The A4AI-Ghana Coalition has much to celebrate after the Government committed to abolishing the 20 percent import duty on smartphones, following advocacy by the coalition’s Taxation Working Group (see our post on the announcement here). However, as we celebrate, we must also look ahead — more hard work is needed to achieve the rest of the objectives set by the coalition.
On November 11, the A4AI-Ghana Coalition met to discuss the progress of and challenges facing its working groups, receive constructive feedback from other stakeholders, and refine its work plans. Since the last coalition meeting in June 2014, the groups have finalised their work plans, which include the specific outputs each group will produce and related activities. As the success of the Taxation group indicates, they have also started implementing some of those activities. Three key takeaways from the meeting:
- Increasing buy-in from the government – including the Ministry of Communications, National Communications Authority (NCA) and the National Information Technology Agency (NITA) – is key to achieving the outcomes desired by the working groups.
- Outcomes, outputs and activities need to be better aligned with the realities on the ground. The coalition needs to further examine issues such as how much existing telecoms infrastructure is available for sharing, how much government revenue telecoms taxation is actually generating, and a better understanding of what data is already being collected, by whom and how.
- Many opportunities for collaboration and greater synergies exist within coalition working groups, and with existing activities of government agencies, private sector, and civil society, such as the ongoing collaboration between the coalition and Ghana’s ICT for Accelerated Development Policy Development Committee. Indeed, the committee’s chairman, Professor Clement Dzidonu, told stakeholders that A4AI can serve as the platform for the stakeholder consultation the committee needs to create a robust, holistic national ICT policy.
Infrastructure Sharing & Open Access: Policy and Regulation to Lower Costs
The Infrastructure Sharing & Open Access Working Group, led by Estelle Akofio-Sowah, country manager for Google in Ghana, is advocating for two goals: a new ICT policy that reflects the coalition’s recommendations on infrastructure sharing, and improved guidelines or regulations that will enable Ghana to fulfil the aims of such a policy. A4AI and the national coalition believe sharing infrastructure can help reduce the capital and operational costs for telecom operators, which can lead to lower Internet costs for consumers, more areas with access to the Internet, and ultimately, more Ghanaians online.
The group is investigating what the national regulator, government agencies and telecom operators are doing currently and how sharing, especially sharing of passive infrastructure (such as cell phone towers), might be further encouraged. Once the group has a comprehensive understanding of the infrastructure realities in the country, it will develop a policy position paper and regulatory recommendations to submit to the Ministry of Communications (MoC) and the NCA. The group’s work will not end there; advocacy and awareness raising efforts will be needed to continue the momentum to implement the recommendations.
One major takeaway for the group was the need to refocus on issues of open access — to examine the use of open access infrastructure in Ghana and develop necessary recommendations for policy that will guide the increased roll out of open access infrastructure and its effective management.
Research & Data Collection: Filling Gaps and Improving Quality
The Research & Data Collection Working Group, led by Kafui Prebbie, CEO of TechAide, seeks to improve the quality of ICT data available in Ghana in order to support the type of evidence-based policymaking and regulatory decision-making that reduces Internet costs and increases understanding of ICTs’ impact on social and economic development. Despite the good work currently being done by government agencies including the NCA and the Ghana Investment Fund for Electronic Communications (GIFEC), coalition members have highlighted challenges with Ghana’s ICT data, the way it is collected, and many of the definitions used.
The group aims to contribute to establishing a systematic data collection framework that takes the Ghanaian context into account and is aligned with international best practices. The group’s goals include ensuring there are standardised definitions and methodologies for collecting data that government agencies are mandated to provide to institutions, such as the International Telecommunications Union (ITU); analysing the major gaps in ICT data availability in the country and the roles of organisations in filling those gaps; and providing policy recommendations to better coordinate and improve ICT research and data collection across agencies and institutions in Ghana. The working group will then need to help guide governmental and non-governmental research institutions in implementing these data collection standards and recommendations.
Taxation: Advocating for More Efficient Taxation
The Taxation Working Group, led by Kwaku Saakyi Addo, CEO of the Ghana Chamber of Telecommunications, has prioritized five taxes they will target for reduction and reform. The government’s decision to remove the duty on mobile devices is already a win, but there remain other inefficient taxes adding to the high cost to connect: the surcharge on international inbound traffic; the national fiscal stabilisation levy, a measure brought in as result of the economic challenges Ghana has faced in recent years; the value-added tax (VAT) on mobile money services; and the Communication Service Tax (CST) on interconnection.
The group is collaborating with, and lobbying, several ministries and agencies, including the Ministry of Finance, MoC, NCA, heads of telecom operators, and the Ministry of Trade and Industry. Research and public awareness raising are also key aspects of the group’s strategy – ongoing activities include educating the public and media on how taxation affects broadband costs for consumers and an in-depth research report of the economic impacts of taxation in Ghana being developed in collaboration with Deloitte.
Enhancing Knowledge to Tackle Ghana’s Challenges
Following the A4AI-Ghana Coalition’s quarterly meeting, A4AI designed two half-day capacity-building workshops on November 12 to complement and enhance the work of the coalition.
The first of the half-day workshops focused on research and data collection and was facilitated by representatives of organisations including the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and Internet Society (ISOC). It examined best practices for ICT data collection, including which organisations should collect data, what data should be collected, when and how.
The second half-day workshop focused on infrastructure sharing and open access. Facilitators included representatives of the World Bank and Airtel Nigeria. The workshop examined open access and infrastructure sharing in theory and in practice, including effective infrastructure sharing practices in other countries such as Nigeria.
Although there is much work ahead to expand affordable Internet access in Ghana, A4AI is proud of the progress of one of its first national coalitions, the collaborative spirit of the multi-stakeholder process, and the coalition’s focus on bringing real policy change to the country.
Comments are closed.