In an era of globalisation, most countries are embracing simplistic and paperless approaches to conducting business and social transactions.
The importance of breakthroughs in identification technologies for consolidating different national identifications to correspond with increasingly demanding lifestyles is not lost on many countries.
The benefits of one-card-for-all to the citizenry and foreign residents include safeguarding against identity theft and the convenience of having a card that performs multiple functions. In recognition of this need, many countries have gone ahead to adopt a centralised identification system. However, this system has its own inherent risks with fear of over-empowering the government with information, high implementation costs, and fear of loss being among major risk factors.
This notwithstanding, the benefits of a synchronised identification system for the society and the economy far outweigh the risks. Its successful implementation presents a myriad of benefits for the individual and the Ghanaian economy. Currently, an average working Ghanaian citizen uses at least five major identifications at different levels of transactions (i.e., passport, social security card, national health insurance card, voter’s identification card, and driver’s license). This situation is inconvenient at best.
The government of Ghana struggles to collect taxes and levies due to difficulties in identifying businesses, people, and their addresses. Taxation and levying figures tend to increase under an improved identification structure as evidenced in other countries. Social services such as postal, banking, telecommunications, insurance, policing, and healthcare which have encountered under-utilization and under-development in Ghana over the years will potentially record exponential growth.
The cost of implementation and lack of technical requirements for building the necessary infrastructure has been some of the reasons for delayed implementation but there are renewed efforts by the governing party to revisit the subject at the national level by tasking the National Identification Authority (NIA) with its implementation and allocating funds for rollout.
The rollout, however, has had its own challenges. The NIA after five or so initial failed attempts has successfully commenced mass registration of Ghanaian citizens – both resident and non-resident, and legally and permanently resident foreign nationals towards compiling a computerised, centralised, and synchronised identification system. The process which was initially planned to commence in September 2017 eventually started in June 2018.
‘It is better late than never’ but for the project to be successful, there is a need for the NIA to;
1. Deal with possible registration by aliens who pose as Ghanaians
2. Strictly adhere to project timelines to avoid scope creep and cost overruns
3. Ensure that the registration process is based on a reliable addressing system and
4. Critically create awareness on the importance of the Ghana Card to the citizenry
An effective centralised identification system is a good start and a shot-in-the-arm to Ghana’s developmental efforts. However, that alone will not provide a remedy for our developmental woes.
To fully benefit from the Ghana Card, there is a need for utilisation, strict adherence, and continuous and cross-partisan development and upgrade of the system by the current government and more importantly latter governments to ensure continuity, growth, and ultimately, the success of the project.
After the closure of the project, a well-qualified and dedicated team of non-partisan experts and technocrats with government and legal support must be assembled to oversee its successful management and further development.
This writer is a PhD student specialising in leadership and economic development. He can be reached by email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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