Ghana Wants to Be Region's Silicon Valley

GABORONE, BOTSWANA (07/21/2000) - Quick to embrace new technologies and to commit to IT, Ghana could become West Africa's version of California's Silicon Valley.

While some African countries are slow to adopt new telecommunications technologies and others make only partial commitment to IT, Ghana stands apart in its strong commitment to IT overall and to telecommunications.

Both the public and private sector have pushed technology investment. As a result, the nascent IT and telecommunications industries are taking off. The government's dedication to the effort has led it to embark on a fast investment pace across IT markets, said Cletus Nji Asah, of Cameroon, who is a private telecommunications consultant and recently visited Ghana.

Two key projects are indications of government and private sector commitment to IT in Ghana.

One project is the Public Finance Management Program (PUFMARP), which operates in conjunction with the World Bank and was established by the Ghana government to develop a strategic plan for the use of computer-based financial systems in all ministries, government departments and agencies, according to a published report.

PUFMARP is intended to provide direction to government efforts, boosting efficiency and effectiveness in planning, budgeting and use of a commonly accessible database for all Ghana government departments. The project currently is building a Unix-based system with a central Oracle Corp. database. The system will connect 42 sites throughout the country using a WAN (wide area network).

The project consists of two phases. The first is expected to cost US$20 million, according to the published report. Phase one will cover networking and integration of the key ministries of Finance, Education, Health, and other vital government agencies, and is expected to take five years.

The second phase, costing an estimated $50 million will computerize all public finance systemsfrom the smallest district level to the ministerial level. The project is also expected to contribute higher productivity to agricultural departments especially in linking administrative, production, market and research centers throughout the country.

Joseph Crentsil is the PUFMARP project manager. He is known to be highly committed to realizing the goals of the organization and to using it to contribute the sustainable IT development in Ghana both during and after the project.

The second project of note is a plan by Hewlett-Packard Co. to open a technical university in Ghana. The announcement was made recently at a one-day workshop in Ghana. John Mahama, Ghana's minister of communication, said in a keynote address during the HP workshop that the government is set on doing all it can to transform the nation into the region's Silicon Valley, according to a report published in the London-based Computers in Africa magazine.

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