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Ghana’s Communication Minister, Ursula Owusu-Ekuful has signed a three years partnership agreement with the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and the Norwegian Government to support the Digital Transformation Centre (DTC) Initiative in Ghana.

The new partnership creates a collaboration between Cisco and the Ghana Investment Fund for Electronic Communications (GIFEC) to provide around 14 000 citizens with job-ready digital skills through 200 centres across the country. Population groups identified for the project include women entrepreneurs, pupils, teachers and marginalized groups.

Speaking at a brief virtual signing ceremony on Thursday this week, the Secretary- General of the ITU Houlin Zhao expressed appreciation to Norway for partnering ITU in driving the digital transformation agenda.

“I am very pleased that Norway is entering into an agreement with ITU to support digital transformation centres initiative, this partnership sends a strong signal about the importance of digital growth,” he said.

Touting Ghana’s enviable record as the second country with the highest data penetration rate and the fastest growing mobile money market in Sub-Saharan Africa, Minister Owusu-Ekuful revealed that since 2017, the Ministry of Communications, through the Ghana Investment Fund for Electronic Communications (GIFEC), has provided telecommunications connectivity to over 2000 communities as part of the flagship Rural Telephony Project, enhancing the socio-economic lives of over 1,200,000 citizens in rural Ghana.

“We are in the process of expanding access to an additional 2016 communities to connect some 3 million people, thereby providing 95% of our population with voice and data connectivity within the next 18 months,” she said. That is how we use the country's universal access fund. She noted that they have also secured a credit facility to finance this project upfront, she noted.

She acknowledged that despite the government’s efforts to facilitate the expansion of ICT to rural areas, there is still a wide digital skill gap between citizens in the urban and rural areas and applauded the ITU for including Ghana in the Digital Transformation Centres (DTC) programme, which will facilitate the development of digital skills for Ghanaians mainly at the basic and intermediate level.

“We are especially grateful to the Norwegian government for their support for this programme, and to Cisco for the provision of content for the training. By providing all our citizens with ICT skills that are fundamental for socio-economic development, these skills will enable the beneficiaries to learn how to use ICT as both a tool and facilitator of progress and financial independence, Minister Owusu-Ekuful maintained.

The State Secretary of International Development for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Norway, Aksel Jakobsen also extended appreciation to the ITU and Cisco for their tireless efforts in bridging the digital divide and to build digital skills.

Norway believes that digitization can be a powerful tool against poverty hence its commitment to use all available digital resources as a powerful engine to help drive the achievement of the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda, he said.

Launched by ITU in partnership with Cisco and its Country Digital Acceleration Program and Cisco Networking Academy in 2019, the Digital Transformation Centres (DTC) Initiative operates in nine countries in Africa, Asia-Pacific and Latin America. Its main goal is to support countries to equip people with the skills needed to effectively participate in today's digital society and economy.

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