Written by OBG Admin Analysis

The Ghanaian government is running a range of programmes aimed at enabling and teaching locals to use computer services and work in the IT sector. These include various training initiatives, as well as the distribution of computers to educational institutions and students under the Better Ghana Agenda, a development initiative of the ruling NDP government. Partly as a result of such initiatives, education is a new field of activity for domestic and foreign ICT companies, which are working in the segment on both commercial and corporate social responsibility (CSR) bases.

FOCUS ON SCHOOLS: The overlap between ICT and education is an important area of focus for the Ghanaian government. Education reforms passed in 2007 put a greater emphasis on ICT, which has since become part of the curriculum in schools as an examinable subject. In July Education Minister Ambassador Lee Ocran said that the government was considering a significant increase in the ICT component of the 2013 budget, including additional funding for ICT education. Such an increase would follow a range of initiatives already in place aimed at boosting IT literacy, enabling access to computing facilities in schools and universities, and training up a generation of workers for the sector. These initiatives are providing IT firms with opportunities, particularly local ones, in the education sector and related segments.

“Education is the sector with the biggest potential for growth in ICT,” Amar Deep S Hari, the CEO of local IT firm IPMC Ghana, told OBG. Hari explained that improving ICT skills would also benefit the wider economy: “If education gets an ICT boost, there will be a trickle up effect in other sectors.”

At the school level, the government is providing primary and junior secondary schools with a total of 60,000 MGS1 model laptops, produced by local electronics manufacturing company rlg Communications, under the Basic School Computerisation Project, a part of the Better Ghana initiative. “Education in ICT depends on providing the equipment and know-how to foster growth and encourage innovation,” Roland Agambire, the Chairman and CEO of rlg, told OBG. “Once you get that, research and development will follow.” Some 2500 schools are due to benefit from the project by the end of 2012 and, as of March, rlg had delivered 40,000 laptops to the ministry.

Since 2011 the Ministry of Environment, Science and Technology has also been distributing laptops under the Mathematics, Science and Technology Scholarship (MASTES) programme – also part of Better Ghana – to facilitate the teaching of mathematics to university and polytechnic students. Some 9000 laptops produced by rlg are being distributed, and as of January 2012 roughly 6000 had been delivered. In April 2012, the deputy minister for environment, science and technology, Mustapha Ahmed, said the government had arranged for the distribution of 100,000 more computers, again produced by rlg, over the coming five years, to be provided this time to secondary and tertiary students. The government also says it has established “hundreds” of ICT centres in the tertiary education sector under Better Ghana.

Vocational education and training also includes an ICT focus. The Local Enterprise Skills Development Programme (LESDEP) includes two ICT-related training programmes (out of a total of 16), namely mobile phone and laptop repairs and IT training. The latter of the two includes web design, networking, computer repairs and software and hardware options. LESDEP is a government initiative that provides both vocational training and equipment for participants’ use to young people at no charge; the government aims to bring 40,000 young people into employment through the programme in 2012.

TEACHER TRAINING: Given its success in providing hardware, rlg is also assisting with an ICT training programme run by the Ministry of Education for instructors – 4500 teachers completed their training in 2012, the first round of the initiative – and a project to train people with disabilities in ICT in order to boost their employment prospects. The latter began in June 2012 and will initially train around 5000 people (to be expanded to 20,000 in 2013) over six months, from 52 training centres nationwide.

MODEL TRAINING: The training centre model is one of the key niches in which ICT firms can provide a service outside of their manufacturing focus. For example, rlg, a unit of the AGAMS group of companies, also operates a training centre that has 42 branches across the country that provide six months of instruction to students taking part in the National Youth Employment Programme (NYEP). It offers training in ICT-related fields to self-funded students and trainees enrolled through the government-funded NYEP, teaching mobile phone handset assembly and repair, software engineering and computer programming.

The government has explained its heavy reliance on rlg in various ICT educational programmes on the grounds of supporting local entrepreneurship. Around 70% of the company’s business is based on government contracts. In August 2012 rlg signed an agreement with Microsoft for the use of Microsoft Windows 8 on some of its products. The firm is currently working on the launch of a tablet computer, the Fusion tablet, and has plans to expand its activities from Ghana and Nigeria into Côte d’Ivoire and Togo in 2013. In June it was reported that the firm planned to expand its production lines at a cost of around $3m, following which capacity would increase to around 1000 computers and 3000 mobile phones per day. The firm will also boost employment of NYEP participants.

LOCAL & FOREIGN SHARE: It is key to note that rlg is not the only player at the local level. Other Ghanaian firms involved in the segment include Techcom Visions, which runs a project called Eduboost that provides what it calls “ultra-modern ICT training centres” to schools as well as providing other services, like websites and training courses for teachers.

Meanwhile, foreign firms and partners are also helping improve facilities for educators, sometimes as part of CSR outreach efforts. For example, the Chinese firm Huawei, which is working on e-government network infrastructure contracts including the building of a national data centre and WiMAX stations for the National Information Technology Agency (see overview), is also involved in educational CSR initiatives in the country. In May the firm provided the University of Ghana’s Faculty of Engineering Sciences with an ICT laboratory comprising approximately $200,000 of equipment, including 40 computers and a 2 km-long fibre cable connection.

The lab is one of four that the firm committed to donating to the country in September 2010; it had previously given similar facilities to Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) and the Cape Coast University with ICT labs. The company is also providing training to university students, having signed a memorandum of understanding with the Faculty of Engineering Sciences. The company reportedly intends to recruit local computer science university students and graduates to work for it.

In April the University of Ghana, Legon, in cooperation with the National Information Society Agency of Korea, launched an information access centre that offers internet access as well as a computer training facility and a seminar room. The facility will be open to both students and the public. Meanwhile, in March 2012, Google and the Campaign for Female Education (CAMFED), an NGO working in five African states, announced they would establish three ICT centres in Ghana’s northern region to aid female education.