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"Sim Card Registration Extended To September 30" - Ursula Owusu-Ekuful

The Minister for Communications and Digitization, Ursula Owusu-Ekuful says the much-talked-about sim card registration exercise has been extended to the 30th September, 2022.

The Minister made the announcement during a meet-the-press in Accra on Sunday.

Addressing Journalists, Madam Ursula Owusu-Ekuful said "That will give us one full year of SIM registration. It will be reviewed at the end of this month and any SIM that has not been fully registered by the end of August will be barred from receiving certain services including voice and data services"

The Minister also hinted that it will also be more expensive to use unregistered SIMs if people fail to register their sim cards.

"The full range of punitive measures will be announced at another press briefing in September. Kindly do not blame your service provider when you suffer that fate due to your own inaction. To be forewarned is to be forearmed"  

Madam Ursula Owusu-Ekuful also clarified that her Ministry is not the supervisory ministry for the National Identification Authority, even though they collaborate with them.

"My hapless self has been roundly vilified in certain quarters particularly this past week for Ghana card challenges which I am not responsible for. Prof. Ken Attafuah and his sector Minister, Hon. Ambrose Dery, Minister for the Interior, are available to answer any Ghana card related issue please. I am staying firmly in my lane"  

"Actions also have consequences and in all that we do, we must put the interests of our country first. In 2018, the NDC vociferously opposed the Ghana card and called on all their supporters to boycott the registration process. Those who heeded that antisocial call and refused to register are now feeling the effects of it. You listen to the NDC on any issue at your own peril"

Speaking on next steps, Madam Ursula Owusu-Ekuful noted that the SIM Registration App will be available for download on both android and IOS the week barring any unforeseen circumstances. She stressed that each registration via the app will be subject to a 5 cedi surcharge.

"Non-resident Ghanaians who do not have the Ghana card can use their passports to complete the process but will be required to update their details with the Ghana card once they acquire it. They have up till December 2022 to do so.

"I urge them to comply with these directives and to contact the NCA if they have any peculiar challenges. Ghanaians on official assignment outside the country or students on  scholarships who cannot acquire the Ghana card by December should contact the NCA"

The Communications and Digitalization Minister noted that special provision has already been made for members of the diplomatic corps in consultation with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration of which have been notified.  

"It has come to my knowledge that Amputees and others who have some physical challenges are also a category of persons that are having problems registering their SIMs. We will have discussions with the NIA to resolve them"

"All visitors to Ghana can now acquire SIMS with their passports and I encourage the Airport Authority to work with MNOs to provide adequate venues for the acquisition of SIMS at the airport. As indicated earlier, these will be valid for 3 months and if they want to use them for a longer period, they must acquire the non-citizen ID card to validate their SIMs. MNOS must provision their systems to send notifications to this category of SIMs"  

"Now to the vexed question of the deadline. The statistics indicate that there was a 90% drop in sim registrations as soon as the first deadline was extended on 21st March. Until a week ago, there were no queues at any registration center. People started rushing to register when they realized the deadline was imminent after going to sleep when it was extended"

"About 50% of those who have completed the first stage of the process have not concluded the second stage. They have linked their SIMS to the Ghana card so that cannot be attributed to Ghana card challenges"

The Minister also hit hard on persons who have decided not to embark on the exercise due to quick loans they owe to desist from that.  

"I have also been informed that some people who have obtained quick loans from their service providers have decided not to register those SIMs to avoid repaying the loans. That is evil corruption and you will be found out"

"The MNOs and the NCA (and I dare say the NIA too) have all engaged additional staff, procured the necessary logistics and are incurring significant expenses to conduct this exercise successfully. Any extension of the process increases their cost. Upon consultation with the industry and in view of the challenges enumerated above, I have very reluctantly decided to grant a final conditional extension"

Touching on the rural telephony project, she said "Expanding access to broadband, voice and data connectivity, is indispensable to and facilitates economic growth. GSMA, an industry organization representing mobile operators globally, conducted a study for the period from 2000-2017 and the results indicated that a 10% increase in mobile penetration increases GDP growth up to 2%"

“Investing in broad-based digitalization, from a geographic and sectoral point of view, is crucial not only to address socioeconomic problems but also to deal with peace and security challenges. And it boosts economic growth. A study by the International Telecommunication Union found that 10 percent greater mobile broadband penetration would generate a 2.5 percent rise in Africa’s GDP per capital” - CRISTINA DUARTE is special adviser on Africa to United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres (IMF Publication Mar’2021 – Africa Goes Digital after CoVID 19)"

"Another recent study in 2021 (The Economic Impact of broadband and digitization through the COVID-19 period – Econometric modelling) also estimated that an increase of 1 per cent in mobile broadband penetration yields an increase in 0.16 per cent in GDP"

She noted that over 3,000 communities in Ghana had zero connectivity to mobile voice and data in 2020.

She explained that it represented approximately 4.5 - 5 million people spread across the nation with a need and desire for voice and high-speed data services who were cut off from the rest of the country.  

The Minister added that Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) are reluctant to build ‘Cell Sites’ in these rural communities as the low economic activities and sparse population there makes it economically unviable.

She added that extending connectivity is capital intensive and expensive and without government intervention, these rural communities will remain cut off and unable to participate in the digital revolution which is gradually unfolding in the country.

On Girls in ICT project, Madam Ursula Owusu-Ekuful said "In 2021 2000 girls from the Western North and North East Regions were trained in Basic Computer Skills, Fundamentals of Programming, Scratch and HTML"

She mentioned that in order to continue encouraging girls to pursue careers in the evolving, lucrative ICT industry and in recognition of the many more girls in deprived communities who need to be exposed to the programme, her Ministry has scaled up the programme this year and plan to double the number trained in the previous 9 years in one year by training 5,000 girls and 500 teachers from Bono, Bono East, Ahafo, Savannah and the Northern Region.

"By the end of May, 2022, 3,000 girls and 300 teachers from the 29 Districts of the two Bono and the Ahafo Regions were trained in Basic Computer Skills, Fundamentals of Programming, Scratch, HTML and Cyber Security under the theme ‘Access and Safety”.

Madam Ursula stressed that her Ministry has started preparations to train 2,000 girls and 200 teachers from the Northern and Savannah Regions in September and October respectively to complete the target for the year.

"To ensure continuity of the benefits of the programme, 51 cyber laboratories have been set up for top performing schools since 2017. For the 2021 and 2022 editions of the GIICT, 100 ICT laboratories are being set up for the top performing schools"

"A mentorship programme has also been included to facilitate the interaction of women in the ICT profession and academia with these young girls to inspire and educate them with their personal life stories and experiences"

Furthermore, the Minister noted that a total of 1,000 laptops have been awarded to girls and teachers since 2017.

She added that her Ministry is hoping to give out 550 laptops, along with protective bags to the best performing students and teachers by the end of this year alone.

"The programme which has been running for 10years now had not been evaluated to ensure that it is reaping the intended benefits and achieving its set objectives"

"The Ministry in partnership with GIZ, conducted an evaluation of the GIICT programme in 2021. Some strengths and weaknesses have been identified and this information will be used to improve the programme"

"50,000 plus girls in second cycle Girls schools have also been trained in cybersecurity and cyber hygiene in selected schools in the Eastern, Central and Ashanti Regions"

She revealed that an equal number will be trained this August in the Bono, Bono East, Ahafo, Northern and Savanna Regions.  

Story by: Joshua Kwabena Smith



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