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The Digital Economy And Africa’s Readiness For Ict In The Hospitality Industry

(Joe Addo Tuffour -esq)

In “The Revolutionist’s Hand Book” George Bernard Shaw opines that, the reasonable man adapts himself to the world. The unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself.  Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.

Without the luxury of philosophical reflection, it seems to me Shaw had the premonition long ago that African leaders – including private business folks – will be lackadaisical towards modernization, especially in the adoption and integration of ICT in crucial activities of their continent.

It should be the concern of every progress minded African that, after losing out on the Agrarian and Industrial Revolutions (in the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries) the Knowledge age could also bypass the continent, especially sub-Saharan Africa. Ghana for instance, despite being one of the first countries to be issued Internet Service Provider (ISP) license in the West African sub-region, for me is yet to demonstrate any sign of readiness for ICT since Ghanaians –specifically the youth are still grappling with accessibility, availability and Cost of ICT services. We must not forget, Cohen and Dannhaeuser (2005) posit inter-alia that, true development must be participatory, a bottom-up exercise, where ordinary people understand, initiate and control the process.

 It is commonplace that, while the economies of the American, European, Asian and other advanced industrialized countries with which Ghana must compete are increasingly dependent on quick access to information, which must be accumulated, analysed, processed and distributed for consumption quickly by various end-users, Ghana is still battling with formulation, implementation of a national ICT policy and regulatory framework. It is quite unthinkable that a true national ICT development policy with room for private sector partnership is yet to see the light of day. Notwithstanding all the talk-shops about the need for the country to adopt ICT to maximize productivity by way of e-governance, e-health, e-commerce, e-banking etc, there is no denying the huge socio-economic benefits that adoption of ICT tools in Africa and Ghana’s Hospitality Industry can bring to that sector and the continent at large.

Tourism, the world over, is the fastest growing industry and thus needs the greatest attention. Here in Ghana, the sector for   years has been the third foreign exchange earner but in India as well as many other countries, it is the bedrock of the economy. Tourism is primarily a service industry since it does not produce goods but renders services to various classes of people. For me, it is a crucial industry because it earns foreign exchange without exporting national wealth. However according to Gupta and Bansal (2001) contemporary information society has made Tourism a highly information-intensive industry that incorporates distinct features of information society. That is to say, although the core product of the industry is physical service, which is produced and consumed in the physical world, it is dominated and achieved through information services whose integration is currently the biggest challenge for the sector within Sub-Saharan Africa – particularly Ghana.

Whilst the challenge is daunting to Hoteliers in Ghana and the whole of Africa, the panacea to ICT gaps within the Hospitality industry, especially for an effective and efficient management of Hotels is not beyond our capabilities. This is because, currently almost all the bigwigs within the industry such as Movenpick;  Holiday Inn; Fairmont as well as leading (and smaller) Hotels in India, Ireland, Dubai, Uganda, Saudi Arabia and more, are clamouring for the freshest Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software in town, “WINHMS” introduced by a distinguished ICT company in India – Winsar Infosoft Limited.

This unprecedented management software which – as per my checks – is now available in Ghana has the capacity to synchronize every nooks and crannies of Hospitality organizations. It allows for easy operational control of all functional areas of Hotels and certainly leads to Guest satisfaction while providing the Hotelier value for money.

 Whereas there exist systemic challenges like fraudulent duplication of manual data entry by Hotel staffs due to non availability of an integrated ERP solution from the so called market leaders like Fidelio, the latest software WINHMS is an absolute ERP software which amalgamates all operational modules by linking them up to account module of the organization, hence ensuring high visibility of every transaction – including a reprinted audit of username, dates and time with reasons to ascertain genuineness of reports.

Additionally, whereas all customization needs are currently not possible in Ghana and parts of Africa due to palpable ICT constraints, this latest software amazingly is capable of customizing the peculiar desires or needs of clients.

The software under the spotlight, provides seven levels of data security  with rooms for user password and privileges viz; Software entry level; Module Level; Menu level; Optional Password for menu; additional privileges for creating, modifying, cancelling, printing, drilldown and excel export modes; with Credit Card number suppression slots in all relevant reports. Shouldn’t Hoteliers consider this “A-Must-Use” commodity to leapfrog the ICT gaps in their industry even while government (for obvious reasons) slacks in championing the cause?

It is therefore evident that the role of ICT tools in the Hospitality industry for marketing, operation and management of customers is widely known; and such marketing techniques can be more innovative through ICT tools. Apparently, it is imperative for developing countries with their private enterprises particularly Hospitality Organizations, to make use of the ever increasing opportunities to design or adopt efficient destination management systems like “WINHMS” to compete with the  international tourism market on equal footing.

I firmly believe – in spite of the unnerving constraints – that adoption of ICT tools like “WINHMS” and e-business is the most prudent and lucrative way to facilitating traditional tourism system on the African continent and Ghana in particular, as such a move will gradually integrate the Hospitality industry into the current digital economy.

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