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Digitisation ofGhana’s economy (2)

Some private businesses in the financial, insurance, IT and E-Commerce industries can save millions of dollars annually by hosting and storing their data, websites/Apps, E-mails and other systems locally through the National Data Center.

7.           Tertiary and Second Cycle institutions across the country have been automated foreffective teaching and learning including distance learning at the tertiary level. In collaboration with the World Bank, 200 Senior High Schools were selected for this exercise between 2015 and 2016.

8.           Public Wi-Fi services were activated in Accra on the back of the 300km radius Metro Fiber network. This initiative was piloted at Accra Technical University, Terminal-3 Airport and Tema Transport station in 2016.

9.           Several enhanced Community Information Centers (eCICs) were constructed across the country not only to bridge the digital dividebut also to improve the digital competencies of Ghana’s vibrant youth workforce. This has provided the digital space for many Ghanaians in deprived areas to apply for basic services such as birth certificates, passports, drivers’ license and register businesses online; it eliminates the need to travel to regional capitals or Accra and saves millions of citizens the additional time, energy and money they used tospend to acquire these important documents every day.

10.         The multimillion dollar eTransform ICT project was negotiated to enhance E-Governance projects such as: E-Justice, E-Procurement, E-Health, E-Parliament, E-Education, E-Workspace, among others.

11.         Some public and civil service activities were automated through the E-Workspace and Learning Management Systems platforms for the efficient management of Government resources and hundreds of Public and Civil service personnel were trained over a 2 year-period.

Digital Applications

Over and above the aforementioned benefits being derived from the NDC’s massive digital infrastructure achievements, John Mahama’s Digital Applications record is unmatched. Digital Applications ride on the back of robustdigitalinfrastructure and hold the most significant potential for job creation, security enhancement anddelivery of social welfare services.

DigitalApplications encompass two main interlinked components:

•            E-Commerce; and

•            E-Government

E-Commerce

In furtherance of E-Commerce – business transactions that take place on the internet – President Mahama ensured the integration of digital applicationsinto private and public business processesto achieve greater efficiency, timely and effective service delivery to citizens.

His achievements, in this regard, can be grouped as follows:

•            Government to Government (G2G).

•  Government to Citizens (G2C).

•  Government to Business (G2B)

To begin with, the Government to Government (G2G) initiativesincluded:

•  24/7 Broadband Internet Access for all MMDAs.

•  Automation of Government Agencies through a Wide Area Network (WAN) Infrastructure backbone.

•  Web Hosting, domain registration and E-mail (.com.gh and .gov.gh) for all Government entities

•  Enterprise document management System for the archiving, retrieval perusaland management of critical Government documents. 

Furthermore, the Government to Citizens (G2C)initiatives,called E-Services, have improved thequality of services rendered by Government to citizens and harmonized and enhanced cooperation between the public bodies providing them. By so doing, human contacts are being removed, contributing significantly to the reduction of corrupt practices that have always characterized citizens’ requests or applications for basic everyday needs like birth certificates, passports, drivers’ licenses etc.

Specifically, the E-services platformwww.eservices.gov.gh,which has since been integrated intowww.epay.gov.gh platformprovides a one-stop shop for all citizens regardless of location to apply for basic services online without having to join long queues and ransack Government agencies for them.

This has ultimately saved time, money and energy millions of Ghanaians would have expended on travelling from their villages and districts to secure such services. It has also significantly reduced the middlemen, popularly known as ‘Goro boys’, who charge exorbitant fees for their illegal activities.

With this platform, citizens are able to digitally apply for passports, birth certificates, and driver’s license, register their business from the Registrar general’s department, request both marriage certificates and police background check reports and most importantly, conveniently file and pay taxes.The Births & Deaths Registry (BDR), Accra Metropolitan Assembly (AMA), Driver & Vehicle Licensing Authority (DVLA), Registrar General Department,Ghana Police Criminal Investigation Departmentand Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA) are some of the agencies on this platform.

Added to the www.eservices.gov.gh was an electronic payment gateway www.epay.gov.gh.This was developed to facilitate the payment for all transactions requested by applicants.

The E-payment gateway has the capacity to accept various payment types such as:

•            Debit/Credit Cards (international) – VISA

•            Debit/Credit Cards (Local – Ghana)

•            Mobile Money (MTN, VODAFONE, AIRTEL/TIGO)

•            Cheques, Cash, and Bank Transfer payments

As of October 2016, there had been23,333 total transactions and an amount of GHC168, 973,528.54 had been collected for eight MMDAs.As mentioned earlier, both www.eservices.gov.gh and www.epay.gov.ghhave been combined into one website. So all e-eservices can now be accessed from www.epay.gov.gh. 

In furtherance of E-Commerce, Government to Business (G2B)initiatives have also been enhanced through John Mahama’s vision to provide digital infrastructure to enhance the capacity of Telcos.

E-Government

E-Government (Digital applications) was a collaboration between the Government of Ghana and the World Bank. Actual implementation of the various modules of E-Government started in 2009.  Pilot roll out of E-workspace, E-Health, E-Cabinet, and E-Justice had been successfully completed before John Mahama left office in 2016. 

On E-Workspace, the main objectives of John Mahama were to, among other things:

1.           Run a paperless governance system and reduce the time and energy public and civil servants spend on printing orphotocopying documents;

2.           Improve data and information access for decision making, which ultimately will help with the right to information agenda;

3.           Increase productivity for public and civil servants for the benefit of millions of Ghanaians on the demand side;and

4.           Ensure transparency and accountability in Government’s administrative records.

The Project deployed over hundred Portal Content Management (PCM) systems and hundred HP Scanjet Enterprise Flow s2 high volume scanners for some selected MMDAs.

Some of these MMDAs were: Ministry of Communication (MoC), Ministry of Trade and Industry (MoTI), Judicial Service, Public Services Commission, Ghana Investment Promotion Commission, Ghana Revenue Authority, Ghana Police Service, Ghana Highway Authority, Lands Commission, UPSA and PRAAD, all Ministries and other MDAs.  The components of the PCM systems were: Intranet Portals, Meeting Management Systems, Document and correspondence Management Systems.

In addition, special user training sessions were also held for some selected personnel of these MMDAs to undertake simple tasks such as Email and messaging, virtual meetings, electronic filing, storing and retrieval of administrative records, webinars, etc.

It must be placed on record that President Mahama successfully piloted E-Health in 2016. By the end of 2016, the project had been piloted in four hospitals in Ghana; namely, Korle Bu Teaching Hospital, Korle Bu Polyclinic, Wa Regional and Zebilla District hospitals.

With regards to E-Cabinet, the automation of cabinet activities, a portal was developed to manage and coordinate meetings online. All ministers of state were trained on how to file and digitize records. As of November 2016, 20 Cabinet meetings had beenmanaged from the E-Cabinet portal. This helped improve greatly the communication between Ministries and the Cabinet Secretariat. 

On E-Justice, beyond the initial interventions made which included deployment of videoconferencing and Telepresence facilities to the Judiciary through then Chief Justice Georgina Theodora Woode, feasibility studies were conducted, Request for Proposals (RFPS) were sought, and International Competitive Bids (ICBs) were evaluated and submitted to the World Bank for ‘A No Objection’.  Same process can be said for E-Parliament.

It is worth noting that E-Justice was commissioned by President Akufo-Addo a year ago. This intervention has reduced the cost of justice delivery in the country, sped up court proceedings, and given litigants easier access to information.

Last but not least, a Software Requirement Specification (SRS) document and surveys had been concluded for the implementation of E-Parliament before President Mahama left office in 2017.

Conclusion              

In conclusion, the achievements of President John DramaniMahama in Ghana’s digital spaceis yet to be surpassed by this government.In this piece, we have not even discussed the Digital Terrestrial Transition (DTT) Platform which has transformed broadcasting in Ghana. He has made Ghana more competitive with the rest of the world in this digital revolution.

His digital infrastructure and applications continue to fuel the growth of Ghana’s economy and has made life more convenient and improved the quality of life of millions of Ghanaians. It has practically changed and positively impacted every sphere of Ghana. 

Authors:

Dr. Edward Kofi OmaneBoamah is a former Minister for Communications of Ghana and Presidential spokesperson, Medical Practitioner and Health Policy Planning and Financing expert.

Dr. George Atta-Boatengisaformer Director-General of the National Information Technology Agency (NITA), Computer Engineer, with expertise in Data, Computer &Communications (Telecommunications) Networks.

By Dr Edward Kofi OmaneBoamah &Dr George Atta-Boateng

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