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Transforming Ghana through Digital Innovation – New African Magazine

For decades, the haphazard system of property addresses in Ghana verged on the ridiculous. Despite several attempts to have a formalised structure in place, finding directions often required using local landmarks or specific vendors. Thus, the joke went, if the woman selling waakye (a local delicacy) had not set up her stall that day, the directions that depended on her position would be completely useless to the person to whom they had been given. The actual consequences of this, however, were far from funny.  In 2017, the current administration, led by President Nana Akufo-Addo, then in its first year, launched the Ghana Digital Property Address System – GhanaPostGPS, as it is known. It uses digital infrastructure to give every property a unique identifying marker that becomes its address. At the launch of the system, the President noted that an effective address system would aid emergency response, improve efficiency, reduce crime and provide a vital fillip to the e-commerce sector.  In the years since, name plates have been affixed to properties and it has become a requirement for official forms and formal communications to bear the addresses. Since then, invitations to parties, funerals and other social events invariably bear the 11-character designations. For the first time, Ghana seems to have cracked the address conundrum and is, by some measure, enjoying the benefits.  The novel solution to resolving an ages-old problem using digital technology was an indication of the approach that the government intended to take. Government pointed out that this was only part of a wider effort to deploy digital tools to address pressing national challenges.  Another approach was that of national personal identification. Without a robust system to register and record citizens and residents, policy making had lacked a vital component.  You cannot grow what you cannot measure and with the national identification system (the Ghana Card) now being rolled out, the government of Ghana is getting a grip on the number and demographic distribution of the people in the country, enabling it to better plan and develop policies. A clear benefit is that with each citizen now mapped to a unique, digitised identity, it is much harder for people to have double identities or to avoid their statutory responsibilities to the state or private institutions.  So far, over 18m Ghanaians have registered for the Ghana Card and it has become the foremost identification document. Banks require it for transactions, leading to hopes that with concerns about identity mitigated, some risk in lending can be obviated, thus increasing financial inclusion, increasing lending, and with better risk profiling, reducing lending costs.  The card is the foundation of a SIM registration exercise that now links every single number issued by the mobile network operators to a traceable identity, limiting fraudand discouraging mischievoushoaxes.   The Ghana Card will also help overcome a perennial problem in Ghana’s public sector, the issue of ‘ghost workers’, whereby beneficiaries or government employees that are either bogus or dead still receive government payments. Some estimates put the money lost to this practice at $400m annually.  With the Ghana Card, efforts to remove such names from the rolls of state institutions, pension schemes and other records have gathered steam. In 2022, the Ghana Audit Service announced that it had been able to trace and remove as many as 140,000 fake names that were on the government’s payroll. The benefits of digitalisation in exposing and preventing corruption while preserving national resources could not be more starkly demonstrated.  Digital evangelist At the centre of this drive for digital transformation is Vice-President Mahamudu Bawumia. With his evangelism for digitalisation and hands-on approach to implementation, he has come to symbolise the drive.  He is directly involved with the process, is often present at launches and has become a passionate advocate for greater digitalisation Africa-wide. “The Fourth Industrial Revolution is a digital revolution, one that is based on data and systems,” he told KTN News in Kenya in September, 2022. “If you are an economy and you don’t digitalise, you will be left behind and Africa has been left behind for far too long,” he added.  Back home in Ghana, during a public lecture at Ashesi University, he drew on references to the World Bank and…

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