For some time now, Ghana has been introduced to a new and popular term ‘digitalization’. The term digitalization is gradually gaining roots in the minds of Ghanaians since the course was introduced by the Vice President of Ghana, Dr. Mahamudu Bawumia.
The term has become one of the most discussed topics in recent times. In areas like politics, economic, health, businesses, organizations, academics, media, and many others, the course is believed to be the way out for future economic development.
I’m inclined to question, what exactly is digitalization and how is it going to assist the economy, as the vice president boasted?
The process of transforming materials or information into a digital format is known as digitalization. Digital technologies offer the potential to enhance more equitable and sustainable growth by driving innovation, producing efficiency, and improving services, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)’s website.
OECD also stated that digitalization is a critical instrument in assisting countries in confronting and recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic, which has wreaked havoc on businesses and society around the world.
In numerous instances, Dr. Bawumia has been observed advocating for this strategy. He has trumpeted the benefits of digitalization to Ghana’s economy at every opportunity in his quest to digitalize the country. The vice president has stated on numerous occasions both inside and outside the country that digitalizing the economy is the answer to many of the country’s long-standing challenges.
In practice, some of the government’s actions on the digitization agenda appear to be bearing fruit as expected. Interoperability of mobile money, universal QR codes, Medical Drone service, digital address system, paperless passport system, and national identification card, are perfect examples. These technologies have made it easier for regular Ghanaians to obtain services such as health care, location, and passports, as well as facilitating and speeding up money transactions.
I feel that, just as digitalization is having an effect in some areas, it can have a greater impact on our nearly unrecognized creative arts industry. Ghana’s creative arts industry is regarded as one of the country’s most important economic sectors. Through entrepreneurial skills, this sector has provided work to many people, both young and elderly. In addition, the sector has promoted and contributed favorably to the country’s economy and society at large.
As a young and aspiring artist, I feel that digitization can help us reach a wider audience locally and internationally, as well as assure a better future for our arts, based on my personal experiences and those of my colleagues in similar situations. To name a few, digitalization in the creative arts business can assist creators in licensing and monetizing their works, as well as generating cash and royalties directly without the use of a third-party system. This will allow creators to get the full benefits of their work without being constrained by time constraints.
Gone are the days when singers, performers, and producers would get in their vans and drive from town to town to promote their craft. Did you consider the amount of money spent on fuel alone on their rounds, the high chance of an accident, the stress of handling breakable products such as CDs, and how tedious that could be?
Films, music, and a few other forms of art have all gone digital in recent years. Many of our artists’ tracks are available on digital platforms such as Spotify, Apple Music, Boomplay, YouTube, Netflix, and others. Having their songs and artwork on these digital platforms has exposed them and their craft to a global audience, allowing them to reach some of the world’s most prestigious charts. The creatives can make money off the number of individuals that stream their work on various digital channels. I could go on and on about how great these digital platforms are, but my concern is: how are these digital platforms used locally? Every aspiring musician’s ambition is to win the hearts of the people in their near vicinity, who will act as their immediate audience. But what do you gain if your immediate audience is unable to stream your work?
The only issue I have with these digital platforms is their ‘payment mechanism,’ which does not benefit the average Ghanaian who does not have access to a bank and, more specifically, a VISA card. The bulk of these digital channels are subscription-based, and by subscribing, the listener agrees to pay with VISA card information. Most regular Ghanaians are unable to stream their artists’ works due to this feature of digital platforms. This element also makes it difficult for artists to gain money from the local audience.
With regard to this issue, I feel that if the economy is fully digitalized, it will be possible to eradicate it and make it more user-friendly for the average Ghanaian. With the digitalization of the economy, the government may develop local digital platforms that every Ghanaian can use to make convenient payments using mobile money. Without blocking people off foreign digital platforms, digitalization can help individuals get bank accounts easily and purchase online. With all that in mind, I believe the creative arts industry players should support Vice President Dr. Mahamuda Bawumia’s digitalization agenda in order to assist the government in resolving some of the issues that the country and the creative arts business are facing.
Maxwell Bonnah is a columnist, young artist, music video director, entertainment enthusiast, and a graduate of the Ghana Institute of Journalism (GIJ).