In 2003, the Government of Ghana launched the ICT4AD Policy that documents how ICTs can be incorporated into various sectors of the economy for the development of the country.
The policy, which is in five phases, is geared at educating and equipping Ghanaians with viable ICT skills and competencies by infusing digital technologies into education, economics, agriculture, health and governance, among other services sectors of the economy.
In terms of governance, the policy addresses the development of government and governance structures using ICTS.
Currently, the policy is at the stage of implementation through the application of various ICT-induced programmes and projects to formalise the economy.
ICT4AD and govt’s digitisation drive as vehicle for ‘Ghana beyond aid’
In furtherance of this, the New Patriotic Party (NPP) government, under the instrumentality of the Vice President of Ghana, Dr Mahamadu Bawumia, has been spearheading the development and application of digital technologies to various aspects of the economy with the goal of accelerating the President’s vision of building a ‘Ghana beyond aid’.
Thus from the transport sector to health, from land and property registration to business and the judiciary as well as the current all-encompassing citizens’ identification registration dubbed: the Ghana Card, new information and communication technologies are being relentlessly harnessed to formalise the economy in accordance with the SDG 9 as well as the 2030 Africa digitisation goal.
Citizens’ new media practices
In spite of the expected gains to be derived from the deployment of digital technologies for economic growth, it is largely unexplored how citizens use the technologies to enact citizenship. There is, therefore, the need to gauge how and why the citizenry are adapting the technologies for civic engagement.
This is against the background that Ghana has appreciably high rates of Internet penetration and subscription.
Data as at March 31, 2019 suggested that a little over one third (over 10 million) of Ghanaians are Internet users and by implication users of digital technologies.
Thus Internet access and mobile telephony have become more of a reality for the average Ghanaian who has the means to and can afford mobiles with relative ease.
Gap in ICT4AD Policy
Notwithstanding the fact that the ICT4AD Policy prescribes infusing digital technologies into government and governance structures, the policy does not indicate how governance can be brought to the doorsteps of citizens in terms of how they can be empowered to harness the potentials of the technologies for political communication on governance with their leaders.
This is a critical gap that needs to be addressed in that public participation in governance, facilitated by digital technologies, propel public concerns, needs and values into governmental and corporate decision-making arenas.
In furtherance of this, Karpf suggests harnessing the features of the Internet such as lower transaction costs and multiple information provision outlets into building more participatory and interactive political institutions.
Deriving from the aforementioned, various digital platforms and social media such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, blogs and videos on YouTube could offer citizens new platforms for sharing information and expressing opinions to one another and to their governments.
Digital techs – an avenue for effective communication and e-governance
Thus digital technologies could facilitate e-participation and vibrant communication where government and political actors are enabled to deploy the technologies as complement to traditional media to create dialogue between the elected and the electorate.
Considering that new media technologies provide an opportunity for the world’s populations to interact with their governments, the latter would do well to grab that opportunity with both hands.
When this is done, it is likely to make the government’s goal of formalising the economy via ICTs, a goal owned and shared by both citizens and government.
The writer is a Senior Lecturer, Department of Communication Studies, UPSA