- From just 2.1 per cent in 2005, those with internet connections grew to over 24 per cent in 2018. In Ghana, studies revealed that ...
Written By Komla Buami - The Internet has radically transformed the way we work, socialise, share information and interact with the world around us.
Access to Internet has become critical as societies continue to grow and develop. In fact, Internet infrastructure is now a vital infrastructure for development, as essential as water and electricity networks.
The benefits of today’s information and knowledge-based economy mainly depends on universal connectivity. According to recent figures, 50 per cent of the world's population is expected to be connected to the Internet by the end of 2019.
This leaves the other half — an estimated 3.8 billion people — unconnected and unable to benefit from key social and economic resources in our expanding digital world.
There is progress but more needs to be done. Much of the progress was recorded in Africa which saw the highest growth globally in just over a decade.
From just 2.1 per cent in 2005, those with internet connections grew to over 24 per cent in 2018. In Ghana, studies revealed that 10,110,000 Ghanaians are using the internet representing 35 per cent of the total population.
The country’s growth in internet users was attributed to more affordable smartphones and mobile data plans. Despite these positive strides, much more needs to be done to bridge the digital divide on the continent.
Indeed, if gaps persist between those that have access to the Internet’s opportunities and those who do not, social and economic inequality will continue to be a big challenge.
To achieve the goal of affordable Internet for sustainable development, governments and policy makers must create an enabling environment with policies that support a strong internet ecosystem.
Policies to foster internet development
Government policies and regulation of the Internet to a large extent shapes the digital economy and given the growing importance of information and communication technologies in the global market, it is thus critical that Ghana renews her focus and commitment to this key growth area.
Increased adoption of digital technologies holds many promises for developing countries, allowing them to leapfrog through stages of development with implications for the future of health, commerce, transportation, education, and disaster relief among others.
Fortunately, there are a number of options available to governments who seek to mitigate barriers to Internet access to make sure that all people regardless of the socio-economic status and businesses reap the benefits of internet access.
Promoting private investment is crucial to expand infrastructure and where private investment is unlikely, to provide public investment that will ultimately foster innovation and competition in internet service delivery.
One of the challenges to affordable internet access is burdensome taxes on end-user services and devices which stifle demand, these taxes drive up costs for consumers, which can make the Internet unaffordable to many people.
In some cases, it also reduces the incentives for Internet Service Providers to make infrastructure investments in underserved areas.
Research has shown that reducing these types of taxes can increase the number of Internet users. In addition to this, creating transparent and affordable licensing processes and procedures at all levels is also an important step towards a stronger ecosystem.
As technology and business models evolve quickly, governments should ensure that policy frameworks and processes in place are flexible enough to encourage new ways of delivering access.
Investing in digital literacy
Ensuring the development of skilled and trained people who can create, sustain and maintain infrastructure and online content and services is critical to the development of the Internet services.
Human capacity-building is essential to promote a strong local ecosystem of infrastructure, content and services. Investing in human capacity will bring high quality, sustainable jobs that can shift our economy from consumers to creators in the global digital economy.
Deloitte defines the digital economy as “the economic activity that results from billions of everyday online transactions among people, businesses, devices, data and processes”.
As the platform for innovation, entrepreneurship and productivity, the internet services industry must be continuously supported with the right policies to further positively impact people’s lives.
The writer is the Executive Secretary of the Ghana Internet Service Providers’ Association (GISPA).