Give a brief background of GVG and who they are.
Global Voice Group, founded in 1998 and present in 11 countries, is a global provider of ICT and RegTech solutions for governments and regulatory bodies.
GVG assists governments and authorities, through Big Data analytics, in their digital transformation and in the effective promotion of compliant and truly inclusive digital ecosystems.
The company monitors, collects, and analyses data from crucial economic sectors and turns it into actionable information. We promote data-driven decision-making.
Why should people within and without Africa be concerned with big data?
Data is among the most valuable commodities in today’s world since we are constantly collecting and utilizing it in our daily lives.
This, of course, is due to technology becoming an integral factor in nearly everything we do. But as the influence of technology grows, along with the data collection, we need to improve the efficiency of understanding what this data means for us. This is where big data analysis comes in.
Big data analysis uses technology to collect and aggregate all relevant data which can then be analyzed to assist in data-driven decision making. With the amount of data we are collecting growing exponentially, the need for big data analysis grows as well.
Africa is home to the five fastest-growing economies globally, according to IMF forecasts. That means that to continue spurring growth on the continent, data-driven decision-making must be at the fore. Big data analysis must therefore be considered by governments and regulators in Africa.
How does GVG work with countries and organizations to tame/reduce revenue loss?
GVG works with regulators and governments to assist them with technological solutions that aid their work of oversight and compliance enforcement. Among these solutions are telecom and tax revenue assurance solutions that governments and regulators can employ.
With our assistance, we enable authorities to see in real-time the transactions that happen in the sector, such as in the telecom and mobile money industries, allowing them to effectively provide oversight. For example, we have been working with the Rwanda Utilities Regulatory Authority (RURA) for over seven years.
Using our technology, we have assisted them in monitoring over 0.5 Billion transactions monthly, leading to the generation of more than USD 44 Million for the Rwandan government. They have also been able to increase annual revenue collection by 6% using digital technologies.
In the fight against Covid-19, how can big data help ministries of health in Kenya and East Africa combat the pandemic?
Big data analysis is central to data-driven decision-making and policy development. The fight against Covid-19 is one that depends on effective policy implementation by the ministries of health and other relevant agencies.
At the heart of combating the pandemic is the tracking of people, both the infected and their contacts, which is effectively mobility data. As GVG, we assisted the Ghanaian government in the analysis of mobility data to assist them in combating the virus.
This helped them to track the movements of citizens using data that is already being collected by telecom operators in the country so as to assess the effectiveness of any policies they chose to implement – such as curfews. Governments in East Africa can adopt a similar approach to ensure that their policies are having the desired impact.
Kenyan banks have been losing billions of shillings to fraudsters especially on mobile apps. Do they lack proper systems in place to help them deal with the menace? Does your organization have a way to help them out? Please expound.
As mentioned before, GVG works with governments and regulators, rather than directly with private companies. Our solutions are therefore used to aid the industry as a whole. In regards to revenue loss by banks, there are solutions available to them to help them strengthen their cybersecurity.
According to the ITU Global Cybersecurity Index 2018, Africa is the region with a lower number of countries that have implemented a cybersecurity strategy.
Moreover, only a third of them use metrics to measure cybersecurity. GVG’s SafetyNet Suite effectively addresses governments’ and regulatory bodies’ digital challenges using cutting-edge digital tools, in compliance with privacy laws.
There is still a clear need to effectively support Law enforcement, Policy Compliance, Security throughout national Internet & Mobile ecosystems, and Effective oversight of digital & mobile identities. Banks can therefore employ such solutions to protect them from cybercrime and make them less susceptible to fraudsters.
What are some of the revenue leakage avenues in East African countries and how can technology help in curbing the same?
Revenue leakage is quite broad and there are multiple avenues through which East African countries are losing potential collections.
Two of these sectors are mobile money and income tax. Mobile money has become one of the biggest financial inclusion platforms on the continent leading many to adopt it, with East Africa leading the way. For example, mobile money penetration in Kenya is at over 100% due to customers owning multiple SIM cards.
However, with the lack of effective oversight, it is possible for regulators to fail to collect some revenues from Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) since they are reliant on the MNOs sharing accurate information and statistics. With technology, this data can easily be put together for regulators to monitor the transactions and collect accurate revenues. This would be similar to the system employed in Rwanda.
Technology can also be used to combat fraud. One of the most prevalent fraud mechanisms is Simbox fraud or Interconnect Bypass Fraud. SIM boxing is a practice in telecommunications whereby a person or group of people set up a device that can take up several SIM cards (a SIM box) and use it to complete international calls it receives from the Internet as voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) and in turn serve them to the in-country mobile network subscribers as local traffic.
The SIM boxer thus bypasses the international rates and often undercuts the prices charged by local mobile operators. This practice occurs in some East African countries denying MNOs revenues. Technology has been used in Ghana to dismantle some SIM boxing rings.
In the first weeks of November 2020, a new joint operation between the National Communications Authority (NCA), Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA,) supported by Kelni GVG, led to a massive dismantling of a criminal network.
In the last week of the same month, Accra was the center of a new raid, which led to the confiscation of equipment used in terminating international calls as local calls. The raid was carried out by Accra Regional Police Command together with the NCA and Kelni GVG. These operations were made possible by the adoption of technological solutions.
As COVID-19 continues to sweep across the world, what can East African countries such as Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda do to minimize/eliminate the loss of revenue during this time?
To put it simply, what the pandemic has taught us is that we must ensure that we are constantly prepared to adapt to any situations that may arise. Technology has been one of the biggest saviors during this time. When the pandemic began, we saw a shift in all sectors towards embracing the positive effect of technology, especially in the way we work and transact financially.
That has also driven the digitalization of financial services. This is a positive step and we must continue along that path. The next step we should be looking to take is the adoption of technology in assisting in plugging revenue gaps and preventing revenue leakages. There have been efforts made by tax authorities in East Africa to digitize the tax collection process but that must be taken further still.
If governments are able to implement systems that streamline revenue collection processes and cut out opportunities for fraud, it will be possible to minimize revenue leakages. The automation of these processes will also allow governments to focus on ensuring that everyone is included in the processes and eliminate avenues for tax evasion.
How deep is money laundering in East Africa? What role is a mobile phone playing in increasing money laundering activities? How can it be stopped?
Money laundering is a battle that continues to be fought by East African governments and regulators, and there are several reasons why. These include lack of visibility over digital financial transactions, porous borders, and, in some cases, underdeveloped financial sectors with limited capabilities of addressing criminal activities. All these reasons are further aggravated by the slow adoption of technology to battle this vice.
The growth of mobile money and mobile banking has also contributed to this well. In the endeavor to boost financial inclusion within East Africa, which has been a great success thus far, the avenues for laundering funds have grown as well. In East Africa, with Kenya taking the lead, mobile money penetration is extremely high. This has provided opportunities for individuals who have never been part of the formal banking system to send, receive and save money efficiently. However, due to the large volumes of transactions being made, those with nefarious intentions have taken advantage and registered multiple SIM cards to allow them regularly transact high volumes without raising suspicions as would happen if they used a formal bank account. There have been efforts made by the various governments to curb this, such as in Tanzania where on September 22, 2019, President Magufuli called for “amnesty” for those accused of money laundering and other economic crimes, in exchange for a guilty plea and fines. This was in a bid to incentivize more people to come forward.
To curb money laundering, one step that should be taken is adopting technological solutions that collect and analyze data in real-time. With such systems in place, central banks and other regulators can be notified of suspicious activities and transactions both within the formal and informal economies, aided by artificial intelligence and machine learning. This will make it much faster and more accurate to identify and apprehend those engaging in money laundering.
What is the future of big data in East Africa?
Big data is becoming a major asset for governments and regulators continent-wide. East Africa is one of the fastest-growing regions of the continent, with countries like Kenya and Rwanda experiencing high annual economic growth rates. As their economies continue to expand, data-driven decision-making will play an even more crucial role. Big data analysis will assist these governments and regulators in this endeavor. Therefore, East Africa will become more reliant on big data as time advances.
How do you ensure data privacy? And a parting shot to the audience.
We provide full capabilities for the anonymization of private data, which is the process of removing private or confidential information from raw data. This results in anonymous data that cannot be associated with any individual or company.
According to general data protection regulations, for data to be truly anonymized, the anonymization must be irreversible. At GVG, we transform identified data into pseudonymized data then anonymized data. Users of digital services, whether they are individuals, companies or authorities, and governments, need to have the assurance that their personal and professional data are dealt with in accordance with the data protection laws and regulations.
In closing, as data continues to grow in its uses globally and across the continent, it must also become a major consideration for East African countries. The benefits of maximizing the use of big data analysis are innumerable, and regulators in the region will be able to attest to this if they choose to adopt it. At the same time, it is important that we remember that data integrity and privacy are paramount. Technology has already provided us with solutions that take all these into consideration and will continue to evolve and improve. We should therefore be ready to adopt these solutions to assist in financial inclusion, reduce revenue leakages and spur economic growth.