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World Telecoms Day: Service providers seek support to innovate

BY: Emmanuel Bruce
Participants at the event

THE Chief Executive Officer of Afrifanom, Nana Osei Afrifa, has urged the National Communications Authority (NCA) to regulate the telecoms value added services industry in a collaborative way in order not to kill innovation.

He said often, the authority had tended to over regulate the sector and in the process killed initiatives and businesses.

The CEO said this when he made a presentation at an event organised by the NCA to mark the World Telecommunication and Information Society Day. His presentation was on the topic ‘ICT in promoting healthy aging’.

He said while technology provided one of the key avenues for ensuring healthy living, technology did not invent itself and there was therefore the need for key industry players to lead the innovation.

In Ghana, he said the telecoms value added services providers have been one of the biggest drivers of this innovation in the ICT space, pushing the boundaries of innovation and proposing products and services that one can only dream of.

Using his company as an example, he said eight years ago, it came up with a service called ‘text a doctor’, a service which allowed people to be able to text whatever their needs were to doctors across the country.

He said at its peak, the company had over 250,000 subscribers.

“In any other country, this would have been a game changer and we would have been running big things but unfortunately we are not in any other country, we are in Ghana and it hurts to say this, but the NCA, the very institution that has given me the platform to speak has not been one of the best friends in this space.

“They have over regulated a lot of us out of business. We need to be regulated because the industry is new and we will make mistakes, but like all young people, you don't throw the baby away with the dirty bathwater,” he stated.

He said the NCA must, therefore, work with those young businesses, teach them, put the brakes on them, hammer them when they go wrong, but should not try to kill their businesses.

Big players seizing all the value

Nana Osei Afrifa also urged the regulator to do something about the practice where the big players such as the telcos tended to seize all the value created by these value added services providers.

“One of the saddest things about innovation is when you create value, how much of the value as an entrepreneur do you retain? I am an IT developer, when I create value, I want to retain as much of that value as possible.”

“But if am collaborating with a telecom operator, I am expecting to share the value that I am creating but we are having a problem where these telecom operators are seizing 80 per cent of the value that you create.”

“When the big players are seizing all the value, we need the NCA to step in because the value added services is the only space that Ghanaians are actually profiting from and creating good paying ICT jobs,” he stated.

He said it was, therefore, unconscionable for any telecom operator to seize 80 per cent of the value.

Driving changes in health systems

The Operations Manager at Zipline, Yvonne Aglah, also in her presentation, said new technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, Internet of things have been ground breaking in terms of being able to become the optimisers that help in driving changes in the health systems.

She said aerial logistics, where Zipline operates, had become one of the critical mediums that was helping with the changes.

“Zipline is already contributing when it comes to using aerial logistics to solve everyday challenges in our communities and we intend to provide everybody with instant access to medical supplies.”

“Across Ghana, we have delivered medicines, blood and vaccines to communities to help promote the quality of health in those communities,” she noted.

Managing finances

Speaking on how ICT could be used to promote financial independence, the Business Development Manager of ExpressPay, Charles Goh, said the fintec company was helping people to better manage their finances.

He said this was being done through its ‘scheduled payment’ feature which allowed users to control their regular payment activities.

“If you have a worker that you need to pay at a certain day of the month or some bills to be paid, you can set that up on the app and it will make that payment when it’s time,” he stated.