Ghana Holds its First IGF

Thursday 17 March 2011

The Honorable Minister of Communications in Ghana, Mr. Haruna Iddrisu, has noted with concern the low Internet penetration figures in developing countries at a time, when ICT is being used to overcome the handicaps in our development process. Giving some statistics, he said, “while telephone access has reached the 75.4% mark, covering up to 17 million subscribers, the Internet access in Ghana is still low and hovering around 18% covering about 4 million people, most of whom use the mobile Internet.”

He made observation in a speech read on his behalf at the Ghana Internet Governance Forum (GIGF). In understanding the purpose of the IGF, the honorable Minister said, “we should appreciate the commitment by all nations expressed in the Declaration made in Geneva in December 2003 to the effect that ‘we have a common desire and commitment to build a people-centred, inclusive and development-oriented Information Society, where everyone can create, access, utilize and share information and knowledge, enabling individuals, communities and peoples to achieve their full potential in promoting their sustainable development and improving their quality of life, premised on the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations and respecting fully and upholding the Universal Declaration of Human Rights’.”

The Minister mentioned that one of the instruments adopted to give effect to this Declaration is the Internet Governance Forum (IGF) that emerged as a compromise between the developed nations and the developing ones, after intense and indeed bitter negotiations during Tunis phase of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS).
The themes discussed at the Ghana IGF covered issues ranging from: Internet Governance for Development; Management of critical Internet Resources; Emerging Issues; Access and Diversity, Security, Openness and Privacy; and multi-stakeholder approach to Internet Governance. The Minister urged all participants to endeavor to appreciate the divergent views of all stakeholders that may be expressed at this forum. He said, “this is essentially the character of the IGF and it must be respected at all times.”

As the outcome of this Forum will be reported to the Regional IGF in Abuja in July and eventually to the Global Forum in Nairobi in September this year, the Minister entreated participants to place the interests of Africa and the developing world uppermost in their considerations. “Our needs are unique. We have the challenge to provide Universal Access and develop infrastructure to reach our communities, which may not be the concern of the more endowed economies.”

“Your deliberations at the Forum will no doubt provide valuable input for the development of relevant policy guidelines, regulatory requirements and necessary legislation to protect the ICT industry. The Ministry of Communications therefore entreats all participants to be candid in their contributions and expects that whatever consensus is achieved there can be confidently supported when it is presented for Government endorsement at the International Forum,” he said.
Dr. Nii Quaynor, member of the UN Multi-stakeholder Advisory Group (MAG) who convened the forum was optimist that.

On the way forward for the Ghana IGF, the convener said participants had agreed to the promotion and growth of multi-stakeholder platform for initial policy discussion and dialogue, as well as youth engagement IGF. In addition participants suggested advocacy and raising awareness about IGF issues; Government – industry technical engagement on security and privacy issues bordering on access and diversity which brings the local/natural digital divide between North and South in Ghana caused by price differential in broadband access.