Operators within the telecommunication and data industry have underscored the need for Ghana to safeguard its data space in order to leverage its predictability to spur economic growth.
This emerged at the Ghana Internet Conference 2021, headlined by the Ghana Internet Service Providers’ Association (GISPA) as part of efforts to highlight ways by which Ghana’s data space can be harnessed.
The event which assembles seasoned individuals in the telecommunications industry, is the third in succession, following the maiden edition organized in 2019.
This year’s conference hosted by the Academic City University College was on the theme; Ghana’s Data space: Localisation, Protection and Economisation.
In his address, the President of GISPA, Ing Richard Densu said the increase in the use of the internet for social interaction and business commerce has occasioned the need for a proper understanding of our data space and how to protect it against exploitation.
He added that on average every individual spends 2 hours, 20 minutes surfing the internet daily. The figure he says means in a day, millions of data is shared between people within the internet space. He stated that with the right infrastructure in place, Ghana can tap into its data space, first by ensuring it is well protected against external use then by maximizing its economic use.
Delivering his keynote address, the Chief Executive Officer of Afrifanom, Nana Osei Kwasi-Afrifa said the value of data is essential to today’s world, adding that people who understand the power of mining data have made fortunes overnight as a result of this knowledge.
He stated that sadly for Ghana, the lack of trust in Ghanaian ICT firms to undertake ICT projects continues to militate against the growth and capacity development of our local industry.
“The biggest government contracts on tech development are seeded to foreign brands and sadly, of the 20 plus banks in Ghana, none is using a bank software system developed by a Ghanaian”, Nana Afrifa said.
He added that the advocacy from several local tech companies led the government to rethink its position on local competencies and owing to that, today several local companies are efficiently producing great results and have developed technological software for projects like the Ghana School Placement system, Mobile Money Interoperability, Ghana Card Registration and Ghana Post GPS.
He further called for more support for local technology industries, highlighting that “it is impossible to protect the data we generate if we do not have a stake in where and how it is stored”.
The keynote speaker recalled how the technology powerplay between China and the US led to the proscription of Hauwei from the google platform. He said the hindsight of this should serve as a foundational guide for the reconfiguration of our data protection policy to be locally sovereign. He concluded by saying, a lot must be done to reduce the cost of data hosting as it is a worrying situation for tech businesses.
Panellists, including Amerley Ampofo; Advocate - Data as a Force For Good, Ing. Alfred Gaise, Chief Manager for Regulatory - National Communication Authority, Ing Dr. Keneth Ashigbe; CEO - Ghana Chamber of Telecommunication and Dr Patrick Adonoo; Director of Regulatory and Compliance - Data Protection Commission shared their thoughts as well.
Dr. Ken Ashigbey argued that personal data is the most valuable data and needs to be protected.
He added that currently, the protectors of our data system have not had a full grit of what data can do and how to protect it. He believes Ghana’s subscription to the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (ACFTA) presents an opportunity for data not only to be protected and localized but also how it should be maximized to penetrate multi-national businesses.
He stressed that the decision to localize data should not be interpreted as to have data stagnant in our country, but to use it for business developments even outside the shores of the country.
Madam Amerley Ampofo added that harnessing digital information for economic growth is also important to the conversation on privacy. She believes there is a lot of offline data activity going on even without the use of the internet, stressing that it is time for the country to start investing in digital platforms to ensure that our data records are localized and protected in order for us to think of how we can economise it.
“We all saw the panic that engulfed the country when WhatsApp shut down for some few hours. That should be a concern to be worried about. Hence, we must begin to patronize social apps developed by our own Tech enthusiasts and break the monopoly enjoined by the social platforms like Whatsapp and Twitter, that are foreign owned”.
Ing. Alfred Gaise observed that there are not enough regulations to give security to how our data space is protected. “As we ensure our data is protected, we need to look at the details in our laws that can be revised to ensure that there is sufficient regulation to ensure privacy”, Mr Gaise said.
Dr. Patrick Adonoo said if the country wishes to forecast its technological development to that of the Asian tigers of the world, it must first see data protection and localization as an integral step towards this vision rather than a passive one.
The participants were also admonished to prioritize the need to safeguard their personal data, rather than leave it only in the hands of the government and its allied agencies.
The conference also advised against the use of software that has the implication of prowling on the personal data of people and compromising their personal security.