Key Issues
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"Key Internet Policy Issues" is a series of contributions from people living in countries new or relatively new to the Internet about what they consider to be key policy issues related to the deployment and use of the Internet in their country. Each text is published under the complete responsibility and with the permission of its author. These contributions were solicited by Alan McCluskey, guest editor, in preparation for a special issue of the Internet Society's magazine "OnTheInternet" entitled "Strategies for development: from thought to action" to be published in November 1997. For more information and comments on the preparation of this special edition see "Addressing Key Policy Issues".

Bringing the Internet to rural areas

The key policy issue facing the Internet community in Ghana is access to the Net by the rural community. Although, Ghana is one of the rapidly developing African countries, the majority of its population is rural. Yet these very communities are the backbone of our economy and their continued advancement in pace with the rest of Ghana is essential for the success of Internetworking.

Internet access is primarily available in metropolitan areas and in corporations, NGOs, International Agencies and well-to-do individuals. Rural communities have minimal or no access creating potentially a separation of Net-rich and Net-poor subcultures. There are serious challenges, however, facing policy for "rural community nets" because of reduced infrastructure. Yet we have the obligation to democratise access to the Internet in view of its effects on development.

There are serious questions on technology and cost of delivery, there are also issues on technical capacity of providers, there are questions on the literacy of the target users. Yes, some behaviour reform must also occur and that is tradition.

There are also only 100,000 telephone lines for a population of 15 million. Electrical power though quite available does not cover enough of the rural areas, further hampering Internet expansion into the rural communities. The educational level in the rural community as well as the ability to have access to a "net terminal" equipment all contribute to the challenge.

These can be addressed by a government policy to bring the service to those communities and formulating specific programs e.g. health, education, entertainment etc. in community centres as an example or through the district assembly system in the decentralisation program of the Government. This is a policy issue and requires significant investment far beyond what any individual organisation can make happen.

The Internet Society of Ghana is lobbying Government to provide access to ALL schools. Government has also committed to provide access to the civil service which includes the local governments. ISOC GH are looking at establishing mobile "Internet community centres" to augment the government efforts.

This will result in rapid development of the country as well as creating a more uniform society. Quality information flow within the country is essential for all decisions and to reduce suspicion which divides up people. The educational, social, cultural and medical value of the access is unquestioned. The applications are obviously unlimited. ISOC GH is working with Government agencies to have an Internet component in all projects, donor programs and initiatives.

Dr. Nii Narku Quaynor, Network Computer Systems Ltd, Ghana


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ISSN: 1664-834X Copyright © , Alan McCluskey,
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Created: September 5th, 1997 - Last up-dated: September 5th, 1997