Are Ghanaian businesses shy of the Internet?
The ICT age has come with it a boom in Internet technology which has revolutionized how business is done and brought dynamism, but Ghana, despite having a very attractive ICT policy is still at the crawling stage of taking advantage of this revolution to transform its society.
Sadly, the country is rather gaining notoriety as a centre for cyber crime, further weakening its chances of taking the lead in e-commerce in the West African sub-region.
For most businesses in Ghana, it is as if the Internet has just been discovered, and they are not in a hurry to get on board. They are wary, unsure of its full potential; they are waiting till no one knows when.
Even for most of the businesses like the financial institutions that claim to be online, the least said about them the better. It is more of a marketing ploy, because as it is, most customers do not get the full benefits of online services as these businesses claim to offer.
Ghanaian businesses online
Searching for Ghanaian businesses online is like searching for a needle in a hay sack. One is not likely to find most businesses online nor find information on lots of these businesses, including some so called industry leaders. They do not have web presence in the form of websites.
A website, even a static one gives a business presence on the Internet. With basic company information such as address and telephone numbers, it is easier for customers looking for such a company to locate it online, or for those looking for companies within a certain industry in the country to find such businesses.
Often, foreigners wanting to contact Ghanaian businesses have a hard time locating them, because even though the Internet has become the first point of research on any subject or business, most Ghanaian businesses are not easily found online and frustrated potential business partners and customers are left with no option but to make phone calls which are often more expensive than doing business online.
For the few that have simple websites, the information available is often outdated and sometimes irrelevant. Some companies have outgrown the information posted on their websites, some have even changed their telephone numbers, but they have not updated these online, effectively making them unreachable even if one could find them online.
From experience, most companies online hardly check their emails regularly. It is therefore possible to send an email to a business and never receive a reply.
Online advertising is another effective means for businesses to be visible on the Internet. But Ghanaian businesses are still stuck to the old ways of doing things; Ghanaian businesses are doing mostly traditional advertising on TV, radio and in print; they are doing very little online advertising, despite the huge business opportunities that online advertising offers and the cost-effective nature of online advertising.
Online advertising is placing an advertisement of services and or products on another website that has a wider reach or visitor profile. An example is www.ghanabusinessnews.com, Ghana’s premier and leading business news portal or any such online news service. By placing an advert on a website like these, businesses would be reaching a global audience far beyond their expectation, and thereby creating a global presence for themselves.
Online advertising is far cheaper than other traditional advertising, and has a far wider reach than traditional advertising. It has the capability of bringing potential customers in touch with the business in real time, thereby giving real value for money.
According to available data, in 2007, US online advertisement revenue exceeded $21 billion for the first time. And in 2008 online advertising spending reached a record $23.4 billion, despite the economic crisis, emphasizing the increased recognition of the medium’s value in reaching consumers online where they are spending more and more of their time, according to a report by the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) and PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP (PwC) in the US.
It is high time Ghanaian businesses shed off their fear of technology, particularly, ICT and make the best of the opportunities it offers for business dynamism and growth.
Ghanaian businesses must be bold and go online!
By Emmanuel K. Dogbevi