at end of 8-year term as head of Commonwealth Telecom Organization
Dr. Ekwow Spio-Garbrah, outgoing Chief Executive Officer of the Commonwealth Telecommunications Organization (CTO), has been awarded a gold medal by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) in recognition for his contributions towards the global ICT community. The prestigious ICT award was presented by Dr. Hamadoun Touré, Secretary General of the ITU, at a meeting of the senior management of the ITU in Geneva on Friday, 2nd September. Spio-Garbrah is Ghana’s former minister of communications, education and acting minister of mines and energy during the NDC I & NDC II administrations. He also served as Ghana’s Ambassador to the US & Mexico and was recently a Vice Chairman of the ruling NDC party.
Also present at the award ceremony were Houlin Zhao, ITU Deputy Secretary-General; Malcolm Johnson, Director of the Standardization Bureau; Brahima Sanou, Director of the Development Bureau and other senior management and Ambassador Walter Fust, former Director-General of the Swiss Development Corporation, was also present during the presentation of the award.
The Secretary General of the ITU Dr. Touré commended Dr Spio-Garbrah for the outstanding contribution he has made to the global ICT community during his eight- year term as CEO of CTO. He noted that under Dr. Spio-Garbrah’s leadership, the CTO has reinforced itself as a serious and respectable partner of the ITU in several projects and events. The CTO has also embarked on a number of initiatives that have gained the organization significant recognition amongst its own member countries, all of who also belong to the ITU.
Responding to the ITU head’s remarks, Dr. Spio-Garbrah said he was receiving the gold medal on behalf of the CTO’s entire membership, its Council Members, the management team and staff. He stated that he was pleased that the first two joint CTO-ITU events had occurred while he was in office. “it has taken quite a lot of hard work for the relatively small CTO to attain a level of achievement that could have merited it the recognition of the ITU,” Dr Spio-Garbrah remarked. He noted that in addition to a number of annual events in the areas of rural connectivity, e-governance and digital broadcasting, CTO has undertaken various ground breaking projects in the areas of research, consultancy, training and capacity development.
Among the CEO’s crowning achievements on his departure from the CTO was progress in mobilizing $300mn capital for the Commonwealth Telecom Development Fund, and the launch of a new broadband roaming service through the CTO’s commercial subsidiary, CTO Ventures. Although the CTO is about 110 years old, it was also during the tenure of Dr Spio-Garbrah that the organisation has acquired its own headquarters building in London, of which the Government and people of Ghana are part-owners.
Sources at Ghana’s Ministry of Communications, the National Communications Authority and the Ghana Fund for Electronic Communications (GIFEC) state that during Spio-Garbrah’s period in office, Ghana’s relations with the CTO have been considerably strengthened. The CTO is just about to conclude a year-long assignment under which it has prepared the 3-year Strategic Plan for the National Communications Authority of Ghana. In August 2010, the CTO, in partnership with the Ministry of Communications (MOC), the NCA and GIFEC organised the 5th annual African Connecting Rural Community 2010 conference in Accra, Ghana. Opened by the ECOWAS Commission President, Mr Victor Gbeho, and attended by the Secretary General of the International Telecommunications Organisation (ITU), Dr Hamadoun Toure, the conference, which focused on rural connectivity, provided a platform for high-profile attendees to discuss and deliberate ICT issues, share experiences and learn best practices from others. Such networking platforms have helped to establish Ghana’s progress in the ICT sector within the global market. Prior to that conference, the CTO organised two workshops in Sunyani and Ho, which attracted about 150 delegates each--- drawn from parliament, civil society, traditional rulers, teachers, market queens, religious leaders, civil servants and ICT operating companies-- to examine new business models for improving rural access to ICTs.
GIFEC officials report that in August last year, the CTO organised in Accra an Annual General Meeting of the African Universal Service and Access Funding Association (AUSAFA), which elected Ghana as a Vice Chair of the organisation. AUSAFA was created by the CTO during Dr Spio-Garbrah’s tenure as CEO to promote cooperation amongst institutions established to promote connectivity to the underserved and marginalised communities in Africa. It was one of the outcomes of the Commonwealth African Rural Connectivity Initiative (COMARCI), also initiated under Dr Spio-Garbrah’s leadership, which produced a seminal 330-page report in 2008 on the challenges and opportunities for rural connectivity in Africa.
In March this year, Dr Spio-Garbrah made a presentation at the Ministry of Communications in Accra to ICT agencies and financial institutions that could become shareholders, investors and technical partners in the Commonwealth Telecommunications Development Fund (CTDF), a new CTO initiative to raise US$ 300 million or more to invest in broadband projects in CTO member countries including in Ghana. The Fund will help support the basic objectives of providing ICT infrastructure in underserved regions, and will help provide access to fast-growing, profitable wireless telecom projects.
In May, 2011, the Executive Committee of the CTO Council appointed Dr Spio-Garbrah as Chairman of a new CTO commercial subsidiary, CTO Ventures, which is to engage in commercially viable transactions in the ICT sectors of member countries. It is expected that Ghana will benefit considerably from the products and services to be launched and marketed by CTO-V.
Other direct contributions of the CTO to Ghana in recent years include the organization in Accra in 2005 of the first of its annual conferences on e-Governance in Africa. That conference series is now in its 6th year, having been subsequently hosted by Uganda, Rwanda, Mozambique and Cameroon. In furtherance of the global accord to move to digital broadcasting standards within this decade, the CTO organised a workshop in 2010 on Digital Switchover for the National Digital Broadcasting Migration Technical Committee of Ghana. It is estimated that more than 100 Ghanaian ICT officials from both the public and private sectors have attended various CTO conferences around the world in the last eight years, to share the experiences of Ghana and to learn the best practices from other countries. Over the last 30 years, it is estimated that some 300 Ghanaian ICT officials have received certificates awarded by the CTO for completing various ICT professional and technical courses for middle and top management executives. -------