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Government Services Digitalisation: A New Digital Divide in Ghana

By Guest Writer on December 29, 2022

Government Services Digitalisation

In Ghana, successive governments across the political divide continue to demonstrate commitment to prioritizing the use of information and communication technology for socio-economic transformation (ICT4D) through investments and provision of appropriate legal and institutional framework for access, usage, affordability and participation.  In particular, digitalisation has become the buzzword in policy circles as it is seen as the vehicle to drive change in terms of service provision and participatory government.

Overall, Ghana has a high mobile phone subscription rate that exceeds the total population of the country. Yet, internet penetration lags behind as significant areas of the country suffer from erratic service or service unavailability. This has adverse implications for digital inclusion especially as internet availability and access are the engines of digitalisation.

Digitalisation Digital Divide

A further challenge for digital inclusion is that over a third of those sampled for the study, “Digitalisation of Basic Services in Ghana: State of Policies in Action and Lesson for Progress“, indicated that they do not use the internet citing reasons such as cost of device, cost of data, unreliability of internet connections, and a lack of digital aptitude among others. Even for those who are lucky to have access to internet there is palpable lack of digital appetite for government services, and this reflects in high consumption of social media but low interest in the use of digitalised public basic services.

Although majority of Ghanaians irrespective of socio-economic background judge digitalised services as essential and relevant for their lives and livelihoods, disparities in educational background, income, gender and geographical locations of citizens accessing digital services are manifesting in inequalities in access, usage, affordability and participation.

Overall, the processes of digitalisation of basic services in Ghana are neither integrated nor synchronized as each service sector appears to be operating in a silo; and policy makers seem more driven by a desire to leverage digitalisation of services to increase revenue than as a conscientious effort to improve the delivery of basic services.

Consequently, digitalised services have not significantly altered structures and processes of new and existing government services to the citizenry, and in most cases, what is referred to as a digitalised service is but insertion of technology into the old practices and operations of service provision. Hence, a significant number of digitalised basic services continue to be shaped by human interferences that impede efficiency, inclusion, and quality of services.

6 Key Research Findings:

  • Digitalisation of basic services is characterized by inclusion deficit as some citizens are unable to participate in the use of digitalised services simply because of the unavailability of internet services.
  • Cost of internet device and data have been found to be among the major reasons why some citizens are unable to access and use digitalised basic services.
  • Income, rural-urban dynamics, and educational backgrounds are strongly associated with access and usage of digitalised basic services and thus shaped the inherent and existing inequalities.
  • Gender disparities exist in access and use of digitalised services as more women than male suffer from digital exclusion.
  • Although Ghanaians consider digitalisation as vital for efficient service provision, appetite for usage of digitalised services is very low when compared to uptake of social media.
  • Most basic services which are undergoing digitalisation started on World Bank funding and many have stalled once the funding dried up. The posturing and signals from policy makers in relation to digitalisation of services is more about leveraging it for revenue mobilization than for the provision of timely quality services to the citizenry.

A lightly edited synopsis of Digitalisation of Basic Services in Ghana: State of Policies in Action and Lesson for Progress by Michael Kpessa-Whyte & James S. Dzisah, University of Ghana, Legon

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