The Chairman of the National Development Planning Commission, Mr Paul Victor Obeng, has made a strong case for the need to ensure that increasing access to the Internet does not lead to the importation of alien cultures.
“While increasing access to the Internet would improve the socio-economic circumstances, its negative influences call for a concerted effort to counter the bad influence. Increasing access should not lead us to the importation of attitudes that are incompatible with our social norms,” he said.
He was speaking at the opening of the Regional Development Forum (RDF) for Africa and the Regional Preparatory Meeting for Africa (RPM Afr) in Accra. The two conferences are being held ahead of the World Telecommunication Development Conference (WTDC) scheduled for next year.
Mr Obeng observed that if Africa did not build a useful and development-oriented character, in the wake of the Information Communication Technology growth, technology could become an asset that could destroy values rather than build it.
The RDF provides a platform for open dialogues, co-operation and partnerships among telecommunication/ICT policy makers, regulators, industry, academia, regional and international development agencies on specific regional telecommunication/ICT issues.
However, by ITU procedures, the various regions of the union must organise preparatory meetings to coordinate at preparations towards the WTDC at the regional level.
The WTDC is held every four years by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) to identify priorities for the development of telecommunications and ICT, and comes out with an action plan which sets out the future of activities of the ITU Telecommunication Development Sector (ITU-D) over the next four years.
Organised by the Ministry of Communication and the ITU, the conference, which brought together ITU members from across Africa, was on the theme; “ICT for Development and Empowerment of Africa.”
Issues tabled for discussion at the two conferences included discussions 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.
With ICT becoming the backbone of most economies across the world, Mr Obeng said it was time to empower the youth to create jobs and other entrepreneurial ventures that would inure to the benefit of the continent.
Across Africa, mobile telephony has seen tremendous growth over the last decade. In Ghana, for instance, mobile subscriptions have outstripped the country’s 24 million population. According to ITU and Ministry of Communication records, mobile subscription has skyrocketed from just 130,045 in 2000 to 27,529, 818 in 2012.
But rather interestingly, the overwhelming mobile subscription rates have not translated into increased Internet penetration. From 30,000 Internet users in 1999, according to the Internet World Statistic, the country could only manage 997,000 as of 2009 out of a 23,887,812.
In that regard, the Minister of Communications, Dr Edward Omane Boamah, observed that the two conferences were to reaffirm the continent’s commitment to accelerating development and also exploring what stakeholders could do to improve the living conditions of Africans under the banner of the ITU.
The minister said it was opportune for Africa to take advantage of ICT at a time when information technology is transforming economies across the world.
“The Agriculture revolution bypassed Africa, so did the industrial revolution. This must not be the story of the information technology age. It is not too late,” he said.
Director of the Telecommunication Development Bureau of the ITU, Mr Braimah Sanou, for his part, urged all African governments to give their ICT policies a human face.