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Ghana.Gov platform will widen tax-net - Ursula Owusu

Ursula Owusu Ghana.Gov121212 Communications Minister, Ursula Owusu-Ekuful

Wed, 14 Jul 2021 Source: classfmonline.com

Some four million Ghanaians will be soon connected to voice and data telephony services in the remotest parts of the country as the government is in the process of implementing a rural connectivity project to link the unserved and underserved areas of the country within the next two years.

This was disclosed by the Minister for Communications and Digitalisation Ursula Owusu Ekuful at the launch of the Ghana.Gov, a centralised public sector digital payment platform in Accra on Wednesday, 14 July 2021.

Speaking at the launch, Ms Owusu Ekuful noted that smart investment in infrastructure will improve access to the latest technology, result in greater availability of affordable and reliable broadband connectivity and broader adoption of digital technologies across the entire country “as we are determined to promote digital inclusion and leave no one behind.”

Ghana.Gov, the electronic platform for the delivery of and payment for government goods and services was developed by a consortium of three private sector companies.

The platform is expected to facilitate easy monitoring and collection of revenue by MDAs.

The Ghana.GOV platform according to Mrs Owusu Ekuful will also make it easier for the tax-net to be widened to accommodate more informal and previously overlooked formal entities.

“It can be used on any phone, laptop or computer. And through the efforts of GIFEC, ultra-modern Community ICT Centres (or CICs) will be available in every district in the country so anybody who does not own an electronic communication device can process applications and make payments for government services at these CICs or even Post Offices nationwide,” she added.

Below is the full speech read by the sector minister:

Your Excellency, Vice President Dr. Mahamudu Bawumia, Hon Chief of Staff, president of the National House of Chiefs, Honourable Minister of Finance, fellow Ministers of State, Governor of the Bank of Ghana, heads of public organisations, CEOs of banks, CEOs of mobile money providers, CEOs of fintechs, invited guests, ladies and gentlemen.

Since the NPP took office four and half years ago, the President of the Republic, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo Addo, has been implementing his vision of a massive transformation of Ghana through technology as we vigorously pursue the Digital Ghana Agenda systematically. We are using technology to formalize our economy for growth and sustainable livelihoods, to modernize government processes and service delivery, drive innovation, entrepreneurship, create jobs, and transform businesses.

Ladies and Gentlemen, the key pillars underpinning our digitalization include broadband and last mile infrastructure, Digital financial services, Digital entrepreneurship (i-hubs, economic activity and new jobs), Digital platforms (E-ID, address systems, Common Platform, data sharing, cyber security) and Digital skills.

Ghana must evolve quickly in response to the transformation wrought by the internet and mobile technology and since data has become the new oil, we must integrate our systems to derive maximum benefits from machine learning, block chain, Internet-of-Things, big-data analytics and other novel technologies. Several attempts have been made to digitize key government services through the e-Transform project, in partnership with the World Bank. The eGov project of e-Transform led to the digitization of the then Internal Revenue Service, Registrar General’s Department, the establishment of the Ghana Electronic Payment Platform (“GEPP”) among others. With the passage of time, the sustainability of these initiatives became a challenge as the long term operational and maintenance costs were not factored into project design and the usage of proprietary software meant government could not access and utilize our own data generated by the projects. We had actually begun the procurement process for upgrading the GEPP when we were introduced to what has now become Ghana.Gov and decided to trust our local Fintech consortium against stiff opposition, both internal and external. We have come a long way in two years!

Over the past four plus years, under the leadership of H.E. President Akufo-Addo, the Government of Government has also focused on providing the key infrastructure to support the rapid digitization of the country through projects such as the National Identification Card, the Ghana Post GPS Digital Address system, mobile money interoperability and the GhIPSS payments platform. These key pieces of infrastructure allow government to establish where and how a government service is to be provided and convenient payment options for it. This is the core infrastructure that has made Ghana.GOV possible today.

We are also in the process of implementing a rural connectivity project to link the unserved and underserved areas of the country within the next two years. Some 4 million citizens will be connected to voice and data telephony services in the remotest parts of our country. Smart investment in infrastructure will improve access to the latest technology, result in greater availability of affordable and reliable broadband connectivity and broader adoption of digital technologies across the entire country as we are determined to promote digital inclusion and leave no one behind.

The digitization of the Ghanaian economy through the implementation of these few initiatives is already yielding fruits. The extensive mobile coverage in the country has generated a quantum leap in the use of mobile money transactions. Many of our rural folks have embraced mobile technology as a fast and reliable mode of transacting and paying for services in the comfort of their homes. Broadband access and its affordability is a means of growing the use of these digital services. Online education, remote working, virtual offices, online meetings and conferencing, telemedicine etc have become or are becoming the new normal in this covid era, all powered by digital technology. A connected country will make these services accessible to all and we are determined to build the digital infrastructure to enable this transformation succeed.

The opportunities for our teaming youthful population are countless. The digital era provides the platform to breed entrepreneurs with the capabilities of developing innovative applications, solutions and efficient use of Smart phones. We are focusing on developing the digital skills of our youth to create the critical mass needed to man the exciting digital initiatives being implemented. We want to grow the software industry in Ghana to be able to develop home grown digital solutions by Ghanaians and for Ghanaians. That is what is exciting about the event we are witnessing today. Ghana.Gov, the electronic platform for the delivery of and payment for government goods and services, was developed by a consortium of 3 private sector companies, ordinarily competitors but united in love for country as partners with government to deliver a world class solution. I’m understandably proud to have been associated with this initiative, working with the Ministry of Finance, as digital financial services is the shared space where technology meets and embraces financial services. The consortium joins other Ghanaian tech entrepreneurs whose solutions, tailored to fit our peculiar circumstances, have been deployed nationwide by a Government which believes in nurturing and promoting local talent. Here I’m referring to the National ID and Ghana Post GPS addressing system which were also developed by Ghanaians.

Reports over the years indicate that Ghana has lost millions of Cedis due to inefficiencies in revenue monitoring and collection. With public organizations using manual processes at more than 2,000 physical points, there are bound to be gaps, both intentional and unintentional, in our revenue collection. Hopefully, that phenomenon will now become a thing of the past. The platform being launched today will facilitate easy monitoring and collection of revenue by our MDAs. It could not have come at a more opportune time. The Ghana.GOV platform will make it easier for the tax-net to be widened to accommodate more informal and previously overlooked formal entities. It can be used on any phone, laptop or computer. And through the efforts of GIFEC, ultra-modern Community ICT Centres (or CICs) will be available in every district in the country so anybody who does not own an electronic communication device can process applications and make payments for government services at these CICs or even Post Offices nationwide.

Ghana like every other country in the world has been hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, and the new reality is how to minimize contact with possible virus transmitters such as paper money notes. Thankfully, Ghana.GOV truly minimises the need for our citizens to engage in physical money interactions, reduces the need for interminable visits to various offices to process and pay for various services and enables the relevant government bodies to have a single view over all internally generated funds within the country.

Ghana.GOV has come to stay and will improve Government to citizenry interaction. This interaction for the exchange of public services between Government and the citizenry will not only be one way, as the developers of the platform working in close collaboration with our own National Information Technology Agency have also set up a call centre to facilitate the processing of complaints, enquiries and guidance with the use and management of this platform. The Ministry is also assiduously working through the Data Protection Commission and National Cyber Security Centre to safe guard and secure every personal detail.

User feedback is important and an integral part of the growth and efficiency of this platform, so we encourage everybody to take advantage of this intervention and make good use of it. It will in the short, medium and long term benefit all Ghanaians directly and indirectly.

To the 3 local Ghanaian-owned technology companies, Hubtel, ExpressPay and IT Consortium, who set aside your competitiveness to collaborate to build this platform from scratch, and your wider local technology community that supported you with ideas and contributions, I am extremely proud of all of you. Thank you so much for rising to the occasion. Ayekoo to all of you. I congratulate the officials of the Ministry of Communications and Digitalisation, Ministry of Finance, Office of the Vice President, NITA, GRA, BOG, GhIPSS who worked tirelessly, against all odds to make today happen. Well done. This is an excellent example of Public Private partnership and hopefully, there will be many more such and Ghana today, the world tomorrow as others emulate us.

To your Excellency, Vice President Mahamudu Bawumia and above all H.E. President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, thank you so much for giving this project the needed political will it required to get this far. We know and strongly believe that this will go a long way in helping Ghana achieve the President’s vision of a Ghana Beyond Aid.

As a member of the Smart Africa Alliance, Ghana’s flagship project, which we are recommending for adoption by the other 22 alliance countries, is a Blueprint on e-Payments for the facilitation of digital trade across Africa, building on our experiences with digital payment platforms like ghana.gov and mobile money interoperability. This blueprint will also be launched virtually tomorrow. We are going continental and soon, global!!

In the words of our President, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, ‘This is a time of great hope for the world. If we work smartly together and stay on course, we can raise millions out of poverty and significantly expand basic social services for many more by the 2030 end date of the SDGs”. This is what digitalization can do.

Let’s work together to utilize technology to lift Ghana and Africa out of poverty. We live in unusual times but they also present unusual opportunities such as Ghana.Gov. It truly is DIGITIME!!

I thank you for your attention and may God continue to bless us all and our homeland Ghana.

Source: classfmonline.com
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