Monday, June 24, 2013

Penplusbytes/Voto Carry Out Survey on Utility Supply in Ghana

Ghanaians suffer the impact of many utility challenges; from water outages, lights out, and fuel shortages. On March 6th, President John Dramani Mahama said in a speech in Accra that the country is 'burdened with a major energy and water crisis'. Among the effects of the fuel subsidy phase-out, electrical grid load shedding, and persistent water access challenges, the business and daily lives of Ghanaians have been frequently inconvenienced or even threatened.

In spite of the immediate causes and effects of these issues well-reported by the media, a direct and holistic appraisal of the situation on a national level had not been undertaken. To fill this gap in information, Penplusbytes in partnership with research provider VOTO Mobile undertook a national survey. Surveys sent to mobile phones in five local languages were used to provide an insight into how the recent energy and water challenges have affected Ghanaians in all regions of the country including rural areas.

The study highlighted a few areas of concern that the government can take action on. In general, electricity shortages were named as the biggest issue – 188, representing 39% of 362 total respondents chose it as their main concern. People in cities were significantly more likely to say that fuel prices were their biggest issue. For both cities and rural areas, transportation costs were affected most by the fuel price hike. In rural communities general costs of living were affected just as much as transportation, which was not the case in cities.

Robert Reid, a research fellow at VOTO, adds that trends inequalities were also seen in the data for water: “Citizens in the rural areas were more likely to say the water shortages made living difficult. This was found despite similar reported frequencies of water outage, a consequence of different lifestyles between rural areas and urban communities.” Despite some differences, rural and urban respondents agreed that predictable water and electricity outages would help them manage their homes and businesses, with 73% agreeing.

On his part Jerry Sam from Penplusbytes said “despite government’s stated interventions to reduce the adverse impact of the fuel crisis, almost all the 187 people responding were generally unaware of the actions the government was taking. When asked about the size of the fuel subsidy, only 27 representing 14% of the total respondents reported the correct answer of 1% of the national budget. Despite this lack of knowledge, 117, representing 63%, reported faith in the government’s ability to resolve the issue in the near future”.

The research was intended to measure the impact of the ongoing load-shedding exercise and general water supply in the country using an interactive voice response system developed for mobile phones. The IVR was developed in five major languages spoken in Ghana (Ga, Ewe, Twi, English and Dagbani) in order to get Ghanaians from all social groups have their views expressed.

Editor's Note:
Penplusbytes is a registered not for profit organization since 18th July 2001 with the vision of driving excellence in ICT journalism.

Seeks to amplify the voice of the under-heard. Using SMS or voice services in local languages, our innovative notification and survey platforms are improving communication between African citizens and the governments, aid organizations, and businesses that serve them.

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