Communications Minister-designate, Ursula Owusu-Ekuful has taken her turn before Parliament’s Appointment Committee to be vetted.
If passed, the Ablekuma West MP will lead the Ministry she has already promised to transform.
Members of the Committee are currently going through her CV. She has been asked to make certain corrections and provide more information on protions of the CV.
Minority Leader, Haruna Iddrisu was first and he asked if the nominee will support the introduction of the Spousal Bill.
I believe that souls are equal partners in a relationship and they compliment each other, she said, adding that it is a shame that so far the bill has not been passed.
She said although the last parliament introduced the bill, it has had to go back for amendment. She hopes this current Parliament can work to protect spouses in marriages in the unfortunate event of the marriage breaking down.
“Nobody should be worse of because a relationship which they believe will last for lifetime ended prematurely, probably through no fault of theirs.”
Access to broadband
We are moving away from voice communication, we need to improve the speed at which we access and use data and its cost.
The eastern fibre network needs to be actualised so that the country can derive the needed benefits.
She said measures will be put in place to resolve any issues preventing its operation and equip the needed stakeholders in order for them to work.
She said by next year, government will complete the fibre loop across the country, “it is doable.”
For us to derive maximum benefits and government gets its taxes as, there’s therefore the need to establish cordial relationships.
They more they prosper the better services they provide.
She said discussions are being had on how to regualte their operations
MP for North Tongu, Smauel Ablakwa asked how the nominee envisages how she will assist in the guaranty of regular power supply to the transmitors and how will she assist the poor who may not be able to afford digital television sets
UO: The original timetable has been missed and she is still receiving briefings on it
It may be necessary to extend the deadline, but discussions are still being had.
There also may be some problems with the provision of set up boxes and there is a funding gap to be met to help in the provision of power.
She said theres’s a need to stick to the essentials first – which is power – then the additional funding for the set up boxes for those who have analog TV sets can be sought.
Once all these are solved, then we can stick to the September 2017 deadline, otherwise it may have to be extended.
National data centre
Ablakwa again: What do you see the data centre doing in terms of finally getting one database that can be reliable
It is unfortuante that there’s no proper identification system, resulting in duplication.
The National Data Centre is a useful infrastructure and so government is committed to putting together a functional ID system.
So all the national ID system will do is use the National data centre instead of replicating what is already available
“I am looking forward to a day whereby the kick of a button you can apply for a passport, when you want it, pay for it using mobile money of Visa and where you want to pick it up at a location of your choice and have it delivered.
It cuts out fraud and corruption, she said, adding “we can do it.”
If we are able to deploy the service, it will also ensure security. We need one national database.
I am hopeful that by the end of this year, we will have a smart card system which stores all the data needed
It provides certainty for the banks as well and makes life a lot easier for us.
The building blocks are in place so once the system is set up it will be possible to do things smoothly to make life easier for all of us.
Communities without access network
The nominee was asked to assure that communities without network are connected
She said, most network operators seek commercial benefits so it is difficult for them to extent to certain parts of the country where the market is little.
A fair deal of work is being done, however, and the processes of linking unserved communities to the communication are underway.
She will work to ensure that many of the communities who do not have access to telecommunication networks are linked.
Hopefully the whole country will be wired up . We are working assiduously at it.
She also said she will have discussions with the NCA and see the better protections that can be offered to the consumer.
Siting of telecom masts
When asked on what she will do about the siting of masts in communities and residential areas, the nominee said telcos are required to have community engagements before the masts are set up.
They are also to receive permission from the National Communications Authority (NCA) before the masts are put up.
She added There’s the need to put up the masts for stable networks, “so that if you’re travelling you can make calls and the network won’t cut,” but it is necessary educate communities and residents should insist on the right thing to be done.
If they don’t get the infrastructure up, then they will be unable to deliver the needed services.
There isn’t evidence that they cause diseases, she said, but the community engagements must be had, and residents need to be reassured that they are save.
We will work together to ensure that dangers are minimized
On the need for CCTV cameras to be installed at vantage positions in the country as a measure to fight crime, the nominee said she will liaise with the national security officer to see what can be done to leverage on technology to assist in solving crimes.
Advocate for the vulnerable
The nominee said she will not let her current role deter, her from fighting for the rights of vulnerable. She said she will continue to champion the cause.
“Working for vulnerable people is a lifelong passion and wherever I find myself, so long as God continues to give me breath, I will continue.”
Lawra MP, Anthony Karbo asked what the nominee will so to streamline the airwaves
She said she will, if approved, have stakeholder consultations to provide some sanity on the airwaves
Poor communities in northern Ghana
One what she will do for communities in the nroth who seem to be cut off from the mordern internet world, she indicated that no part of the country ought to be left behind in development.
So all communities will be linked to the fibre network for the provision of internet
Once the western corridor link is built, people can have access to information
Community information centres are also being built and being provided with internet access
“I am even thinking of converting the infrastructure at Ghana post and converting some of them into wireless blocks which will make it possible for the rural folks to access internet smoothly”
We have the beginnings and with the right infrastructure, she said, adding, we can bring the 21 century to the door steps to our people and leap frog into the internet age without problems, it is doable, it is not rocket science.
The basic building blocks are already in place and it is up to us to actualize it, she emphasised.
Regrets of comments made on political platform
Known for being very fierce on the campaign palform, Mr Karbo asked if the nominee regrets any of the comments she made during the campaign season.
She when you’re facing bullets, you also fire a few, but it is incumbent on all of us to take steps to reduce the political heat even in the heat of a political season. Sometimes we need to retrain ourselves.
We are all children of one mother and Ghana has space for all of us, we should be able to relate with one another
We need to build beiges and stop, the “punch me, I punch you attitude”. We all make mistakes and but we can learn from that.
We can argue passionately and express ourselves forcefully but we don’t need to draw blood.
Queues as NHIA and how Ghana Post can help
MP for Asawase, Muntaka Mubarak asked how she will consider getting the authority to work with Ghana Post as a way of enhancing the services of Ghana Post.
She said every other agency that needs to send its services directly to the people can partner Ghana post.They need to be able to assist and not be a hindrance.
She added that there’s the need to put Ghana Post back on its feet so that it can provide better services that are needed.
“Even food delivery parcels, if they had a proper courier service they could bring food parcels to Parliament and ministries. They need to look outside the box and come up with a workable business plan,” she added.
Before long we will have a viable Ghana Post. She will do whatever she can within her power to put Ghana Post back on its feet
Having sat in the chamber for the past four years, will her ministry do to help bridge the gap with the use of electronic gadgets in its operations, MP for Asawase Muntaka Mubarak asked.
The little gadgets are encouraging, but we can take it a step further. If we have better access to the internet things can improve
“I am hoping that by the end of this year. We are not benefitting much from the fibre ring in parliament
“But whatever needs to be done, I am committed to doing that. I am a keen advocate for that and I am committed to getting that done.
“It will help in the document management of the House.”
Mobile money transfer to improve tax collection
Minority Leader, Haruna Iddrisu again asked what the nominee will do to ensure that transactions via mobile money benefits government.
She said there’s the need for the country to take advantage of this technology because it is a way to bring in the unbanked into the banking sector and it is an easy, painless way of sending and receiving money.
She said she will be a key advocate of everybody signing up onto it
We can even put a little charge on it to enable govrenment make some money from its usage
Proper regulations must also be put in place to protect the consumers
Use of multiple SIM cards
Mrs Owusu-Ekuful said she will ensure that no one uses a SIM card without having it registered as a way to to prevent crime
She will also work with the telcos to ensure that every user goes through the process of registering their cards
All that will be assisted with the national identification process and she will work closely to ensure that closure is given to the law
The nominee said she will will she review the policy
“The policy was formulated in 2005 and the landscape has changed tremendously so it has become obsolete and needs to be reviewed.”
She will bring together a team of experts to develop an ICT policy which is fit for purpose.
Reinstitute the consumer forum
She indicated that there’s the need to reinstate the forum to allow the public to evaluate the performance of the telcos
She said she was was sad to see the forum go but it will be resinstituted for greater communication between the operators and consumers, if she is approved.
She added that It will also enable consumers vet the telcos before they patronise their service. It is something we will reactiviate.
Switch from analog to digital
The nominee said work will be done to ensure that the switch goes through in order that Ghana is not cut off
We will work to avoid digital “‘adumdum adumdum’
The rural populace will also benefit from the digital migration
Provision of official email addresses for government workers
The nominee said by the end of this year, all government workers will be using proper email addresses
“Government workers should not be allowed to sue their personal emails to conduct business on behalf of government.”
The email system which will be hosted at the data centre will provide institutional memory and prevent crime.
Dome Kwabenya MP, Adwoa Safo asked how the nominee will facilitate the use of e-books among the youth.
She said there’s the need to provide an e-library resource that students can all tap into for information as regards their studies.
She added that it will facilitate e research and make it easier for them to study, it is something that we are going to be working seriously towards.
“The young people need to move from the stone age to the digital age and we need to encourage them.
“That is an area we need to look into and we can put our curriculum in a digitized format and it is something we can do to reduce the cost of learning materials.”