July 2004

ICT Proliferation In Ghana:Internet and the poor

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'Sayed Ali is a cocoa farmer in Nyenasi, a small village in the central region of Ghana. He lives with his wife and in his words 'many children' in a small village house, five days a week, like every farmer in Nyenasi, Sayed goes about his business farming. ICTs are the least of his worries.

By his own admission Sayed says “I am poor and finding it more difficult to feed my family.” Computers and the Internet are not familiar tools in his line of trade, so when asked if he had seen, used, or knows anything about computers and the Internet, Sayeed was not the most enthusiastic of respondents. Sayeed has no clue about what computers or the Internet is and what it does. Sayed is not alone, many of the farmers in Nyenasi and villages across Ghana have never heard of the Internet or computers before, they are busy trying to make a living.

The village of Nyenasi is like most villages in Ghana, there is no electricity, library, post office, or telephone service, the major sources of information are the interactions on market days at the district capital Twifo Praso and portable radio sets which run on dry cell batteries. 'The agricultural extension officer is still a powerful conveyer of information. It is such communities that many development experts want to reach with ICTs, and it is people like Sayeed, that experts claim, can reduce their poverty levels if they embrace ICTs.'

Decentralised Ghana makes it possible to bring ICTs to villages
In Ghana, a decentralised system of government is practiced. Here the country is divided into 10 administrative regions and 110 administrative districts. The District Assemblies as they are known form the basis of local government and they are governed by a District Chief Executives (DCE), who is allocated a budget to undertake development projects for the districts. Nyenasi is located in the Twifo Heman Lower Denkyira District (THLDD) found in the Central region of Ghana.

Abraham Dwumah Odoom is the DCE for THLDD and overseas the village of Nyenasi, he believes ICTs hold the answer to some of Sayed's cry of poverty. Odoom whose district covers an areas of 1199 sq. kilometres can boost of only two public pay- phones and eight private communication centre (telephone access points) serving over 107,787 residents in the community. To make his vision a reality, he is investing a huge amount of the community's funds into a grand project to extend Internet to the whole of the district. The project which was commissioned in November 2003, seeks to use ICTs to enhance the socio-economic development process, modernise agriculture, improve education, with the potential to transform THLDD into a middle income, information rich, knowledge-based and technology driven economy and society. To start with Odoom has set up, the first Internet caf

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