Statement: Communications Minister’s address at ITU Regional Dev’t Forum

Statement: Communications Minister's address at ITU Regional Dev't Forum

Dr Omane Boamah

ADDRESS BY HON. DR. EDWARD KOFI OMANE BOAMAH, MINISTER FOR COMMUNICATIONS ON THE OCCASION OF THE OFFICIAL LAUNCH OF ITU’S REGIONAL DEVELOPMENT FORUM (RDF) AND AFRICA REGIONAL PREPARATORY MEETING FOR THE WORLD TELECOMMUNICATION DEVELOPMENT CONFERENCE (WTDC-14), 30TH JULY 2013,

Chairman, and Hon. Minister for Information & Media Relations,

The Hon. Deputy Minister for Communications

The Management and Staff of the Ministry of Communications

Management and Staff of Agencies of the Ministry of Communications

Esteemed Members of the Media; Our Partners in the ICT4AD Agenda

Distinguished Invited Guests

We wish to welcome you this morning and to present to you a briefing on Ghana’s hosting of two significant events of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU). These are:

i. Regional Development Forum 2013 (RDF-13), and
ii. Regional Preparatory Meeting (RPM) for the World Telecommunications Development Conference (WTDC – 14)

2. It was confirmed at the 2013 Session of the ITU Council that Ghana had been chosen to host the Regional Development Forum (RDF) for Africa on 1st October 2013. The Africa Regional Preparatory Meeting for the ITU World Telecommunication Development Conference (WTDC-14) will also be held from 2nd to 4th October 2013.

3. To facilitate consensus building, the ITU is organizing, ahead of the meeting, the Regional Development Forum (RDF) as a platform for open dialogues, cooperation and partnerships among telecommunication/ICT policy makers, regulators, industry, academia, regional and international development agencies and organizations on specific regional ICT issues.

4. The WTDC is held every four years by the ITU to identify priorities for the development of telecommunications and Information Communication Technologies (ICTs). It takes into account contributions made by Member States and Sector Members, and comes out with an Action Plan, setting the future of activities of the ITU Telecommunication Development Sector (ITU-D) over the next four-year period.

The International Telecommunication Union (ITU)
5. The ITU is the global and specialized agency of the United Nations with a membership of 191 States, with responsibility for the regulation, standardization, co-ordination and development of international telecommunications. Its antecedents can be traced to 1865 when the first International Telegraph Convention was signed, giving birth to the International Telegraph Union, and subsequently to the signing in 1906 of the first International Radiotelegraph Convention.

6. The ITU’s core functions are organized into 3 sectors, as follows:

i. Radiocommunications (ITU-R)
ii. Telecommunication Standardization (ITU-T) and
iii. Telecommunication Development (ITU-D)

7. Owing to rapidly changing world of telecommunications, the Valletta Declaration of March-April 1998, outlined, global visions, goals and strategies for achieving balanced and harmonized telecommunications development, among others.

8. The ITU initiated development projects to be implemented in four general programme areas, particularly for developing countries and Least Developed Countries (LDCs):

i. human resource development,
ii. infrastructure development
iii. application of new technologies
iv. assistance to countries in special need.

9. Significantly for us in Ghana, this was the catalyst for the telecommunications reforms which were being undertaken by Government at the time. The first National Telecommunications Policy was successfully undertaken through a national stakeholder consultative process. Telecom liberalisation, Broadcasting de-regulation, definition of universal service and general regulatory reforms to promote foreign investment and technology transfer were undertaken during this period.

10. Ghana’s towering presence in the ITU has been reflected in its election to the ITU Governing Council on three successive occasions: 2002 in Marrakesh, Morocco; 2006 in Antalya, Turkey; and 2010 in Guadalajara, Mexico.

11. Ghana has emerged as a favourite destination in Africa for the development of common proposals ahead of ITU crucial conferences. In 2003, for instance, Ghana provided the perfect opportunity to craft Africa’s agenda for the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS). The Accra Accord developed at the time still remains the benchmark for Africa’s integration into the global Information Society, especially in the area of Internet Governance.

12. In 2008, Ghana hosted the Africa Regional Preparatory Meeting (RPM) for the World Telecommunications Standardisation Assembly (WTSA-08)

13. The seeds sown by my predecessors continue to bear fruit as Ghana presently serves on ITU Council and also, occupies the Chair of Study Group 12; Vice Chair of Study Group 11; and Rapporteur for Working Party 3 of Study Group 5. Our Council representatives have also acquitted themselves creditably resulting in Ghana’s inclusion on the ITU Secretary General’s Advisory Committees on specified issues.

14. The active participation of Ghanaians in the work of the ITU therefore makes Ghana’s enabling environment, especially for Telecommunications Policies and Regulations, very responsive and reflective of global best practices.

15. In between the tenure of the late Hon. Edward Kojo Salia and my humble self at the Ministry of Communications, we recognize the contributions of: Mr. Ekow Spio Garbrah; H. E. President John Dramani Mahama; Hon. Felix Owusu-Adjapong; Hon. Kan Dapaah; Hon. Prof. Mike Oquaye; Hon. Benjamin Aggrey Ntim; and Hon. Haruna Iddrisu.

16. The conference in Accra will prepare the African delegations to build consensus and adopt common positions on the agenda items that will benefit Africa ahead of the ITU’s 6th World Telecommunication Development Conference from 31st March to 11th April, 2014.

Developments in the ICT sector
17. In recognizing our accomplishments as a nation, Ghana was listed as one of the top ten most dynamic performing countries in ICT–for-development in 2011, according to the ICT Development Index (IDI) released by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) in measuring the Information Society.

18. The IDI is a composite index combining 11 indicators into one benchmark value. The objectives of the IDI are to monitor progress in ICT developments in both developed and developing countries and to measure the evolution of the global digital divide.

19. At the RDF, Ghana will be reporting on major accomplishments of the ICT sector. Today, the telecommunications sector, with its challenges, continues to register impressive growth rate with mobile subscription figures totaling 26,927,872 by the end of May 2013 (an increase of 1.3% over April figures). MTN remains the market leader in mobile subscriptions, with a market share of 46% which translates into subscriber numbers of 12,283,991. This is followed by Vodafone with mobile subscription of 5,728,091 and market share of 21%. Tigo has a subscriber market share of 14% translating into subscriber numbers of 3,729,611; and Airtel has 3,350,497 subscribers and a market share of 12%. The newest entrant into Ghanaian telecom market, Glo has 1,681,417 subscribers and a 6% market share, while Expresso follows with 154,265 subscribers and 1% market share.

Broadband development
20. Presently, Ghana is served by five submarine cables: SAT-3 Cable; MainOne; Glo-1; and WACS Cable supplying more than 7.16 Terabits capacity. On 10th May 2013, the Africa Coast to Europe (ACE) submarine cable system was inaugurated in Accra, bringing onboard, the 5th Submarine cable hence adding 5.1 Terabits, to increase the overall submarine cable capacity to 12.3 Terabits. We commend Expresso for this investment.

21. There is also, a national terrestrial optic fibre network that is being built to cover all the Districts and Constituency areas of the country. In June 2012, Ghana successfully connected its terrestrial optic fibre with those of neighbouring sister countries of Burkina Faso and Togo. We have also established a point of presence on the western border, preparing to directly connect with La Cote d’Ivoire, in addition to the submarine link. With this level of international connectivity, Ghana has already fulfilled the ITU’s Connect-Africa target, before schedule.

22. On 29th May 2013, the formal launch of the construction of the 780 kilometre optic fibre ICT backbone infrastructure on the Eastern Corridor of the country was performed in Wamale to provide broadband infrastructure to the towns and communities along the route from Ho to Bawku, with link to Tamale from Yendi.

23. Presently, the Ghana e-Government Platform Project is upgrading existing WIMAX sites to LTE (Long-term evolution, a 4th Generation standard for high-speed data) and this will involve 90 sites to enable the deployment of advanced ICT Applications in education, health, commerce, Open Government and other business opportunities.

Internet
24. With the massive investment in broadband infrastructure, Internet usage is growing steadily with increased capacity for the deployment of 4th Generation Applications. In partnership with the internet community, Government is supporting the development of critical internet infrastructure by arranging for the supply of three additional switches for Internet Exchange Points and a Root Name Server.

25. It is estimated that Internet usage in Ghana is nearing 25% of the population and this is largely attributed to mobile Internet provided by the telecommunication companies. It is our expectation that with the reducing cost of bandwidth from a high of $10,000 per 2 Megabits in 2007 to near $1,200 for same bandwidth in 2013, a significant pass-through effect will be felt on retail prices by the consuming public.

26. The Ghana Internet Service Providers Association confirmed in early May that currently, 45% of Ghana’s Internet traffic is handled locally through the existing Internet Exchange Point. With the arrival of additional switches, the percentage will improve and more opportunities will emerge, especially to promote content development.

Universal Access to ICT
27. We will also be reporting on universal access activities and the projects that the Ghana Investment Fund for Electronic Communications under the Ministry has undertaken covering Schools connectivity project, Community Information Centres, ICTs in Health, Rural payphone service, Disability Employment, etc

Latest NCA Action on Unsolicited Electronic Communications
28. Before I announce the agenda for the two meetings, let me share with you the NCA’s latest intervention on Unsolicited Electronic Communications (UEC) as a responsible response to complaints by the citizenry on the proliferation of same. I am delighted to report that the NCA has already entered into discussions with the Mobile Network Operators for the implementation of interim measures to manage Unsolicited Electronic Communications.

29. The recommendations include, the requirement of mobile network operators to maintain “start” and “stop” for activation and de-activation of all non-transactional and promotional electronic communications.
All non-transactional and promotional Electronic Communications should include an opt-out/unsubscription option and should be part of the message.

30. In the area of promotions, each promotional and non-transactional Electronic Communication should not be sent more than once a day as a means to reduce the incident of subscribers receiving the same message twice a day.

Agenda for the two meetings

31. Ladies and Gentlemen of the Press, the two ITU meetings as earlier indicated, are:

• Regional Development Forum (RDF) – 1st October 2013,

• Regional Preparatory Meeting (RPM) for Africa – 2nd to 4th October 2013

32. The ITU Regional Development Forum to be held in Accra on 1st October 2013 will deliberate on issues relating to:

• trends in telecommunications/ICT in Africa;

• Broadband Policy; e-Applications;

•Cyber security;

• development of Public-Private Partnership for improved capacity-building in the ICT sector; and

• the future of the Information Society.

33. The Regional Preparatory Meeting for the World Telecommunications Development Conference will have for its agenda:

• Assessment of the implementation of the Hyderabad Action Plan (WTDC-10),

• Assessment of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) Plan of Action,

• Reports on Results of the WTSA-12 and Results of the WCIT-12 that relate to the work of ITU-D

• Identification of priority areas,

• Topics for ITU-D future work (including working methods and Study Group questions) linked to the identified priority areas,

• Priority setting for Regional initiatives.

34. Through these meetings, Ghana is once again not only reaffirming its commitment to multi-stakeholder engagement in international ICT agenda-setting, but also availing opportunity for local and indigenous ICT practitioners to familiarise with best practices as well as providing avenue for technology transfer and business partnerships. Let us therefore avail ourselves of this opportunity.

Venue for Conference
35. The event will be held at the Accra International Conference Centre.

36. An exhibition of Technology to expose the sophistication of the ICT landscape will be mounted to demonstrate the sector’s accomplishments and benefits of reforms commenced in 1994 when Ghana possessed less than 68,000 Direct Exchange Lines (DELs).

Registration
37. In accordance with the conventions and procedures of the ITU, pre-registration is being carried out exclusively online through Designated Focal Points (DFP) to enable participation in the RPM and RDF. The request for participation in Ghana must therefore, be submitted to the Ministry of Communications for registration as early as possible. The requests should be sent to: [email protected] for processing.

38. Special Accreditation for Press Coverage will commence in September, 2013.

39. For international and non-Ghanaian delegations, the directions for participation are provided by the ITU at the following website address: (www.itu.int/en/ITU-D/Conferences/WTDC/WTDC14/RPM-AFR

40. We look forward to provide the proverbial Ghanaian hospitality to the arriving delegations from ITU, Africa and the World and we expect that the consensus on the issues to be reached in Accra will receive overwhelming endorsement when presented to the World Telecommunication Development Conference in 2014.

41. On this note I declare the Regional Development Forum and the Regional Preparatory Meeting formally launched. l wish to invite the Chairman of the Planning Committee and Members to step forward to be acknowledged and duly inaugurated.

Thank you for the audience.

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