>Broad Smile

>Yesterday, Ghana Telecom came to install broadband here in my house. The whole thing was quite simple since a phoneline had been installed last week. The process was tidious though since it started in the beginning of december, but I shouldn’t complain…because now I felt so utterly good!

I couldn’t really put words to why I felt so glad, until my friend A said that with the broadband, it was like I now have a real home here in Ghana. Obviously for us twenty-somethings Internet=home. And that is exactly it! It’s homey to be able to read Dagens Nyheter or The Economist for breakfast, to check in with my bank from home and update my facebook status with stuff like “having tea and checking emails at home”. Not to mention writing this from my dinner table listening to some muzac instead from a sweaty Internet cafe.

The cost for installing Internet here is about USD 100 and then there’s a monthly fee of USD 60 for a 256 kbps speed broadband. This is equal to what many people here take home as their monthly wage. I know a guy who makes USD 80 a month for working six days a week in a supermarket, for instance. Internet access more than anything highlights the gaps between people. And countries.

Four years ago Sweden had 756 Internet users per 1000 inhabitants (isn’t that something!) compared to Ghana’s 17 per 1000, calculated with the help of gapminder. According to the OECD which continously compare global communication prices Sweden had the cheapest broadband in 2006. Later this year the same organization is hosting a meeting on the Future of the Internet Economy. When talking about development, many hope that Africa will skip the step of laying cables and go straight for the wireless, and hence maybe become a player in the future OECD has in mind. However as of now, the guy in the supermarket can barely afford going to a cafe for Internet and even rich expats like myself can’t afford wireless Internet.

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>Flash me!

A big difference in the Ghanaian everyday life since I last was here 2,5 years ago is that now a lot more people are in possession of a mobile phone. The development is much like what I remember from Sweden in the mid 1990ies, in a very short period of time a cell phone went to being extremely costly and a unique accessory to an ordinary must-have. The Ghanaian phone company Areeba let’s you buy credits from as little as 3000 cedis (25 cents, or 3 SEK) and that amount is valid for 3 minutes in Ghana and 2 minutes outside Ghana. Affordable. International rates that are a lot better than in any other country I have visited.

However the phones themselves are as costly as in Sweden. Still people in urban Ghana carry cellphones very similar to those in urban Sweden or many times even nicer ones than in Sweden.

Since still half of the population lives on less than $2 a day, the use of very nice phones leads to stealing and articles like these can be read daily in the Ghanaian news.

The phone revolution in Africa also translates into possibilities, specifically in banking. Most people in Africa does not have a bank account, therefore remittances sent from relatives abroad must go through expensive services that often cost more than 10% of the amount being sent. If money can be sent straight to a phone that means less transaction costs and (hopefully) more money for development. More on this here.
Already, there are some banking that can be done, for instance can you get a “sikatext”, or money text message on your current balance in your account (if you have one). Banking over cell phone is already big in South Africa and japan and can maybe become so in Ghana too.

Oh, and in case you wonder… “flash me” means “call me so that I get your number”.

In the picture Josephine is using her new phone while doing laundry.

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