Ghanaian Scientist and President of Science and Technology Advocacy Renaissance for Africa (STARFA), Dr. Bright Sogbey has taken a swipe at Vice President Dr. Mahamudu Bawumia’s litany of initiatives to propel Ghana into a digital economy, describing it as “borrowed digitalization”.
In an exclusive write up to TechGH24, Dr. Sogbey noted that the Vice President’s 65-page and almost 90-minute long digitalization lecture, made no mention of initiatives to support domesticated research and development and or science and technology, and that is an indication that he only touted “imported digitalization”.
As part of his Bawumia Speaks Lecture Series, the Vice President of Tuesday dazzled the public with a myriad of digitalization initiatives under the digital Ghana agenda, designed to drive Ghana into a digital, inclusive and cash-lite economy.
He outlined and thoroughly explained how government is using digitalization to improve national ID system, births and deaths registry, street addressing system, domestic revenue mobilization/tax collection, property tax administration, land administration, healthcare delivery, medical supplies delivery, pharmaceutical services, national health insurance, motor insurance, vehicle and driver licensing, education, agricultures, payments and more.
Dr. Bawumia, for instance said, beginning next year, the Ghana Card will become e-passport recognizable in 197 countries and 44,000 airports, medical supplies will be delivered to people’s homes, newly born children will get ID numbers in one month, Ghana’s digital address system will be integrated into Google Maps and many more.
He believes the tone is now set for Ghana to leapfrog its development hurdles and advance into a digital economy. And the Vice President was happy that a lot of the technology on which Ghana’s digital economy components are running, were developed by local technology companies.
But Dr. Sogbey, who is a scientist to the core, observed that the Vice President’s long lecture never said anything about domesticated research and development as well as what government plans to do to improve and empower the domestic science and technology community.
According to him, South Africa is, for instance, preparing to launch its recent Satellite into space for digitalization purposes, while other science and technology inclined African countries are doing same.
“This information is obtained from the African Space Generation Advisory Council – www.spacegeneration.org>regions, www.spacehubs.africa,” he said.
On the contrary, he observed, that “Ghana continues procuring, not manufacturing – and importing, not exporting,” saying that “these are signs of borrowed digitalization.”
Dr. Sogbey said that the resultant effects of borrowed digitalization are very catastrophic, and they include poor network connectivity, high cost of data, price inflation over digitalization support systems/equipment, difficult accessibility to the digitalization platform, digitalization unreliability, frustrated clients, and depreciation of local currency.
According to him, it is not economically viable for a country to pursue digitalization without a Domesticated Scientific Support Base (DSSB) because the concomitant effects of that are dire.
“Ghana must rather pursue domesticated industrial revolution for both hardware and software in her digitalization agenda. It is then that the country will realize the full benefits of digitalization, especially in the face of this current situation of economic challenges,” the scientist said.
Dr. Sogbey also charged the Ghanaian media to show commitment to the domestic science and technology community and highlight research and developments in that sector in order to give a better meaning to Ghana’s digitalization agenda.
“This anomaly in Ghana’s digitalization journey can only be corrected if the media becomes the mouthpiece of the domesticated science and technology community,” he said.
Digital Infrastructure ownership
Meanwhile, recently at the Ghana Information Technology and Telecom Awards, Communications and Digitalization Minister, Ursula Owusu-Ekuful observed that Ghana and Africa’s digital infrastructure are largely in the hands of expatriates and that is not okay.
She then turned to the expatriates and said “we are grateful to you for your contribution to our digital transformation journey but it is time to step aside for our people to own and control the infrastructure.”
This admission seem to support Dr. Sogbey’s assertion that Ghana and indeed a large part of Africa is riding on borrowed digitalization.