Passing the draft Legislative Instruments (LIs) for the National Information Technology Agency (NITA) Act, Act 771, and the electronic transactions Act, Act 772, will be crucial for digital transformation, Communications and Digitalisation Minister Ursula Owusu-Ekuful has said.
Act 771 defines the objective for establishing NITA as an agency to regulate the provision of information communication technology, ensure the provision of quality information communication technology, and promote standards of efficiency and ensure high quality of service; Act 772 meanwhile provides for the regulation of electronic communications and related transactions, among others.
NITA is therefore expected to issue licences to service providers and ensure fair competition among others – a roadmap that was set out as far back as 2008 – 15 years ago.
“Unfortunately, without properly understanding their mandate NITA never performed the role prescribed by its enabling Act fully, but rather got engrossed in operations and became a service provider – competing in the same space as entities it was mandated to regulate,” Mrs. Owusu-Ekuful said when delivering the keynote address at the opening of a stakeholder engagement organised by NITA in Accra to solicit inputs into the draft LIs.
Wanton dissipation of resources
The situation led to wanton dissipation of public resources, as it encouraged duplication, waste and procurement of sometimes near end-of-life systems which were unfit for purpose, the minister said.
“Without regulation, the nation embarked on digital initiatives with no direction and was held captive by service providers who did as they pleased, with no regard for the sustainability of initiatives and interoperability of systems – as ICT procurement for MDAs was done with no oversight and no set standards guiding it,” she said.
Root and branch overhaul
Gauging the situation as deeply troubling, management of NITA was directed to change course and assume its properly defined role as a regulator to sanitise the information communication technology (ICT) landscape, which had been orphaned with no proper regulatory regime guiding their operations and standards.
“The entire organisation needed a root and branch overhaul in its functional philosophy, and a re-orientation of staff to inculcate the attitudinal change required for a shift in focus from operations to regulation,” said Mrs. Owusu-Ekuful.
And with support from the World Bank e-Transform project, a consultant’s services were procured to facilitate drafting key Legislative Instruments to give effect to both Act 771 and 772 – 15 years after those laws were passed – to facilitate the performance of NITA’s regulatory functions.
“I believe that these LIs will empower NITA to perform the full functions envisaged by its enabling Acts. They will be introduced to you today, and your input for their finalisation will be sought,” she said. “We cannot develop our digital economy and digital transformation in a vacuum, and our participation in the 4th Industrial Revolution requires a fit-for-purpose ICT ecosystem – operating within a standardised framework with properly laid-out rules of engagement and competition,” she added.
On his part, Director General-NITA, Richard Okyere-Fosu, said the contributions of stakeholders in fine-tuning the draft legislative instruments will ensure they align with the dynamic and ever-evolving nature of the IT sector.
“Together, we can make a tangible impact on the digital landscape – shaping policies that foster innovation, inclusivity and sustainability,” he stated.
He said the Acts’ success relies on implementation of the LIs and the ability to translate them into tangible actions which will be beneficial country. “Our collective aim should be the fulfilment of an age-long responsibility that we neglected, and to shape the ICT ecosystem for posterity. Your perspectives, insights and suggestions will help shape the final form of these legislative instruments,” he said.