Questions and Answers with Akinwale Goodluck


The GSM Association released a report on mobile-enabled digital transformation in Ghana.

The report noted that education is the first line of defense where issues of online safety are concerned, so there is a need for stakeholders involved in the process to dedicate time and resources towards building their own capacity and also educating others and raising awareness.

The report also highlights how the mobile industry and the Ghanaian Government can work together to support social and economic progress in the country. Ghana is already proactively supporting the SDGs and has incorporated them into the country’s national development agenda with progress overseen by the President.

Government commitment to the SDGs reflects the fact that, while Ghana is a fast-growing economy and has made progress on many fronts, development challenges and gaps in access to basic services persist.

Given the large number of people who have access to mobile phones, mobile platforms are uniquely placed to support the SDGs. The industry has connected 67percent of the population in Ghana; nearly half the population has mobile internet access, with penetration in Ghana now the second highest in West Africa.

Further, mobile has connected eight million individuals to financial services, supported farmers and provided access to health information, clean energy and more, underscoring the vital role mobile technology can play in supporting sustainable development in Ghana.

However, the report also notes that despite this progress, significant challenges remain, many of which require collaboration between the public and private sectors. For example, there is a gender gap in Ghana of approximately 16percent in mobile phone ownership and 17percent in the use of mobile money services, with an even higher gap of 56percent in use of the internet, with 2.5million fewer women online than men.

Mobile operators are working to tackle this through programmes such as the GSMA Connected Women Commitment initiative, while governments can take steps to address this issue by integrating gender equality targets and key performance indicators into strategies, policies, plans and budgets, involving women and local communities.

The B&FT held a Question and Answer with Akinwale Goodluck (AG), Head of Sub-Saharan Africa, GSMA on the outcome of the report and its impact on the economy.

B&FT: What is Ghana’s prospect in the advancement of digital and economic inclusion through mobile technology in 10 years?

AG: Ghana is a fast growing economy – GDP growth has been an impressive 7percent per year over the last 10 years – however, development challenges and gaps in access to basic services persist. Mobile can play a role in continuing to address these gaps, through services such as mobile money, information services, digital identity and pay-as-you-go solutions. By 2020, 70percent of the population is expected to subscribe to mobile services, and just over half the population to the mobile internet.

Ghana has a vibrant, emerging tech start-up scene, although not yet on a par with Nigeria or Kenya. Given Ghana’s young population (nearly 40percent are under 14 years), Ghana presents strong opportunities for innovative start-ups.

While the ‘Internet of Things’ or IoT ecosystem in Ghana is still nascent, Ghana will be ahead of the region in 2020. Operators are looking at opportunities and are in the early stages of launching products. In July 2016 Vodafone held an IoT workshop in Accra to examine potential opportunities and business models for IoT in the country.

Meanwhile, Airteltigo has launched services to provide M2M connectivity across several areas such as fleet and asset management, remote metering and surveillance, and point of sale solutions. Companies such as PEG Ghana are also incorporating IoT devices into their services connecting off-grid consumers to clean energy and asset financing.

Closer collaboration between government and mobile operators offers substantial opportunities to unlock digital transformation for millions of Ghanaians.

B&FT: With the high dependence on mobile networks in the region, how best can cyber security issues be managed?

AG: We believe the key success factor is collaboration. It’s important to realize that online safety is a multi-stakeholder issue which can only be successfully tackled through a combination of different measures, and with the participation of different categories of stakeholders. There is no single solution to the risks associated with online activity, and there shouldn’t be a one-size-fits-all approach to cyber security.

At the GSMA, we believe that education is the first line of defence where issues of online safety are concerned, so there is a need for stakeholders involved in the process to dedicate time and resources towards building their own capacity and also educating others and raising awareness. Governments and policymakers need to realize that the question of online safety is not one that can be regulated away or fixed with the deployment of technical solutions.

So we encourage countries to explore a combination of education and awareness campaigns, policies and procedural tools, industry self-regulatory initiatives and technical solutions, amongst others, to address issues of cyber security. 

B&FT: How can connectivity of mobile technology affect the SDGs positively?

AG: The provision of voice, SMS and data connectivity impacts all 17 SDGs. For example, mobile connectivity reduces the costs of accessing information and can create or expand markets by enabling the mechanisms for buyers and sellers to discover each other and conduct transactions, driving growth that is more inclusive. Additionally, mobile services are enabling users to access essential information such as health advice, educational tools, nutritional information and effective agricultural practices.

[Case studies in Ghana can be found in our report :

  • mHealth: Airteltigo Mobile Health Consultation, Vodafone’s Healthline 255, Ghana Mobile Technology for Community Health (MOTECH), MTN’s Teledokta
  • mEducation: MTN Ghana Foundation’s ICT Centres, Airteltigo Ghana’s E-Library on Wheels
  • mAgri: Vodafone Farmers’ Club, MTN’s mAgric, Farmerline]

B&FT: With the advent of technology, how can the situation be managed when the youth are voluntarily giving out information of themselves on the internet without recourse?

AG: At the GSMA, we believe that education is our first line of defense when it comes to ensuring a safe experience of internet and ICTs by children and young persons. Everyone needs to be educated on safe and responsible use of the internet, appropriate behaviour in the online world, and ‘digital etiquette,’ if you like.

The consequences around sharing of personal information online, the possibility that people are not really who they pretend to be online, etc. –are principles that we as adults (parents, caregivers, teachers, governments, industry, etc.) have the responsibility to educate our children about.

We have even seen some countries like Egypt where online safety training has been incorporated by the government into the national school curriculum for children and young persons, so that appropriate online behavior becomes part and parcel of their internet culture. Such initiatives are very much encouraged to address the issue of sharing of personal information.

B&FT: What has contributed to the rise in mobile money fraud in the country?

AG: Fraud in mobile money mirrors fraud in other financial services such as banking, cards, ATM, etc. It is not unique to mobile money. As mobile money becomes more pervasive in Ghana, unscrupulous individuals are trying to take advantage by enticing people to send them money. Those that fall into their traps end up sending money unknowingly and to the wrong recipient.

The occurrence and prevalence of fraud is dependent on the stage of service implementation. The operators in Ghana are very alive to this fact and have put in place varied measures to mitigate the risk of fraud. This includes carrying out public education initiatives, engaging with the media & the police to brief them on incidences and the modus operandi of the fraudsters so that they can also educate the customers and apprehend the criminals.

Operators have gone further to ensure that the data protection laws of Ghana and the privacy of customers is strictly adhered to. For instance, one operator was the first Mobile Money service to have received the ISO/IEC 27001:2013 certification in Ghana. 

B&FT: How has the internet and digital technologies influenced the development of this country in the last five years?

AG: The internet and digital technologies mean we are more connected than ever – making communication better and more efficient creates a multiplier effect. In the 25 years since mobile was established in Ghana, the industry has connected 67percent of the population, which amounts to 19 million individuals. To date, it has connected nearly half the population to the internet through their mobile phone.

Beyond pure connectivity, the mobile industry has been fulfilling the needs of underserved groups. For example, mobile financial services have been helping increase financial inclusion. Since the launch in 2009, mobile money services in Ghana have experienced a strong growth. At the end of 2016, there were more than 8 million active mobile money accounts (90 days), or 40percent of the population, up from 350,000 in 2012.

Another example is automated birth registration – Airteltigo Ghana has partnered with UNICEF and the Births and Deaths Registry of the Government of Ghana to develop a mobile-enabled birth registration system called mBirth.

In Ghana, more than three in 10 children are not registered at birth. Even when children are registered, 15percent of those below the age of five do not have a birth certificate. Airteltigo and its partners aimed to digitise the registration process and make it more efficient and cost effective. It is expected that by the end of 2017, 670,000 new births will have been registered through the platform, increasing national registration to at least 70percent.

B&FT: What are the economic benefits, if Ghana sits second in terms of internet access penetration in West Africa?

AG: Mobile technology and internet access already generate substantial economic benefits – in 2015 Information and Communications contributed GH¢3.1billion to Ghana’s total GDP (2.2percent). Increasing mobile and internet access therefore has the potential to drive even greater economic opportunities.

Previous studies have shown that a 10percent increase in broadband internet penetration in a developing country can increase growth in GDP per capita by more than 1 percentage point, so maximizing opportunities to support inclusive mobile broadband connectivity maximizes social and economic opportunities of the whole country.

B&FT: How has the GSMA impacted the telecom industry? What are some of your achievements over the years?

AG: The GSMA represents the interests of mobile operators worldwide, uniting nearly 800 operators with more than 300 companies in the broader mobile ecosystem. The GSMA’s Mobile for Development (M4D) programme brings together mobile operators, tech innovators, the development community and governments, to demonstrate the positive socio-economic impact of the power of mobile. Working with donors, mobile operators and innovators, M4D has impacted 30 million lives across 49 countries through programmes including Mobile Money, Connected Women, Disaster Response, mAgri, mHealth and M4D Utilities.

Our programmes are listed below, including some of the achievements we’re most proud of:

  • Mobile Money: There are more than half a billion registered mobile money accounts in 92 countries. Mobile money is now available in two-thirds of low- and middle-income countries.
  • Connected Women: 33 operators have made 47 commitments to reduce their gender gap in mobile internet or mobile money services, providing life-enhancing services to more than 17 million women.
  • Disaster Response: To date, 147 mobile operators in 106 countries have committed to the Humanitarian Connectivity Charter to support humanitarian response and improve preparedness in disasters.
  • mAgri: The M4D agricultural programme has reached nearly 10 million smallholder farmers with mobile agricultural services to improve their crop yields and income.
  • mHealth: Through M4D health implementations, more than 1 million families in eight countries are receiving maternal and child nutrition content.
  • Mobile for Development Utilities: There are now 1 million mobile-enabled, pay-as-you-go solar home systems installed, with 40,000 new systems installed monthly.
  • Ecosystem Accelerator: The GSMA Ecosystem Accelerator Innovation Fund will award over £8 million in non-equity funding over the next 3 years to help start-ups in Asia Pacific and Africa achieve their commercial and social potential.

The GSMA has supported the mobile money industry in Ghana on various operational areas as well as providing tailored technical assistance to the Bank of Ghana on mobile money regulation.

B&FT: What practical measures are you putting in place to reach those who can’t access mobile technology?

AG: The GSMA Connected Society programme works with and on behalf of the industry to facilitate four key enablers – infrastructure, affordability, consumer readiness and content – that support greater adoption of the mobile internet. We work with mobile operators to develop data pricing strategies targeted at low income and underserved population segments; distribution and financing models to improve the affordability of smartphones; to undertake digital literacy training and address user awareness and perception issues when it comes to prices, use cases and trust. Additionally we support infrastructure sharing in rural areas; innovation on last mile and backhaul technology and improving the coverage targeting through the use of mapping techniques.

B&FT: What are some of the challenges you face?

AG: The mobile industry was the first to commit to the UN SDGs and in doing so, to continue to positively impact the communities in which it operates. Ghana’s government has been a leader on the world stage in developing those very SDGs the industry has signed up to, as well as proclaiming support for the role of the private sector in continuing Ghana’s development. Closer collaboration between mobile operators and the Ghanaian government could realise huge social and economic opportunity for Ghanaian society.

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