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Mrs Ursula Owusu-Ekuful, Minister of Communication

MMDAs owe NITA GH₡13m

THE MINISTER of Communications, Mrs Ursula Owusu Ekuful, has stated that the current outstanding debt owed by the Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies (MMDAs) to the National Information Technology Agency (NITA) amounts to GH¢13m and it is one of the major reasons why the agency cannot perform as it is supposed to do.

The communications minister expressed the view that NITA would provide improved services to Ghanaians, especially its clients, if they paid for the services the National Information Technology Agency rendered to them, suggesting that the MMDAs must make provision for payment for the services in their budgets, just as they provided for other utilities.

“Data is as much a utility as water and electricity. No self-respecting organisation can function effectively in the modern workplace without access to the internet. Most of you pay promptly for the services you procure from private internet service providers. Do same for NITA,” she said.

At an IT stakeholders’ forum organised by NITA in Accra on Tuesday, Mrs Owusu-Ekuful emphasised that the launch of the industry forum underlined the determination of the Government to digitalize all sectors of the economy for economic development and growth.

She explained that the NITA, established by law in 2008, was in the process of fulfilling its role as the regulator of all electronic transactions in the country and the provider of all ICT services to Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) in Ghana.

The minister said 10 years after the passage of the National Information Technology Act (Act 771) and the Electronic Transactions Act 2008 (Act 772), no regulations had been passed to give effect to them as a result of which the necessary regulations were currently being drafted to give effect to these laws. This, according to the minister, was in view of the increase in digitalization of government services in Ghana and that all the necessary stakeholders would be given the chance to make inputs and suggestions at a later date.

She further stated that until now, NITA had concentrated on the deployment and management of the government’s IT infrastructure, which it has found challenging largely because there was general assumption among the clients of NITA that they were not required to pay for the use of internet services provided by NITA but turn to complain loudly when the service goes down.

“We are in the process of up-scaling the use of technology within government and building a seamless protected e-government infrastructure to promote greater efficiency within the public sector and enhance its delivery of services and output to citizens. We will not be doing business as usual,” Mrs Owusu-Ekuful said.

The minister opined that she had no doubt that NITA could deliver on its mandate when given the requisite support because it is a necessary and important institution in the digitalization agenda of government which has a clearly defined role for the future, adding that the Ministry of Communications was working with the Board to restructure and strengthen the agency.

Mrs Owusu Ekuful hinted that an IT systems audit would be conducted shortly to enable NITA to ascertain the IT resources they have across government and the state for which it has to make the appropriate recommendations for upgrades, replacement or for better usage.

The Acting Director General of NITA, Mr David Gyewu, explained the rationale behind the forum, saying the Electronic Transactions Act, 2008, section 88, says “there is hereby established an Industry Forum which shall be a platform to bring the industry together from time to time to discuss matters of common interest that relate to the industry.”

Mr Gyewu said the Agency may designate an industry body to be organiser of the Forum but, until then the Agency had the obligation to facilitate the meeting of the industry to perform the functions of the forum.

He said lack of sustainable funding and legacy debts were the huge problems the Agency was facing when he took over as Ag Director General of the Agency but he was not perturbed because “where there is a will, there is a way”.

The Ag Director outlined some of the operations of the agency in the area of infrastructure (network O&M and DC partnership, GovNet connectivity project, Cyber Security & SOC/CERT), services revamp (eGov Online Portal, GEPP, Smart workplace- messaging, collaboration & document Management, G-Cloud) , Human & technology resources, Skills and training.

He further led the stakeholders forum through things that the Agency was doing and would do. These include development of a PKI system, 660 rack Tier III capacity Data Centre and G-Cloud, development of appropriate regulations to give effect to the Act regulatory ICT space in Ghana, Open Data policy and Data exchange hub, Government enterprise agreements such as Microsoft (Oracle, Dell) to come and implement Business Strategy to become a responsive and effective partner and regulator. 

Source: Ghana/dailyheritage.com.gh.April 18, 2019

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