Ghana’s Information and Communications Technology sector (ICT) is not one that stands on its own but rather supports and enables other sectors like banking, mining, health, education and even agriculture, with the advent of artificial intelligence and data-intensive farming. It has undergone significant evolution, marking its presence as a critical driver of economic growth, innovation, and societal development. Over the years, the country has made substantial strides in leveraging technology to address various challenges while embracing opportunities for advancement. Diving deep into Ghana's ever-evolving ICT landscape, this article examines its expansive growth, hurdles faced, and the profound influence on societal dynamics. Rather than a conclusive study, it aims to unravel the present state of Ghana's ICT industry, unveiling its immense potential to significantly bolster the country's GDP.
Ghana's ICT journey arguably began with the introduction of telecommunication services. The liberalization of the sector in the late 1990s led to increased competition and expansion of telecommunication networks, bringing about a surge in mobile phone penetration. This rapid growth in mobile telephony laid the foundation for further technological advancements across the nation. Mobile phone penetration has been exceptional, currently surpassing 39 million subscribers, indicating the pervasive adoption of mobile technology (Ghana Chamber of Telecommunications). In effect, one out of four Ghanaians own more than one mobile phone subscription.
Infrastructure development has been pivotal in Ghana's ICT progress. The country has invested in expanding internet connectivity, fostering the adoption of broadband services, and enhancing digital access in rural areas. Initiatives like the National Information Technology Agency (NITA) have aimed to provide e-government services and improve connectivity nationwide. Ghana has also witnessed impressive growth in internet usage, with the number of internet users surging to over 22 million in recent months (according to the National Communications Authority).
Ghana's ICT sector has been a breeding ground for innovation and entrepreneurship. Accra, the capital city, is a burgeoning tech hub, hosting numerous startups and tech companies. These entities have focused on various areas, including Fintech, e-commerce, Agritech, and Healthtech, driving innovation and creating employment opportunities. In fact, there are over 100 tech entrepreneurship hubs and accelerators spread across Ghana catering for over 500 startups (according to InnovationSpark). All these startups leverage information technology in one way or the other to drive innovation in diverse sectors.
The Ghanaian government has been proactive in promoting ICT growth. Policies like the National ICT for Accelerated Development (ICT4AD) Policy and the Ghana ICT Policy provide frameworks to guide ICT development and bridge the digital divide. Additionally, initiatives like the Free Wi-Fi Project in senior high schools and the National Digital Property Addressing System demonstrate the government's commitment to digital transformation. This digital transformation agenda is very much dependent on a vibrant ICT sector. The National Information Technology Agency (NITA) was therefore established as a public institution in 2008 to create an enabling environment for the deployment and use of ICT by all sectors in the Ghanaian economy.
Despite significant progress, challenges persist. Access to affordable internet in rural areas, digital literacy, cybersecurity threats, and infrastructure gaps remain hurdles. Only around 39% of rural areas have access to the internet (Ghana Statistical Service), highlighting the digital divide in the country. Digital literacy also remains a challenge, with efforts underway to enhance digital skills training, targeting both the youth and older demographics (National Digital Transformation Agenda). In general, addressing the shortage of skilled ICT professionals through comprehensive education and training programs is crucial for sustaining the sector's growth. While digital literacy seeks to broaden the adoption of ICT services for an effective digital transformation, the training of professionals in the sector ensures the quality of these services according to international standards.
The pervasiveness of ICT in all sectors of the economy has also contributed to an annual increase of cybersecurity incidents, prompting the need for robust cybersecurity frameworks. The development of such frameworks has led to the establishment of regulating and monitoring institutions like the Cyber Security Authority (CSA) and the cyber-crime unit within the Ghana Police service. Addressing the various challenges mentioned above presents opportunities for collaboration between the government, private sector, and international partners to create sustainable solutions. Private companies have over the years played a pivotal role in infrastructure development, service provision, and technological innovation and the government in its role as facilitator remains crucial in setting the guiding policies for a sustained growth of the sector.
The impact of Ghana's ICT sector on society has been profound. Digitalization has enhanced access to education, healthcare, and financial services, especially in remote areas. Mobile money services have revolutionized financial inclusion, empowering individuals, and businesses by providing access to banking services.
Looking ahead, Ghana's ICT sector is poised for further growth and innovation. The country's commitment to fostering a conducive environment for tech development, coupled with investment in research and development, positions it as a regional leader in technology and innovation. For this to be concretized, the sector needs to fully take advantage of the globalization of ICT talent and carve a certain niche in the international market of IT service outsourcing – this is a model that worked well for India. Then the total contribution of ICT to Ghana’s GDP will become significant and quantifiable.
Author: Yayra de Souza, Telecommunications Engineer | Head, IIPGH Working Groups
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