eGovernment servicesGovernment must show leadership and political will in promoting its eGovernment services and driving Internet penetration, a new report on the impact of Internet in Africa has said.

The report, which showcased the positive socio-economic impact of the Internet in Ghana and across Africa, said ?capturing the Internet?s potential for economic growth and social gains requires thinking and acting collaboratively, often across sectors,? adding that ?harnessing ICT is an endeavour that involves multiple policy actors across multiple sectors.?

The report, commissioned by Google and launched in Accra this week, was conducted by Dalberg Global Development Advisors, an international management consultancy firm.

Ghana?s approach to building an ecosystem for Internet growth has focused on establishing networked infrastructure and promoting Government as an early adopter. But this has not yet translated into a substantial increase in access for the broader population, with Internet penetration at 9.6 percent of the population as at 2011.

According to Dalberg, Government must pursue an aggressive public-private partnership policy to expand the low Internet penetration level in the country.

The report said innovation and ideas alone are not enough to spearhead the Internet boom the country desires. ?Innovation and ideas require appropriate infrastructure to bloom. Throughout sub-Saharan Africa, clear limitations to productive Internet access and use exist — and overcoming them will require appropriate investment in both infrastructure as well as demand-side factors such as access, affordability, awareness and attractiveness of solutions.?

Dalberg, which has offices in Senegal, Kenya and South Africa, said Government has a primary role to play in developing the Internet economy.

?Within each role, they should consider the question of how best to engage with both donors and the private sector in order to maximise inclusive growth.

?Leadership requires setting a national ICT vision and creating the appropriate Government implementing agencies to support that vision. Governance includes the timely creation of legislation, fair allocation of licences, and arbitration and resolution of disputes relating to all components of an Internet economy. Promotion of eGovernment services both helps bring new citizens online and boosts the attractiveness of getting online for the first time,? the report said.

In an interview with the B&FT, Robbin Miller, a Manager at Dalberg, recapped some of the report?s findings, among which include the fact that small and medium enterprises (SME) are becoming increasingly optimistic about the Internet?s potential for their business — with 80% of SME owners saying they expect the internet to transform their business.

Ms Miller said through public-private collaborations, the Internet can be better-leveraged for growth if there?s cohesion and collaboration in policy strategy across key sectors such as education, agriculture, health, energy and transport, and governance.

While launching the report, Google also unveiled the ?Innovative Ghana? initiative that seeks to recgonise Internet innovators in Ghana. Six innovative Ghanaian organisations that were adjudged to have utilised the Internet to deliver smart technological solutions were outdoored as ?Innovation Heroes? by the Internet search giant.

The six were FashionistaGh; Ghana Decides; Leti Games; Roots by Naa; Dream Oval; and Ghana Trade.
Country Manager of Google, Estelle Akofio-Sowah, said the awards reaffirm findings of the Dalberg report that the Internet is a tremendous, undisputed force for economic growth and social change.

?We are excited to see these awards presented to these Ghanaians, and look forward to having more local businesses and individuals awarded for using the Internet to support their businesses.? 

By Richard Annerquaye ABBEY

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