A4AI’s first in-country engagement held in Accra

A4AI’s first in-country engagement held in Accra

Ghana’s capital city Accra has hosted the first in-country engagement meeting of the Alliance for Affordable Internet (A4AI), focused on how to drive down the cost of internet access in Ghana and uniting diverse players such as policy makers, technology pioneers, civil society groups, campaigners and researchers.

HumanIPO reported last week A4AI was looking to open up widespread dialogue and empower policy change in Ghana.

Attendees shared insights and hammered out a new, long-term national plan designed to empower Ghana to slash broadband costs via lasting policy change and technological innovation.

“The interactive forum is the first of its kind, and has been arranged in conjunction with the Government of Ghana, with whom A4AI recently signed a memorandum of understanding,” A4AI said in a statement.

“By uniting a diverse range of technology innovators to share insights and debate solutions openly, it is hoped that steps can be identified to tackle a number of challenges, which include: a lack of terrestrial fibre, and policies and taxes which limit the best use of telecommunications infrastructure; the high costs of telecommunications equipment, often fuelled by taxation policies, and exacerbated by recent increases in value-added tax (VAT) due to government fiscal pressures; low citizen awareness about possible benefits of the internet and how to use it.”

Despite the recent landing of four new fibre optic submarine cables in Ghana, organisers said broadband is too expensive for most Ghanaians and is largely an urban phenomenon.

The ITU estimates that only 17 per cent of Ghanians currently use the internet.

By drawing on the expertise of A4AI’s 54 members - which include Omidyar Network, Google, the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID) and USAID – and the input of key actors in Ghana, this initiative hopes to build on recent progressive policies by the Ghanaian government and ensure affordable broadband and universal access become a reality.

“Ghana was amongst the first countries in Africa to connect to the internet and in the last few years we have seen a surge in internet usage and mobile broadband connections. However, we know we need to build on these successes so that all Ghanaians have access to affordable broadband,” Dr Edward Kofi Omane Boamah, Ghana’s minister of communication, said.

“Our New Broadband policy, which has just been finalised, is evidence of our focus, commitment and plans for achieving this goal by 2020.  Our work with A4AI improves our links with other countries in Africa and further afield that have similar aims. It also provides another platform for collaboration with them, as well as national and international private sector and civil society stakeholders.”

Sonia Jorge, executive director of A4AI, said: “Today, we hope to plant the seeds of further policy change in Ghana, unlocking the benefits of technological advances and innovation, and driving down the cost of access. There is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach that can make universal access a reality, so our work here will be grounded upon the principles of consultation and open dialogue. In Ghana, we are particularly concerned with affordable access for those living below the poverty line and those who are most excluded, including women, rural populations and minority groups.”

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

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