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Evans Awuni

Gift Mwonzora

November 27th, 2023

Ghanaians are optimistic that new digital technologies will improve their lives

0 comments | 2 shares

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

Evans Awuni

Gift Mwonzora

November 27th, 2023

Ghanaians are optimistic that new digital technologies will improve their lives

0 comments | 2 shares

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

While many in the US, Europe and elsewhere are nervous that the ongoing technological revolution will make their jobs obsolete, people in Ghana are hopeful it can help them overcome current challenges, write Evans Awuni and Gift Mwonzora.

The digital era offers the potential for growth in employment, productivity, and innovation. But has also evoked fears of job losses, exacerbated social inequalities, and challenges in adapting to rapid technological change​​. In advanced economies, digitalisation, automation and other technologies have resulted in significant shifts in employment and job losses in some sectors. In the US, 47 per cent of jobs are susceptible to automation and similar rates are predicted in Europe. In developing economies, estimates of potential job losses are even higher.

Unlike the scepticism often found in advanced economies, there is distinct optimism in Ghana about the future of work in the digital era (see Figure 1).

Figure 1: Distribution of digitalisation hopes and fears.
Source: Awuni & Kemmerling (2023)

Remarkably, the fear of job loss graph is highly skewed to the left indicating a high level of optimism about digitalisation in Ghana. Over 70 per cent of the respondents believe new technologies will not steal their jobs.

In contexts like Ghana, where information limitations may significantly impede workers’ awareness of future labour market risks, especially in terms of structural challenges not politicised like technology, public attitudes may be affected. When respondents were provided with such information it didn’t significantly alter opinions, but when exposed to positive information about technology they became even more optimistic.

Figure 2: Word co-occurrence network diagram of digitalisation hopes.
Source: Awuni & Kemmerling (2023)

In Ghana, a significant portion of the workforce is engaged in the semi-formal or informal sectors, often in self-employment roles. Digital technologies are not seen as job-stealers but as enablers – tools that offer the potential to leapfrog traditional barriers to market and government efficiencies.

When asked about their optimism of digitalisation, words such as “easy”, “fast”, “efficient”, “save”, “time”, and “cost” were frequently used (Figure 2). Respondents noted how digitalisation helps to overcome structural challenges like corruption, duplication of work and long queues for essential public services such as acquiring a passport, driving license, or national health insurance.

While most people are optimistic regarding digitalisation, there is still a minority that express concerns, fearing job loss to technology, feeling inadequately skilled for the digital era and not having the necessary financial resources and time to upskill.

Notes of caution

Many people in developing economies peg their hope and optimism on the transformative power of digital technologies. Though some speak in hushed tones and bated breath about the future of technology, there is a groundswell of sentiment that new digital technologies will be good for us in the future.

In much of Africa, including Ghana, some communities are still not connected to digital infrastructure. This is compounded by the lack of support infrastructure like electricity which is always in short supply. In the absence of a reliable and sustainable energy supply most remote rural communities remain digitally disconnected. The fear of new technology is understandable in such places due to the digital divide. Yet even here some digital benefits are present, such as digital money transfers which have gained a foothold in much of East, West and Southern Africa since the early 2000s.

While there is widespread optimism specifically among the younger generation about the potential opportunities of digitalisation there are challenges facing communities that remain digitally disconnected. In the spirit of ‘Not Leaving Anyone Behind’ there is a need for ‘Catch All’ digitalisation policies at the national level to embrace those who can’t fully enjoy the benefits of digitalisation.

Navigating into the Future

In countries like Ghana, where digital infrastructure and adoption are still evolving, people see digitalisation not as a threat, but as a golden opportunity to redefine their work and economic future. This optimistic perspective offers valuable lessons for policymakers and stakeholders in the digital economy, particularly in the developing world.

This optimism and ‘techno-hype’ will face challenges from new technological changes that will incite and upset different people. The greatest challenge may come from AI, which will be at the epicentre of moonshot thinking over the coming years.

This blog is based on “Politics and the Future of Work in Middle-Income Countries” available at https://bit.ly/poldigwork1


Photo credit: Chambre des Députés used with permission CC BY-ND 2.0 DEED

About the author

Evans Awuni

Evans Awuni

Evans Awuni is a Research Fellow at the German Institute for Global and Area Studies and a Doctoral Researcher at the University of Erfurt.

Dr Gift Mwonzora

Gift Mwonzora

Dr Gift Mwonzora is a Research Fellow in the Willy Brandt School of Public Policy at the University of Erfurt, Germany. He researches on digitalisation, politics and the future of work in Middle-Income Countries. His areas of Research include development policy, digitalisation, governance, democracy, human rights, social justice.

Posted In: Technology

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