Ghana forges ahead with strategy to digitise public services, spurring growth in ICT sector

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As part of a broader strategy to establish Ghana as a leading centre of ICT innovation in sub-Saharan Africa, the government announced the release of a new digital roadmap in May 2019. This new strategy is set to consolidate and build upon increased digitisation of public services, while leveraging the rising use of digital technologies by businesses and consumers. Beginning with the launch of online passport renewals in December 2016 and a paperless port system in September 2017, the authorities have created digital platforms for a range of government entities, including the Lands Commission, the Ministry of Tourism and the courts system. These initiatives have already begun to pay dividends for the economy, via improved efficiency and transparency of administrative procedures. Import revenue grew by 3.9% in 2018, rising from GHS12.7bn ($2.5bn) to GHS13.2bn ($2.6bn), according to the Ghana Revenue Authority. This was largely attributed to the digitisation of permits and fee payments. International metrics have measured similar improvements, with Ghana rising 19 places between 2016 and 2018 in the UN’s E-Governance Survey to rank 101st out of 193 countries, and fifth on the African continent.

Innovation has also been implemented in the health care sector, with the launch of a new platform in December 2018 to enable online renewals of the National Health Insurance Scheme card via mobile phone. The number of renewals made on the platform averaged 70,000 per week in May 2019, according to Vice-President Mahamudu Bawumia. These moves have been supported by high and rising internet access, with the smartphone penetration rate standing at 80% in late 2018, the fourth highest in sub-Saharan Africa, according to data from GSMA Intelligence.

Setting the Agenda

To generate ideas for the new strategy, the Ministry of Communications organised a two-day conference in May 2019, under the title “Moving Beyond Aid: Expanding the Local Digital Economy”. The conference brought together speakers from the national government, the World Bank and academia; along with the CEOs and upper management of major international technology companies such as IBM, Microsoft and SISCO; and the heads of innovative domestic companies specialising in digital technology such as Nsano, Hubtel and Quist Blue Diamond. Topics covered by the conference included e-government, industrial automation, the digitisation of financial services, cybersecurity and fostering public-private partnerships (PPPs) to develop the tech industry.

The new roadmap outlines policies to expand the digitisation of public services, increase financial inclusion through mobile banking and e-payment services, and streamline tax collection and business registration. The strategy looks to leverage the ongoing rollout of biometric national ID cards – which began in September 2017 – to support these initiatives.

Private Gain

In order to achieve its objectives, the government is emphasising private sector participation, both through the development of an ecosystem to support digital industries and through PPPs. In July 2017 the government launched the National Entrepreneurship and Innovation Plan to support domestic start-ups, with particular attention given to small ICT firms. The scheme included the commitment of $10m in seed money to support raising further capital from the private sector and a strategy to link domestic businesses with local ICT contractors. Tech start-ups also benefit from incentives introduced under the 2018 budget (see overview). Collaboration with international tech firms has formed the basis of all the government’s digitisation initiatives to date and this is set to continue.

Most recently, in March 2019 a new partnership with US-based enterprise information management firm Oracle was announced, which will launch an acceleration programme for 500 Ghanaian technology startups. Under the agreement, Oracle will provide access to its cloud technology, along with technical support and mentoring workshops to support new innovative firms.

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The Report: Ghana 2020

ICT chapter from The Report: Ghana 2020

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