Ghana’s Information and Communications Technology (ICT) Sector has progressed over the past two decades. Digital technologies are at the forefront of development and provide a unique opportunity for countries to accelerate economic growth and connect citizens to services and jobs. Among the main sectors of investments in Ghana, 65% is for ICT, 8% for communications, and 27% divided for public administration. Ghana took an important step forward in embracing the potential of competitive markets to generate growth and innovation in the sector—this requires skills and local participation to promote the development of value-addition and job creation. However, although the appreciable strides, the growth has seen a lot of challenges, including a lack of required digital skills.
The Ministry of Communications and Digitalization has the core responsibility of initiating and developing national policies aimed at achieving cost-effective information and communications infrastructure and services, for the enhancement and promotion of economic competitiveness. The Ministry is made up of the various agencies and bodies that assist with implementing policies related to the operational and regulatory framework. These agencies, aim at identifying, promoting, and developing innovative technologies, standards, guidelines, and practices among government agencies and local governments, as well as ensuring the sustainable growth of ICT via research and development planning and technology acquisition strategies to facilitate Ghana’s prospect of becoming a technology-driven, knowledge and values-based economy.
To complement the efforts of these agencies, the Institute of ICT Professionals Ghana (IIPGH) seeks to foster and strengthen local resources and building stronger confidence in the human resource capacity in Ghana and beyond, to help create firm foundations for the digital economy to thrive. It is working to encourage digital skills training to support governments, businesses, and individuals to participate more fully in the digital economy.
Local participation promotes the development of value-addition and job creation using local expertise, products and services, and their retention in the country. It also develops local capacities in the industry value chain through education, skills transfer, and expertise development, transfer of technology and know-how, and active research and development programs. Local participation increases the capability and international competitiveness of domestic resources and businesses, thus sustaining economic development.
The Institute of ICT Professionals, Ghana, therefore, is a professional body aiming to influence policies and the development, standardization, and delivery of ICT across Ghana and beyond. Over the period, as part of its capacity-building agenda with a focus on early start from age 6, the institute embarked on training children and the youth in digital skills, from basic to advanced levels. This is done through workshops and webinars, instructor-led online tuition, and in-class sessions.
In the bid to tackle the identified digital skills gap in the country, and to catch up with digital technologies and devices, it is important to focus on teaching children and the youth digital skills, to enhance their productive skills in the formal and informal economy. According to cenfri.org, in Ghana in 2018, 25% (2.6 million) of informal sector jobs required some level of digital skills, and this is expected to increase to 45% (5.4 million) in 2030. The informal economy, where 80% + of African youth earn their income, is a social media economy operating on mobile phones: to function on the social media platforms and use digital payments requires basic consumer digital skills.
Life in today’s digital world revolves around basic consumer skills. One needs digital skills to handle information (access and manage), needed to use digital devices, communication applications, and networks; find news online, find files on a device; filter, process, analyse, interpret, and evaluate data. To interact with family, friends, and customers, you need to have basic skills for social media messaging, and basic transactions; digital marketing and cloud computing; managing remote devices and mirroring devices; implementing organizational communication platforms. To create content, you need skills to create social media posts and basic office application processing; digital graphic design and desktop publishing; mobile app development; or digital innovation-based business models. To solve problems, you need skills to access services of digital platforms; use data analytics software; software troubleshooting; or integrating digital solutions with business models. To be safe, you need skills to create passwords and scan for viruses; manage firewalls and file encryptions; develop firewalls and access protocol design; guide organizational digital security and access protocols.
With the potential of digital technologies to expand access to markets and opportunities, helping to invest in digital development is an important aspect to reduce poverty and inequality. According to the World Bank, research shows that a 10% increase in mobile broadband penetration in Africa would result in an increase of 2.5% of GDP per capita. In a post-COVID-19 environment, digitalization efforts will accelerate across the globe. This means we must possess the right skills, tools, and environments for that. Preparing for the jobs of tomorrow, innovation is radically changing the nature of work—new jobs are emerging, others are evolving. To compete in the digital economy, we will need to prioritize education and build the digital skills of our workforce. We need to invest in people.
It is, therefore, necessary to encourage and expand digital skills education for children and the youth. The Institute of ICT Professionals Ghana welcomes other organizations to collaborate to build a digitally literate economy. It is also the Institute’s aim to partner government and businesses for new areas of job creation for ICT professionals and the youth; advocate for the deepening of local participation in the ICT sector; and promote practical skills for innovation, research, and development.
The writer is the Director of Operations, Institute of ICT Professionals, Ghana)
For comments, contact [email protected] or Mobile: +233244357006