By Fred Yaw Sarpong
According to the analytical of the 2010 Population and Housing Census launched in Accra last week by the Ghana Statistical Service (GSS), only 7.8% of the population from 12 years and older had access to internet. Internet users in Ghana numbered 1,312,971.
The highest percentage of internet users in the country, 42.3%, resided in the Greater Accra, followed by Ashanti (22.5%), Central (7.9%), Western (97.9%), Eastern (6.8%), Brong Afafo (4%), Volta (3.9%), Northern (2.4%) with the lowest in Upper East (1.2%) and Upper West (1.1%) regions.
This shows that less than 3% of the population in the three northern regions has access to internet facilities.
The report indicates that individuals who use the internet are more likely to be male, young, educated, unemployed and reside in urban area.
Out of the 1,312,971 internet users in Ghana, urban sector had 1,147,874, representing 87.4% while the rural sector had 165,097, representing 12.6%.
Western region with 103,166 internet users, recorded 83.2% for the urban sector while 16.8% went for rural sector of the region. Out of the 104,301 people using internet in Central region, it urban sector recorded 76.3% and 23.7% for the rural sector.
Greater Accra region recording the highest of 555,847 people using internet, has about 95% and 4.9% from both urban and rural sectors. There are 50,644 people using internet in the Volta region. Out of this 72.1% come from the urban sector of the region while 27.9% was from the rural sector.
On the part of the Eastern region, it recorded 88,869 inhabitants using internet in the region. About 76% of the people lives in the urban sector compared to 24% of those from rural areas. Ashanti region had 295,251 uses internet with 90.2% coming from the urban sector while 9,2% also from rural sector.
The analytical report stated that Brong Ahafo had 52,923 using internet with only 78.9% and 21.1% from the urban and rural sector respectively. Northern region had 32,128 with about 75% emanating from urban sector and 25% from the rural areas.
Both the Upper East and Upper West regions recorded the lowest internet usage of 15,777 and 14,065 respectively. Upper East had 57.2% from urban sector and 42.8% from rural areas while Upper West had 59.3% from urban and 40.7% from rural sector.
The pointed out that use of internet facilities increased from age 12-14 years, peaking at age 20-24 years and declined thereafter with increasing age.
The report stated that Information and Communication Technology (ICT) has become an important tool in various facets of life and this is reflected in the observed numbers and proportions of the population with access to mobile phones and internet facilities as well as household ownership of computers and fixed telephone lines.
With respect to ownership of mobile phones, 47.7% of the population 12 years and older owned mobile phones. At the regional level, Greater Accra had the highest proportion of mobile phone owners (73.5%), followed by the Ashanti Region (56.1%). The proportion of people in the three northern regions who own mobile phones was around one in five. Generally, mobile phone ownership peaked around the age groups 20-34 years, with the proportions declining after age 40 years.
Only 2.3% of households in Ghana had fixed telephone lines. At the regional level, households with fixed telephone lines were found mainly in Greater Accra (43.3%) and Ashanti (21.8%). The proportion of households with this facility was below the national average in the Northern, Upper East, Upper West and Brong Ahafo regions.
In all regions rural households were less likely to have a fixed telephone line than urban households. A slightly higher proportion of male than female headed households had fixed telephone lines and ownership increased also with age and education level.
The absence of fixed lines in rural areas has been made up by the penetration of mobile phones, with about eight percent of households in the country owned either a desktop or laptop computer. As with ownership of mobile phones and fixed telephone lines, highest proportions of households with computers were in the Greater Accra (16.8%) and Ashanti (9.3%) regions.
The lowest ownership rates were found in the three northern regions and Volta region (all below 4.0%). Ownership of computers was associated with urban residence, with only 2.3% in rural areas compared to 12.4% in urban areas. Ownership increased with education level and is highest among younger age groups (20-29 years).
Access to and use of ICT facilities in agricultural sector indicated that 47.3% of agricultural household heads owned mobile phones. At the regional level, the proportion of agricultural household heads with mobile phone ranged from 2.1% in the Upper West Region to 18.7% in Ashanti Region.
About half of agricultural household heads who owned mobile phones were resident in Ashanti, Eastern and Brong Ahafo regions. Regions where rural agricultural household heads with mobile phones predominate over their urban counterparts were the Western, Volta, Upper East and Upper West regions. Only 2.2% of agricultural household heads reported having access to internet facilities. As expected, the majority of agricultural household heads with access to mobile phones and the internet facilities were young, educated and urban residents.
Less than one percent of agricultural households had fixed telephone lines. Generally, the lowest proportions of all households with fixed telephone lines were found in the Northern (6.2%), Upper East (4.3%) and the Upper West (1.5%) regions. In seven of the regions, the majority of agricultural households with fixed telephone lines lived in rural areas, the exceptions being the Greater Accra, Ashanti, and Eastern regions.
The report noted that the use of mobile phones in the country is quite extensive covering all regions and localities. The 2010 Population and Housing Census revealed that close to half of the population from 12 years and older owned mobile phones. The lack of fixed lines among agricultural workers has been off set with the penetration of mobile phones, with about 73% of agricultural workers in rural areas owning mobile phones.
The low rate of usage of internet facilities in the country generally and the rural areas in particular point to the digital divide between Ghana and the rest of the world and the internal urban-rural divide. This is one area where efforts are needed to bridge the gap.
The 2010 census report recommended that, the penetration of mobile phones among agricultural households offers an opportunity for government agencies, private companies and community organizations to disseminate important public information through that medium. TradeNet Africa provides one model for the use of mobile phone. In countries such as Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda, programmes are in place to enable farmers to use mobile phones to access relevant agricultural information, such as, availability and prices of improved technologies, marketing outlets and prices for farm produce. The Health programme of the Ministry of Health/Ghana Health Service can be used to improve health outcomes in the country. Similarly, the Ghana Meteorological Agency can provide information on the weather to farmers.
The variability in access to these ICT across the regions and localities in Ghana observed in the report also has policy implications for support to getting the ICT facilities to underserved areas, particularly in the three northern regions and rural areas. To increase the use of Internet, the government, especially the District Assemblies, and private organization, may need to set up internet centers in public places such as libraries and community centres. The use of internet, however, is closely linked with regular supply of electricity.
Finally, this is the first national census on ICT. In order to establish trends, there should be a mechanism for collecting regular data on ICT and for the module to be repeated in subsequent censuses.