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Public embrace E-services -But cautions against measures to discourage use

BY: Ama Amankwah Baafi
Kwame Gyamfi Aboagye, Trader
Kwame Gyamfi Aboagye, Trader

Private sector players and the public have embraced the contribution of electronic services (E-Services) to their daily activities.

They said while E-Services helped them reduce the cost of doing business, they also enjoyed its convenience and the ability to track their daily income and expenditure while reaching a wider number of customers and potential clients.

They also said services online had helped do away with the cumbersome processes they had to go through to access services offered by government agencies and ministries.

However, to ensure that electronic services became more acceptable, there was the need to ensure reliable data access at an affordable price while internet connection was also upgraded to meet the demand load.

These were the views of the public ahead of the Graphic Business-Stanbic Breakfast Meeting yesterday meant to discuss the impact of E-Services on the lives of people, businesses and the economy as a whole.

On the theme “Integration of E-Service into our economy - Implications for economic growth and quality of life”, the event, which is the first of four for the year, attracted captains of industry, business leaders and groups, the academia and communications experts, among others.

The meeting, which has become one of the most sought-after thought-leadership events in the country, is meant, among other things, to set the stage for discussions on how E-services within the public and private sectors are impacting the economy.

Perspectives

The theme for the event has been divided into three parts: Creative Revenue Generation Opportunities of E-Service Solutions to Economic Growth; Unpacking E-Service Solutions and Contribution to Quality of Service; and Impact of E-Service on Economic Growth and Business.

Yesterday’s edition was chaired by the Country Manager, VISA Ghana, Adoma Owusu, who was supported by three industry experts.

They are the Technology Planner in the Digital Financial Services industry, Fred Frimpong; Financial Services and Technology Professional, Francis Appiah; and a Lecturer at the School of Law, University of Ghana, William Kofi Owusu Demitia.


E-Services laudable

Earlier, Mr Appiah said: “Leveraging digital transformation gives us a unique opportunity to take advantage of the information age as a way to improve revenue at the national level.

“It will also help create new economic opportunities, drive efficiency, improve livelihoods and well-being and ultimately accelerate economic growth.”

Speaking in separate interviews ahead of the meeting, some traders at Kaneshie and Abossey Okai, a spare parts trading hub of Accra, lauded the growth of e-services in the country.

They were convinced that it had come to stay, hence the need for all to adjust and make it work.

The Public Relations Officer of the Abossey Okai Spare Parts Dealers Association, Eric Okyere Antwi, said E-services had enabled instant payments.

“Making payments is now convenient, such that I can sit in my shop here and make payments.

“Confirming payment is now easily done on phone, unlike previously when one had to go to the bank to find out if such deposits had been made,” he said when the paper sought the views of the public on the impact of E-services on their businesses ahead of the meeting.


Impact of E-services

A trader, Brenda Adofo Morrison, said E-services had helped eliminate, to a large extent, middlemen in the business chain, also known as “affairs boys or goro boys”.

She said such middlemen made it difficult for them to deal directly with customers, but now electronic platforms such as WhatsApp, Instagram and Facebook “help us reach our customers”.

“Now we are using new technologies such as internet, computers and smartphones to reach our clients. It is a huge game-changer and saves time,” she said.

She said traders also had the chance to perform their civic duty of filing taxes through E-service platforms provided by the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA).

Another trader, Salomey Abankwah, said she was able to conveniently save her money without losing it or having to join long queues in the banking halls just to save money.

“Even if I should lose my phone, I can still get a new Subscriber Identity Module (SIM) card from my service provider and my money will still be intact and I can continue to trade,” she said.


Challenges

According to Mr Antwi, the main challenge with E-services had to do with unstable network for both local and international transfers.

“For those of us who normally do the international transfers, there are times that we encounter such problems. It even happens with the local transfers,” he said.

Some of them also complained about the cost of data and mobile money fraudsters and hackers who targeted accounts that had large amounts.


E-levy
The traders were not pleased with the intended implementation of the electronic transaction levy (E-Levy), citing it as a disincentive to the growth of e-services in the country.

They were also of the view that the introduction of an extra levy on mobile money services, which was the means through which they received their payments for e-services, had the tendency to impact negatively and undermine progress achieved in the industry.

Mr Antwi said given that most businesses in the sector relied on at least Mobile Money (MOMO) and other electronic transactions to move funds around, the implementation of the levy in its current form meant that capital transfers would attract 1.75 per cent tax, making it hard for businesses.


Recommendation

Mr Antwi said the telcos and other facilitators should embark on rigorous public education to get more people to use E-services.

“The rate at which our legal tender gets so dirty because we don’t handle it well is so bad, so if all these could be factored to educate people on the use of E-services, it will augur well for us all,” he said.