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Ghana
Statement by H.E. Mr. Haruna Iddrisu, Minister of Communications 

 

Your Excellency, Mr. Chairman,
His Excellency the Minister of Communications of Portugal,
His Excellency, The Secretary General of the ITU,
Your Excellencies,
Distinguished Participants of WTPF-09,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
 
I wish to thank the Chair for giving me the opportunity to make my intervention. It is my honour to greet the distinguished guests and participants of the World Telecommunication Policy Forum of the ITU in the beautiful and exciting city of Lisbon.
 
I bring to the WTPF-09, the goodwill and warm felicitations of the President and people of Ghana and to acknowledge that through the application of ICT infrastructure and services, and also good governance, Ghana successfully transited from one Government to another in the elections of December 2008.
 
My presence therefore, is to give assurance that Ghana’s faith and commitment to the work of the ITU will not only endure, but will be further strengthened to ensure that the noble ideals of the Union are accomplished to bring global peace and prosperity to all humankind.
 
My delegation and I wish to extend through you, Mr. Chairman, our gratitude to the Government and people of this great country for the warm welcome and excellent reception we have received since our arrival. We are indeed satisfied with the organisation of the WTPF-09 and we commend the organizing committee for the good work.

Mr. Chairman,

Let me also commend the Secretary General of the ITU and his team for convening the fourth World Telecommunication Policy Forum (WTPF-09), in accordance with Council Resolution, to allow for the exchange of views and information and thereby create a shared vision on the issues arising from the emergence of new telecommunication services and technologies and other relevant policy issues in telecommunications.
 We are conscious of the fact that though the WTPF will not produce prescriptive regulatory outcomes or outputs with binding force, it will prepare reports and, where appropriate, opinions to guide Member States, Sector Members and ITU meetings.

Be as it may, Decision 9 of the Antalya Plenipotentiary Conference mandated the convening of the fourth WTPF in the first quarter of 2009 to discuss and exchange views on a number of themes, noting:

  •  that convergence, including Internet-related public policy matters, is one of the topics of high current interest to ITU Member States and Sector Members;
  • that the continued development of convergence, next-generation networks, and Internet also has significant implications for several domains, particularly for capacity-building, especially in developing countries;
  • that a study of emerging telecommunications policy and regulatory issues is also amongst the topics of high current interest to ITU Member States and Sector Members;
  • that a study of new and emerging issues as referred to in Resolution 146 (Antalya, 2006) is among the topics of high current interest to ITU Member States and Sector Members.

Your Excellencies,

The Secretary General has provided us with a comprehensive report that captures the imagination of all stakeholders of the Information Society. The report also adequately establishes the lead role expected of the ITU and it helps to give effect to the decisions taken at the World Summit on the Information Society, and the other initiatives promoted by the ITU.

The challenge confronting the communications sector today, is the global economic meltdown and its likely consequences on investment in infrastructure especially in the developing countries. Our respective countries have undertaken significant reforms in the telecommunications sector in expectation of finding the ‘Missing Link’, addressing issues of the ‘Digital Divide’ and now, responding to the Declarations and Plan of Action of WSIS. Suddenly, these efforts appear to be threatened and undermined by the present crises.
 
We look to the WTPF-09 to give us a proper understanding of the current global environment and come out with practical outcomes that will guide us in our policy and regulation alignments to enable our countries attain and surpass the targets of the Information Society.
 
As we know, the ITU statistics reveal today, Africa has over 250 million mobile subscribers, but this represents penetration rate of approximately 30 percent of the entire population of the continent.
 
In the area of the Internet, Africa needs to redouble its efforts to catch up and bridge the Digital Divide. We are told that the estimate of Internet users in Africa stands at 50 million. Basically, half of this is located in northern Africa and in the Republic of South Africa, meaning that Internet connection is available to 1 out of 20 Africans with a further reduction of 3% in sub-Saharan Africa.

This scenario therefore places great responsibilities on us the Policy-makers, if we are to achieve ITU objectives, to strive to:

  • expand broadband backbone infrastructure and access networks,
  • expand rural connectivity with special emphasis on our villages,
  • adopt key regulatory measures that promote affordable widespread access to a full range of broadband ICT services,
  • provide appropriate ICT services and applications, and
  • give special weight to capacity-building.

The hosting of the WTSA-08 in Africa provided a unique opportunity to address some of the unique concerns Africa and the developing countries, for that matter. It is our fervent hope that the outcomes of the WTSA-08 will be carefully considered within the context of this important information-sharing opportunity.
 
Mr. Chairman,

With regard to our comments on the Secretary General’s report, we virtually agree on the major issues contained in the report. We find for instance, the subject on Convergence to be all-encompassing. In our consideration, Convergence has great impact on E-Government, which is a major policy commitment by my Government due to the increasing use of electronic means to facilitate communication with citizens to disseminate information more quickly and efficiently. It was critical in our recent peaceful elections.Convergence also impacts on other services, including: education; health; financial services; and agriculture, including disaster warning systems using wide area telecommunication networks. 

Our challenge is to build capacity in our people to acquire the relevant skills and knowledge for a converged environment. Let us see how our policies can promote the development of the requisite infrastructure and also provide training opportunities.

Related to this, is that we require a clear understanding of Next Generation Networks (NGN) and its relation to the Internet to guide us in our policy and regulatory actions. Though these are inter-related in a large measure, we notice that the different philosophies underlying these technologies require different treatment. Ghana pursues a technology-neutral policy environment and we are particular with the treatment of Quality of Service issues in the country. This can not be guaranteed in the treatment of the Internet.
 
The transition to NGNs also brings implications for end-users, regulators, operators and service providers alike, especially with regard to competition and pricing, and this raises various public policy issues including enabling the required investments, reliability, security and safety.

In the particular case of the Internet, We find the treatment of the critical issues considered by WSIS still unresolved. Much as the Internet Governance Forum (IGF) is trying to forge consensus on the treatment of the tricky issues, consensus by the stakeholders is still proving elusive. The management of Internet resources, issues of multilingualism, diversity are areas Ghana considers critical to the building of the Information Society.
We need a proper understanding and appreciation of public policy responsibility of Governments to meet the present security requirements of the Internet, as we tackle the issue of International Internet Interconnection because this is central in our infrastructure development efforts to use the Internet for national development and inclusion.

On matters relating to the International Telecommunication Regulations (ITRs), we acknowledge that these are a treaty-level instrument of the ITU. The ITRs establish general principles relating to the provision and operation of international telecommunications and they facilitate global interconnection and interoperability of telecommunication infrastructure. This underpins the harmonious development and efficient operation of technical facilities, promote the efficiency and availability of international telecommunication services and facilitate billions of dollars in settlements.

The Plenipotentiary Conference of 2006 made substantial progress and Resolution 146 called for review through consensus on a review process, reflecting the divergent opinion among Member States regarding the future treatment of the ITRs.

We expect WPTF-09 to prepare reports and, where appropriate, opinions for consideration by Member States, Sector Members, relevant ITU meetings and Council and to benefit the World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT) which would be convened in 2012 at ITU as part of the recommendations for a separate process of review.
 
The review of the ITRs is therefore necessary to give us clarification and understanding in the use of certain terms that have different meanings in our different jurisdictions.
 
Mr. Chairman,

As I come to the conclusion of my intervention, I wish to acknowledge that a great responsibility has been entrusted to your care. The WTPF-09 is a landmark event. There is so much it can provide to empower the work of the ITU and guide global communications development.
 
My delegation and I have every confidence in your capacity to steer proceedings to a successful end. Mr Chairman, delegation of Ghana wants to help you achieve something that will be looked back upon as a success: an outcome that will benefit the people in all of our countries.
 
I hope sincerely that those with the least to hope for, will be the most to gain.
 
Thank you for your kind attention.