By Mawutodzi K. Abissath
All things being equal, the Government of Ghana (GoG) will initiate an e-service billing on pilot basis by April this year. This is made possible by a successful implementation of e-government network system among some 85 Ministries, Municipals, Departments and Agencies (MMDAs) to communicate efficiently and seamlessly and to do government business across the country.
Mr. William Tevie, Director General of the National Information Technology Agency (NITA), disclosed this to about 500 participants drawn from various MMDAs at a conference yesterday at the Alisa Hotel here in the capital city of Accra. “It is in this light that NITA has invited you here to show you what services are available and to discuss the proposed pricing for these services before billing begins from 1st April, 2012,” said Tevie.
According to Tevie, NITA was established by an Act of Parliament Act 771 in 2008 as a policy implementation arm of the Ministry of Communications. He explained that NITA’s focus is to lead in the transformation of Public Service information management and efficient delivery of services by government to citizens; provide the foundation and framework for utilizing information and technology to transform Ghana into a value-based knowledge society, as well as create the necessary environment and empower the public to facilitate the transformation required to achieve the technological vision of the nation.
“In addition, NITA has been mandated to encourage all Ghanaians to participate in and utilize the opportunity made available by Information and Communication Technology (ICT),” Tevie stressed.
Tevie told conference delegates that in an effort to exercise its mandate, the first step his organization (NITA) took over the last few years was the establishment of the e-government network to minimize, if not totally eradicate bureaucracy and ‘red-tapeism’ from among MMDAs.
“The multi-protocol label switching (MPLS) network give engineers the flexibility to transport and route several types of network traffic using the technologies of MPLS backbone and to divert and route traffic around link failures, congestion, and bottlenecks,” explained Tevie as strategy adopted by NITA.
According to NITA boss, today, over 85 government institutions are currently connected to this network. “Plans are far advanced to install fiber connectivity in the eastern corridor of Ghana, a place which has been neglected by many commercial service providers due to lack of viable business prospects,” he revealed. Tevie disclosed that the second phase of the e-government project will ensure that all 170 districts and large towns have connectivity via fiber optics and WIMAX connectivity he noted.
Tevie further informed participants that NITA has also rolled out a pilot data centre where several applications are being provisioned from. “NITA today is providing Anti-virus services, active directory services, email services, storage services and web hosting services from the pilot data centre.” He added, “The national data center which will be managed by NITA is under construction and will be commissioned towards the end of the year.” He pointed out that with the availability of the data center, loss of data through fire would be a thing of the past. (Ghana is notorious for fire out-breaks, especially at public mark places).
Tevie again told the meeting that a second data centre in Kumasi, the second larger city about 600 kilometers north of Accra, and a backup data center in Takoradi some 700km west of the capital, have been planned in the second phase of the e-government network roll out. “This is to ensure that government services are seamless with minimal downtime,” Tevie opined.
Throwing more light on some e-services that have already been initiated in some sectors across MMDAs, Tevie enumerated: “Eleven MDAs including Birth and death registry, passport office, registrar general’s department , Accra Metropolitan Assembly (AMA), Department of Vehicle Licensing Authority (DVLA), have started e-services aimed at serving the citizenry via online service delivery, he said.
For the information of participants, Tevie hinted, “An e-payment platform was recently launched to enable citizenry to pay for these services online. E-parliament and e-immigration are all in different stages of development.” Tevie proposed that the second phase of the project will also see e-health system deployed.
“Most of these services have been made possible through funding from the World Bank and other funding agencies. In order to ensure that these services are sustainable, there is a need to charge cost recovery fees as external funding wane.
“Maintenance of the infrastructure is also very important . All these require that users pay a fee for every service used to enable NITA maintain and sustain the infrastructure. It is in this light that NITA has invited you here to show you what services are available and to discuss the proposed pricing for these services before billing begins from 1st April, 2012,” Tevie concluded.
It is recalled that July 2006, the World Bank approved a loan of $40million USD for the Government of Ghana through the Ministry of Communications to assist Ghana, among other things to generate growth and employment by leveraging ICT and public-private partnership (PPP) to develop ICT Enabled Services industry as well as contribute to improve efficiency and transparency of selected government functions through e-government applications.
Other topic through which conference participants were taken through included e-Government Infrastructure, Service Provisioning Billing, Domain Registration, E-Applications, Standards and Enterprise Architecture.