The Speaker of Parliament, Mr Alban Sumana Kingsford Bagbin, has urged ECOWAS member states to adopt appropriate technologies for their election management processes.
That, he said, would promote inclusiveness and integrity of the electoral processes.
Mr Bagbin said this when he addressed the opening session of the joint meeting of three committees of the ECOWAS Parliament in Winneba yesterday.
It is the first decentralised committee meetings of ECOWAS.
He said information and communications technology (ICT) offered new opportunities to better manage conflicts and build peace, especially at the local levels of societies.
For instance, he cited how Ghana had introduced the biometric management system which reduced multiple registration and multiple voting.
The violation of processes in the conduct of elections has been a major source of conflict, leading to violence and tensions in some countries in the sub-region.
Sadly, the Speaker noted, such tensions were occasioned by challenges related to non-consensual constitutional reviews and non-compliance with presidential term limits, among others.
Mr Bagbin explained that the refusal to accept election results by sections of the society and the abuse of social media to create tensions and divisions were also matters of grave concern.
“These undoubtedly threaten the progress made in achieving participatory democracy and, therefore, calls for the strengthening of democratic principles and the institution of agreeable measures to improve the election process and ensure a transparent, free, fair and peaceful elections,” the Speaker said.
Reduce mobile roaming charges
To achieve regional development through the use of ICT tools, Mr Bagbin said there was the need to address concerns regarding mobile roaming services in the sub-region.
Quoting the World Bank report of 2018, he said there were over 320 million mobile subscribers in the sub-region.
However, the uptake of mobile data in the sub-region remained a serious challenge due to the fact that most ECOWAS nationals who travelled to other member countries had to pay higher subscriptions on mobile usage, while others had to change their SIM cards to have access to the network available in their new destination.
The regulation is intended to reduce charges paid by ECOWAS citizens for communication services while roaming within the community,” he said.
The five-day meeting in the capital of the Effutu Municipality in the Central Region brought together 15 members of Parliament of three committees on Political Affairs, Peace, Security and Africa Peer Review Mechanism (APRM), Legal Affairs and Human Rights, and Telecommunications and Information Technology.
The participants from 15 countries will deliberate and make recommendations to deal with the myriad of challenges confronting telecommunication and IT as well as promote peace and security in the sub-region.
The event is being held on the theme: “Telecommunications and Information Technology (TIT) in Achieving Regional Development, Peace and Security and Human Rights.’’
It attracted the Speaker of the ECOWAS Parliament, Dr Sidie Mohamed Tunis; the President of the Effutu Traditional Council, Neenyi Ghartey VII, and the President of the Community Court of Justice of ECOWAS, Mr Justice Edward Amoako Asante.
For his part, Dr Tunis said since the sub-region was currently being affected by waves of violent extremism and terrorism, humanitarian crisis and global pandemics, member-states must consider the merits of the latest technological advancements, innovations, and intelligence as viable tools to curb insecurity.
“So, we must strive for the return of peace in our region as it remains the key component to sustainable development,” Dr Tunis said.
Robust action to tackle piracy
The Head of Ghana’s delegation to the ECOWAS Parliament, Mr Alexander Afenyo-Markin, said the activities of terror organisations continued to create a huge sense of insecurity in some parts of the region.
The situation, he said, was worsened by the rising spate of pirate attacks on ships travelling along the West African coast.
“These worrying developments demand robust action by national governments and regional institutions such as ECOWAS Parliament to help citizens feel safe and I hope that the discussions over the next two days at this critical meeting will help get West Africa closer to finding sustainable solutions to the common problems we face in the areas,” Mr Afenyo-Markin said.
Technology is driver
The Paramount Chief of the Effutu, Neenyi Ghartey VII, noted that technology dictated the pace of education, health management, business and trade as they were tools for judicial and electoral processes and for the design and management of various social infrastructure.
“As a traditional authority, we are worried to note that some basic schools are poorly resourced for ICT studies and institutions, public and commercial cannot compete internationally because of inadequate ICT facilities,” he said.