Interview: Jonathan Tawiah
Which specific sectors of the economy have seen the largest increase in IT investments?
JONATHAN TAWIAH: The sectors that have increased investment in IT in Ghana the most are banking and telecommunications. Telecoms firms tend to make greater numbers of investments, but when you consider the size of the investments in proportion to revenue, banking places the same emphasis on IT. The two sectors have become so competitive that they have no choice but to consistently update their technologies. So as this trend continues, the consumer will be the one to benefit through faster and more efficient services in both sectors. Whenever a major player is headed in a new direction, everyone is watching. Adaptation to new systems is so fast that telecom and financial service providers are consistently updating simply so that they will not fall behind.
What effects have the persistent and often unpredictable power outages had on demand and the reliability of IT services in Ghana?
TAWIAH: There have been recent reductions in the frequency of power shortages, and that is exactly what businesses need to see in Ghana. Companies in the IT, banking, and telecommunications sectors have spent hugely in power redundancy to ensure that they can provide the same level of service to their clients in the midst of an electricity crisis. Yet the outages have even had some benefits for the IT sector. Companies have been much more keen to increase redundancy measures and back up client data. However, the business community is hoping for a much clearer road map for load shedding. If there were a schedule for outages, companies could do a better job of mitigating the risk of data loss. Across the world, countries with good governance, strong economic indicators, a favourable human resource base and, most importantly, a sustainable power supply, have seen tremendous industrialisation, and their citizens often enjoy high standards of living. The need for a stable, adequate and regular power supply in stimulating a country’s development and growth cannot be underestimated. Ghana should be no different, especially now that it is considered a middle-income country and given its enviable natural resource base.
What sort of demand are you seeing for cloud computing and data centres in Ghana?
TAWIAH: There are several infrastructural challenges in Accra, so investment in cloud computing is not at the same level as in many more-developed countries. Google’s plan to lay fibre-optic cable throughout the city may be the leap forward that Ghana needs. Cloud technology is definitely the path that Ghana needs to follow – so with the right speeds, and with better infrastructure, there will be an increase in both quality and affordability in internet services. For instance, a Tier-3 data centre rack in Ghana would cost on average $15,000-25,000 a year, and these centres are very expensive to run, given Ghana’s current challenges. The major issue will be reducing the price of internet and data centre operations. People already see the value in further technology investments, however they cannot justify the investment in the current economic climate. Over the next few years, with more players launching 4G services, we should see a significant improvement in technology use.
What impact do you expect the government’s proposed ICT park at Tema to have on the IT sector?
TAWIAH: This has been a project that has been in the works for years. If it is implemented, it will be a great asset. With the technology that is available around the world now, there is no reason for Ghana to be going through incremental changes. Kenya now has a technology park and it is leading the continent in tech start-ups and app creations. There must be more serious investment to propel Ghana’s ICT sector forward.
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