How Ready is Ghana for A Digital Economy?

The launch of the Mobile Money Interoperability (MMI) in Ghana makes us the third country in Africa (after Tanzania and Kenya) to embrace an integrated digital payment ecosystem. The ITU ICT Development Index ranks Ghana 7th, ahead of the aforementioned countries with an IDI value of 4.05. Mauritius, Seychelles, South Africa, Cape Verde, Botswana and Gabon are the first six in that order. Focusing on mobile-cellular telephone subscription used as a measurable indicator, the index reveals a subscription rate of 139.13 per 100 inhabitants in Ghana; showing how integral mobiles phones have become in our growing economy. As posited by Termeer & Bruinsma (2016), ICT-enabled boundary objects such as the MMI help circumvent physical, cognitive and social boundaries. The vice-President in delivering his address during the launch of the system revealed that the MMI is aimed at improving transactions and creating a cashless economy by allowing inter-wallet transfers and payments. In Ghana, the Ghana Interbank Payment and Settlement Systems Limited (GhIPSS), a subsidiary of the Bank of Ghana is mandated to coordinate the implementation and management of the interoperable payment system infrastructure for banks and non-bank financial institutions. 

 

With the drive by the current government to digitize the economy, this comes as great news and presents numerous promises for economic growth and development. My interest however is in how technological innovation has been governed in Ghana through a conscious process of institutional embededness in information governance. Within the public sector, the Ministries of Information and Communication, Environment Science and Technology and the Institute of Scientific and Technological Information of the CSIR are amongst those with a mandate related to the subject. The Telecommunication Industry fortunately or unfortunately is dominated by giant private Telcos like MTN, Vodafone and now Airtel-Tigo, who for the past years have enjoyed the space from a profit oriented perspective rather than a social human-centred focus which is understandable.   A number of Civil Society actors have also ‘sacrificially’ sought to contribute to a more participatory and transparent process.

 With the digital space still evolving, the absence of transparent engagement through information provision has the tendency of keeping the ordinary Ghanaian the most vulnerable to exploitation. Civil Society actors are and will still be limited in their drive to protect the consumer and contribute to leveling interests. 

Ghana digital economy

 

The extent to which related institutions are reflexive, iterative and interactive is also critical. For example, when it was discovered that subscribers to mobile money platforms were losing money to scammers, a more reactive approach was adopted to sensitize users on these schemes. A clear argument then is that attention was paid to securing the system technologically whereas socio-cultural contexts were less considered. Although speculative, majority of victims I presume were the less literate mostly engaged by the informal sector. To what degree have such realities informed the pitching of our digitization process? 

In waiting for the passing of the right to information bill, there might also the need to quickly discuss how institutions could collaborate effectively, improve existing weak linkages, overlaps of functionality and other blind spots.  Could there be the need to quickly design new boundary arrangements or should the process be left to organically evolve? Should there be a new boundary organization which does not focus on only the financial sector and hence a replacement of the role currently given to GhIPSS since we aim to digitize the entire economy? If not so has there been an attempt to avoid piecemeal disjointed management of the process? Can we as Ghanaians be able to refer to one particular institution leading this a-spatial drive? 

Although not entirely sufficient, these and many more could ultimately challenge the status quo and makes us more prudent to avoid resource waste and the regular reactive approach to development.

GHANA WEST AFRICA

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