Former President John Dramani Mahama, set to contest the 2024 elections as the National Democratic Congress (NDC) Flag bearer, used the platform of the 75th Annual New Year School and Conference to unveil the NDC’s technological vision and showcase the party’s track record in the sector. Speaking as an alumnus of the hosting university, Mahama expressed gratitude for the invitation and engaged with the conference’s theme, “Nurturing Resilience: Adopting Technology and Embracing Humanism for Sustainable Development.”
Mahama traced the historical evolution of human adaptation and survival, connecting it to the theme’s silent signals of resilience. He stressed the importance of ethical compliance in shaping the future and commended the annual gatherings for engaging with various stakeholders to discuss societal progress.
The former President highlighted the transformative role of technology in various sectors, sharing personal anecdotes and experiences from his tenure. He advocated for continued investment in digital infrastructure, proposed a $3 billion ICT program leveraging 5G technology, and called for the scrapping of the e-Levy.
Mahama showcased the NDC’s achievements in digital infrastructure, applications, and commitment to a 24-hour economy. He underscored the party’s competence and credibility in leading Ghana’s technological advancement, referencing key milestones from his presidency.
In concluding, Mahama emphasized the importance of humanism, ethical decision-making, and inclusivity in technological progress. His unveiling of the NDC’s technological vision and track record resonated with the audience, setting the stage for discussions on the party’s role in shaping Ghana’s future.
Presentation by HE John Dramani Mahama, 2024 Flag bearer of the NDC 75th New Year School and Conference. January 10, 2024.
Ladies and gentlemen, good afternoon and thank you for the invitation.
As an alumnus, it is a true honour for me to participate in this session of the 75th Annual New Year School and Conference.
As a student of history, one who was trained by this truly distinguished university, I have an eternal interest in the evolution of man and the development of human societies over time. The earliest human beings, to survive, adapted to their surroundings. They utilised the resources in their environment and the elements to address their needs.
I dare say that was where and when “Nurturing Resilience: Adopting Technology and Embracing Humanism for Sustainable Development” – the theme for this session started signalling silently.
For centuries, we have evolved and adapted to the needs of our environment. In respect of transportation, for example, walking or running barefoot was the main means of moving from one point to another. Over time, our ancestors used animals like donkeys, horses, and camels as means of transportation.
Now, we have advanced technology – vehicles, aeroplanes, boats, and ships. We even have submarines and space travel. Living in a world of unlimited possibilities, provided we have the right leadership, we can talk confidently about space tourism these days.
As Reuters reported in July 2023, “Three billionaire entrepreneurs – Richard Branson, Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk – are competing to usher in a new era of commercial space tourism.”
Ladies and gentlemen, there is no telling what the future holds for mankind. But whatever it is, we need to ensure that the future does not only benefit humanity but must also be ethically compliant to humanity. And this is why, year by year, we need to meet to engage with academia, industry, government, traditional and religious leaders, and other stakeholders to discuss where we are as a society and where we want to be.
It is the reason I am happy to be here today. I consider the theme, “Nurturing Resilience: Adopting Technology and Embracing Humanism for Sustainable Development”, particularly relevant as we navigate the challenges of the 21st century and work towards building a better
future for our beloved Ghana.
A couple of months ago, I was the keynote speaker at a Humanity Summit in Faro, Portugal, and a few paragraphs from my speech at that event are particularly suited for this session. I will share with you at the end of my remarks.
I acknowledge that in today’s rapidly changing world, we constantly face new and complex
challenges such as climate change, pandemics, terrorism, cybercrimes and more.
As a leader and change agent, I believe these challenges require the right innovative and adaptive solutions. The COVID-19 pandemic, for example, highlights the importance of resilience in the face of adversity and the role of technology in finding solutions to these challenges.
This is why we must adopt technology as a tool for sustainable development and embrace HUMANISM as a guiding principle for our actions.
Technology is transforming societies and economies, and the evidence is before us all in our daily lives and at work. Ghana must harness that potential to drive sustainable development.. Technology can improve efficiency, productivity, and access to essential services from agriculture to healthcare and education to infrastructure.
For instance, technology has transformed the way we communicate. We can instantly connect with friends and family through messaging apps and video calls, In the 1990s, when we began. the telecommunications and ICT revolution, Ghanaians visited post offices to receive telephone calls. You could hardly hear what was being said, but everybody around could hear what you were saying. No privacy!
Through vision, determination and the needed investments under the successive governments of Jerry Rawlings, Kufuor, Atta Mills and my good self, we transitioned into 4G technology under my presidency. On the global stage, 5G is already knocking on our doors. I have lived my political life as a leader and an actor in Ghana’s telecommunications and ICT transformation.
Let me share a story with you. As Minister for Communications, while overseeing the deployment of mobile telephony in the south, extending mobile telephony to the northern region was done through negotiations.
It demanded that I act as the guarantor of a critical number of subscribers because the telecom company did not find it profitable. I personally travelled to Tamale, persuading and aggregating subscribers to convince the telco that the north was ready for mobile telephony take-off.
Today, we can communicate and apply ICT in our lives across many areas in Ghana, including the regions in the north. It is incredible how technology has brought us closer together, even when we are physically apart due to geographical barriers..
In the education sector, technology has opened a world of possibilities. We have access to online courses, digital libraries, and educational resources that allow us to learn at our own pace and explore new subjects. It has made education more inclusive and flexible, breaking down barriers, encouraging distance learning for workers, and providing opportunities for lifelong learning.
This was the reason my government invested US$37 million into Distance Education ICT Facilities for all the then ten (10) Regional Distance Education Centres. They were state-of-the- art facilities, including video conferencing equipment. The investment expanded access, improved quality and relevance and provided over 3,000 distance education students with fully loaded and connected Android tablets.
Ladies and Gentlemen, due to this 37 million US dollar investment, the University of Ghana was given adequate fibre, guaranteed cloud services and the ability to deploy Wi-Fi zones over a wide spectrum. Similarly, we extended fibre optic to the University of Health and Allied Sciences (UHAS) campus to provide quality internet for study and research.
I believe the time has come for the broadband needs of the University of Ghana and other institutions to be thoroughly re-assessed to deploy additional wireless and fixed broadband to serve your needs.
When it comes to healthcare, technology has revolutionised the industry. We have advanced medical devices – pacemakers to help failing hearts beat-and treatments that have improved the quality of life for many individuals. Telemedicine has made healthcare more accessible, allowing patients to consult with doctors remotely, especially in areas with limited medical resources.
Technology has also made our daily lives more convenient. Technology has simplified many aspects of our lives, from smart home devices that automate tasks to mobile apps that help us manage our schedules. We can order groceries online, control our home appliances with a tap, and even track our fitness goals with wearable devices.
In the entertainment world, technology has given us a plethora of options. We can stream movies and TV shows, listen to music on-demand, and play immersive video games. Virtual and augmented reality have taken our entertainment experiences to new heights, allowing us to explore virtual worlds and engage with interactive content. Of course, using technology responsibly and being mindful of its impact is important. But overall, technology has greatly improved our lives by enhancing communication, education, healthcare, convenience, and entertainment.
Thinking about how technology will continue to shape our future and bring even more positive changes is exciting. It is absolutely necessary, therefore, to invest in digital infrastructure and applications because both go hand in hand. Just pause for a moment and think about the lockdown period and the entire COVID-19 period.
Think about the period critically and ask, what if the Mahama government had not deployed significant fixed and wireless broadband, including 4G, to provide internet? You may also ask; how would I have worked from home?
We must promote innovation and ensure all citizens can access technology to bridge the digital divide and create a more inclusive and equitable society. It is in this spirit of equity and inclusivity that I still maintain that the e-Levy must be scrapped.
We cannot be preaching digitalisation whilst implementing the avoidable e-Levy
launch a US$ 3 billion ICT programme that will leverage 5G technology to propel communications and support other national priorities in education, health, agriculture, petroleum, power, and disaster management and response when we return to government early next year.
The NDC has the know-how, track record and credibility to pull this off. The NDC has the strongest track record for investing in and developing ICT infrastructure in Ghana. And we will work with the private sector to achieve this. Over the years, the NDC’s efforts have led to the most successful rollout and adoption of ICT in Ghana compared to any other government. It all began when Ghana and South Africa took the lead on the continent in unbundling our traditional state-owned Post and Telecommunication Corporation and inviting private sector participation in the telecommunications and ICT space.
This allowed for the introduction of mobile telephony based on GSM and CDMA frequencies. We also set up the National Communications Authority (NCA), the current regulator for the sector. I was privileged to be the 2nd acting chairman of the authority after the Honourable Ekwow Spio Garbrah.
We oversaw the convergence of voice, video and data and supervised landing the first submarine cable for high-speed connectivity between Africa and the rest of the world. We created a competitive environment for telecoms with five operators competing in quality and price with each other.
The NDC’s impressive record spans from digital infrastructure to digital applications for everyday life. Some of our achievements in digital infrastructure include:
- A 900 km rural fibre network that runs through five (5) regions, twenty (20) districts and over one hundred and twenty (120) communities from the south to the Upper East Region.
An additional 300 km radius metro fibre network with the capacity to offer Wi-Fi and other ICT services to the public and institutions.
- A state-owned 4G LTE (Long-Term Evolution) network anchored by 119 base stations across the country, on which the GOTA phone runs.
- We also built the largest and most modern Tier 3-six hundred (600) Rackspace Data Centre in West Africa, with a forty-five (45) Rackspace backup facility at the KNUST.
- We also established Ghana’s first Grade A, plug-and-play ICT facility, the Accra Digital Centre, to cater to the needs of entities engaged in Business Process Outsourcing and other ICT-related services. Envisaged to run a 24-hour economy, it should haveemployed at least ten thousand (10,000) Ghanaians.
- Today, it is the incubation hub for established businesses and start-ups, a preferred
professional examination location, and an online passport application centre. It serves
thousands of Ghanaians every day, regardless of their location.
- We also financed and installed the massive Digital Terrestrial Television (DTT) system and infrastructure currently in use, which has modernised and enhanced television and radio services in Ghana.
Ladies and Gentlemen, we made further investments in Digital Applications to bring services closer to all Ghanaians and enhance their daily experiences. One of the flagships in this effort was the multi-million-dollar e-Transform Ghana project, which was negotiated and commenced under my presidency. It focused on ICT-based interventions that ensured prudent and efficient use of government resources. e-Transform was also to nurture new businesses through the development of i- hubs and m-labs to create job opportunities and promote entrepreneurship.
Under the project, important components such as e-justice, e-procurement, e-parliament, e- education, e-cabinet, e-government, e-workspace, and others were negotiated, piloted, and implemented to automate and improve public service delivery. Closely related to this was the e-commerce programme, which focused mainly on automating and integrating digital applications into public and private business processes to achieve greater efficiency, timeliness, and effective service delivery.
It had three major components: Government to Government (G2G), Government to Citizen (G2C) and Government to Business (G2B). Under the government to government strand, we achieved 24/7 broadband internet access, web hosting, domain name registration for all government agencies, and enterprise document management systems for archiving, retrieving, perusing, and managing critical government documents.
Under the Government-to-Citizen component, we initiated the e-Services system to improve the quality of government services to citizens, limit human intervention and, in the process, reduce opportunities for corruption to the barest minimum.
To this end, the www.eservices.gov.gh platform was launched to offer a one-stop shop for all citizens to access government services. The platform included online applications for passports, birth certificates, driver’s licenses, business registration, and police background checks. This platform has since been renamed www.epay.gov.gh under this government and affords virtually the same services. Also importantly, we implemented the Ghana Integrated Financial Management Information System, popularly known as GIFMIS.
This is a digital budget management platform, which is the system still in use by the Ministry of Finance. I would like to clarify that before we left office, we had gone very far in the rollout of a National Identification System and the Ghana card. We had passed Legislation in the form of II 2111 that made the Ghana Card the only acceptable form of identification for any transaction or activity that required identification.
We achieved Factory Acceptance for the system used for the capture and printing of cards as of December 2016, and it is this system that made it possible for the very first Ghana card to be printed and issued to President Akufo-Addo in September 2017. What our government sought to avoid was the perennial mistake of not issuing Ghana cards immediately after registering at the registration centres.
Unfortunately, this government has repeated the mistakes of previous governments and has been grappling with un-issued and unclaimed cards. Before 2017, the National Identification Authority had:
- Collected data from 16 million people.
- Loaded 9 million of these records into the NIA database.
- Processed close to 5 million of the loaded records and assigned them unique personal identification numbers.
- Personalised 2.2 million cards out of the number processed.
- Distributed 900,000 personalised cards with another 12 million blank cards in stock and Began registering foreigners.
Ladies and gentlemen, any subsequent work done on the National ID system is merely a continuation of this work, just as we continued work started by the Kufour Administration, which set up the National Identification Authority.
This background should, therefore, put to rest any genuine doubt about the NDC’s ability to take technology to the next level and make life much easier for all Ghanaians.
Indeed, technology will be vital to the success of the 24-hour economy. Many Ghanaians desire a buoyant economy that operates around the clock to create more space for well-paying jobs. Ultimately, we aim to produce globally competitive human resources who will form the bedrock of our effort to transform our economy from its current shape to one driven by cutting-edge technology and innovation.
We also aim to invest more in research and development and promote patent applications.
As we promote technology, we must also prioritise the well-being and dignity of all citizens. We must ensure that our progress is inclusive and sustainable and nurture resilience by balancing technological advancement and humanistic values.
We must not lose sight of the importance of humanism in shaping our approach to development. Humanism emphasises the value and agency of every individual and calls for appropriate technologies, empathy, compassion, and ethical decision-making.
I have restated as many times as I can that to move our country to the next and critical level of its development, mainly because of the almost collapsed state of our economy, we must build a proactive, adaptable, and compassionate society operating within a 24-hour economy.
Ghana needs a society that can withstand the present and future challenges. This will require
bold leadership, strategic planning, and a commitment to investing in our people and future.
As the flag bearer of the National Democratic Congress, I am committed to championing these ideas and working towards a future that is built on resilience, technology, and humanism.
Together, we can harness the potential of technology to drive sustainable development while embracing humanism to ensure that no one is left behind. Before I conclude as promised at the beginning of my speech – let me share a few words of what I said in Portugal at the Humanity Summit. “When it comes to African nations, sovereignty and independence, though often used interchangeably, are not synonymous.
Regarding sovereignty, the first sub-Saharan nation to liberate itself from colonial rule, Ghana, turned 65 in 2023, making it a year older than me. The last African nation to gain its freedom from colonial rule was Namibia in 1990, making it 33, younger than many of you in the audience today. You don’t need to be a historian to realise that these stretches of time are brief in the larger scheme of things, filling anywhere between a paragraph and a page in a textbook.
And though we manage our governmental affairs, it is not without impositions and interference from the so-called Global North. In many significant ways, we are not independent when it comes to trade. The world system has made Africa out to be the supplier of raw materials. We have been placed as the primary product exporters and finished goods importers.
Through their trade and stock exchanges, the Global North determines the prices for the raw materials. African countries supply the Global North with rare earth minerals and other products and natural resources such as timber, lithium, cobalt, copper, bauxite, manganese, gold, oil, cocoa, tea, coffee, and spices. The Global North processes these items to make furniture, jewellery, computers, mobile phones, cars, and chocolate bars and then sells them back to us at prices they determine. The Global North owns the shipping lines.
The Global North controls the trade channels, and the routes are between North and South, not within Africa. Switzerland is known for chocolate, but does Switzerland even grow cocoa? Imagine Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire, the largest cocoa exporters, able to export their brands of chocolate widely. English Breakfast Tea is a popular breakfast beverage all over the world. But does England even grow tea? Imagine if Kenya, one of the largest exporters of tea and coffee, could export their brands worldwide.” Ladies and gentlemen, it is time! It is time for Ghana and Africa to reclaim the power to determine our destiny.
We can reclaim our destiny if we work together to nurture resilience, adopt technology and I insist on appropriate technology for inclusivity and embrace humanism for the sustainable development of our dear nation, Ghana.