day Steal the Show

By Mawutodzi Abissath
Do you know that competition engenders excellence? Gradually but subtly, the Dialogue Session module of the Information Ministry-initiated Policy Fair is emerging as a national platform for intellectual and strategic thinking pageant. And the quality of speakers and moderators for this year’s event was beyond compare. The other component of the Fair is Exhibitions by MDAs. Without exaggeration, all the dialogue sessions of the just-ended National Policy Fair –the 3rd in series held at the plush Accra International Conference Centre from 16st to 21st April, 2012 was not only mind-boggling, but titillating, thrilling, exiting, insightful and soul moving! It was fantastic! Most Rev.Gabriel Charles Palmer-Buckle, Metropolitan Archbishop of Accra was the man of God who beseeched the presence of the Commander-in-Chief of the Universe to take control and direct affairs. And indeed, despite all human errors and challenges, the event came to a successful end with a Muslim prayer by Hon. Baba Jamal Ahmed Mohammed, Deputy Minister for Tourism. If I were granted the privilege to declare a winner of the quoloquim, (dialogue sessions), Hon. Joe Gidisu of the Road sector and Rev. Dr. Samuel Kisseadoo of the Family Day would have shared the first prize for Speakers category, while Hon. Ben Ephson of the Daily Dispatch and Hon. Kwesi Pratt of The Insight would share the Moderators award. The quality was apt! But the object of this piece is to highlight the salient points in the presentation made by the Roads and Highways Minister because time did not allow him to do justice to his topic and more importantly, “he who brings you roads brings you life.” All the 230 Parliamentarians want roads in their constituencies at ago, especially during this election year. But roads budget is always cut. First of all this writer can affirm and confirm that Ghanaian roads engineers at the Highway Authority, Department of Feeder Roads and the Department at Urban Roads do not have the luxury to sit and enjoy the cozy comfort of their fully air-conditioned offices at all. The nature of their work finds them in virgin forests, swampy and mushy rivers, abyss valleys, or struggling to climb Rocky Mountains and hills in efforts to take roads to the last living soul at the end of the rainbow. Speaking from experience, I can vouch for their commitment and dedication to bring life to all Ghanaians in most deprived rural communities through roads. Labour-Based Technology (LBT): According to the Roads Minister, the Labour-based in road maintenance and rehabilitation policy was reintroduced in 2009; and as at the end of 2011, thirty-three (33) contracts had been awarded creating jobs for about 4,200 “mouths” in the country. Road Maintenance Financing: An automated toll collection was introduced for the first time in this country in September 2010 to improve revenue generation into the Road Fund. The Minister pointed out that since the electronic toll collection came into being, “the Road and Bridge Tolls which used to generate only 2% of total Road Fund revenue now constitute about 17% of the total revenue.” Axle Load Control: To protect the heavy investment Government was pumping in road infrastructure, the Ministry has to intensify the enforcement of the Law on Axle Load Limit as provided in the Road Traffic Act 2004 (Act 683) and ECOWAS Supplementary Act on Axle Load. So far, the Ghana Highway Authority has constructed 14 permanent Weighbridge Stations (PWS) out of a total of 26 programmed for the country. The Ministry has further contracted the supply of six (6) more permanent Weigh equipment while four (4) portable Weigh pads were expected to be awarded soon. Public Private Partnerships (PPP) Having realized that road infrastructure is a capital intensive venture that government alone cannot shoulder, “the Ministry is exploring Public Private Partnership (PPP) schemes in financing, construction and management of road infrastructure,” it was disclosed. The Minister revealed that the contract for the financing, construction and maintenance of an Overpass on the Motorway at Teshie Link has been signed with Trascacco and works will commence soon. “Dualization of the Accra-Cape Coast- Takoradi Road,” is another result of PPP. Mr. Gidisu said Cabinet has given approval for the Build, Operate and Transfer (BOT) arrangement of the dualization of the Accra-Kumasi trunk road and procurement has gone far with Arterial Roads as the main company. Chinese Loan Facility: “The Government has received a loan of US$3billion from China Development Bank towards various infrastructure developments in various sectors of the economy. Part of the loan will be applied for the construction of various roads, notably the Oil Enclave roads in the Western Region and some roads in the Accra Metropolitan Area,” said Mr. Gidisu. Some of these projects are Mpataba-Ekpu-New Town road, Sankor Junction –Cape Three points road, Agona Nkwanta-Discove road, Busua Junction-Princess Town road all in the Western Region. Then the La Beach Road (Accra-Tema) completion project; Area-wide Traffic Control Centre and Intelligent System for Street Lights in Accra. The Minister said about US$180 million would be used to upgrade 400km of Gravel Roads to bitumen surfacing and 300km of earth roads to gravel surface to improve access roads under the Eastern Corridor Multi-Modal Transportation Project, he noted. Status of some major on-going projects: The Government says it is committed to the continuation of road projects started before 2009. Here is evidence provided by the Roads Minister at the Policy Fair: Tetteh Quashie – Madina Road as of 2009 stood at 29% and moved to 75% as of March 2012; Madina –Pantang Road moved from Mobilization to 65%; Achimota –Ofankor Road -22% to 93%; Nsawam Bypass, Mobilization to 96%; Nkwakaw Bypass, Mobilization to 80%; Construction of Sofoline Road was elevated from 5% to 70%; Kumasi –Techiman Road (ph2), 40% to Completion; Oforikrom – Asokwa Bypass moved from 10% to 95%. Other important projects are Sogakope –Adidome-Ho-Fume Road (ph1) was elevated from 70% to total completion; Bamboi –Tinga Road also moved from 55% to completion; Kasardjan Road in Koforidua moved from 40% to a total completion; Accra CDB Roads (High Street & Asafiatse Nettey) as well as Achimota Transport Terminal in the capital moved from 50% and 70% respectively to total completion by March this year. New Road Projects: Besides the inherited on-projects, Government itself has initiated some critical new road projects since 2009. Some of these new projects were categorized into Trunk, Feeder and Urban Roads which the Minister enumerated as follows: Buipe-Tamale (104km) (IDA) - the contract for the rehabilitation/pavement strengthening of this road section has been awarded. The Minister said the contractor has mobilized to site and works have since commenced in earnest; adding that the Contractor is China Jianxi International Corporation. Asikuma Junction-Hohoe Road (45km) (GoG), is another new project for which construction took off in October last year and work is reported to be progressing unabated. The Contactor is GS International Developers, said the Minister. Dodo Pepesu-Nkwata Road reconstruction (46km) (EU) has been awarded to Oumarou Kanazoe of Burkina Faso and work expected to take off in this second quarter of the year. Other crucial new projects include Reconstruction of Nkwanta –Oti Road (58km); Rehabilitation of Adomi Bridge, Reconstruction of Takoradi-Agona Junction (25km); Rehabilitation of Agona Junction – Elubo (25km); Reconstruction of Tarkwa –Bogoso-Ayamfuri (94.4km) and Rehabilitation of Ayamfuri – Asawinso (52.2km) for which evaluation and tenders have been completed and works expected to commence this quarter. Up-north, two contractors have commenced reconstruction works (147km) from both the Fufulso and Sawla ends. Meanwhile, construction of seven (7) Bridges (BADA/GOG) to “remove bottlenecks on the highway network has commended at key locations,” disclosed the Minister. Some of the rivers over which these bridges are to be constructed include Aboabo, Birim, Asuboni and Ochi all in the Eastern Region. Others are Kalanmua and Sissili in the Upper East Region; as well as Nanpeni River in the Brong Ahafo Region. In fact, “Lot 1 is 48% complete and Lot 2 is 44% complete, noted the Roads Minister. District Capital Roads “Sixty-Nine (69) Districts Capitals in all the 10 regions are benefiting from a programme dubbed “District Capital Roads Improvement Project (DCRIP)- Japanese,” said the Minister. According to him, the project has been divided into three phases and works under phases 1, 2, and 3 are 84%, 85%, and 84% completed respectively. All things being equal, 143km of town roads will be surface dressed by the end of phase 3 next year. Other Feeder Roads and Bridges, as well as Urban Roads both in Accra, Kumasi, Tema such as Spintex Road, Dansoman High Street, GIMPA Bypass, Zenu-Ashiaman Road, Ekon Bridge in Cape Cape Coast; Kaase Road in Kumasi, Nalung Roads in Takoradi, CK and Fiave Road in Ho, have been completed or near completion. COCOBOD Funded Programme It is encouraging to learn that COCOBOD has been collaborating with the Ministry in rehabilitation, upgrading and maintenance of roads vital for haulage of cocoa, coffee and sheanuts. So, from Bunkpurugu-Yunyoo in the North to Tema in the South, road projects are on course under the Better Ghana Agenda. In his concluding remarks,Moderator of the Road Sector Dialogue Session, Hon Ben Ephson commented: “If the road engineers in Ghana were sleeping in their offices, they would not have been able to competently handle the questions that were fired at them the way they did!”
Mr.
Joe Gidisu, Minister for Roads and Highways (L) Speaker making his presentation, while Mr. Ben Ephson Editor –in- Chief, The Daily Dispatch (M) Moderator jotting down notes. On the right is a Rep of Ministry of Health at the Policy Fair.
The Writer is Deputy Director/Head of ICT at the Information Services Department,Ministry of Information, Accra -Ghana