The Vice President, Dr Mahamudu Bawumia, Wednesday listed significant challenges within the economic and social space, which the government had successfully addressed, and continued to address through its digitisation drive.
Delivering a public lecture at the Ashesi University on how the government was transforming the economy through digitisation, Dr Bawumia recalled how the NPP had identified those problems before assuming office in 2017 and envisioned solving them through digitisation.
“Our system had major shortcomings and presented challenges for the digitalisation of the economy,” Dr Bawumia noted.
Dr Bawumia said the major shortcomings included the lack of unique identification of citizens, inefficiency and corruption in public service delivery, and the lack of a functional national property address system.
He also mentioned the existence of a large informal sector and dominance of cash payments, the manual database in public services, difficulty in collecting taxes for development, inefficiency in the delivery of health services and inefficiency in security surveillance.
“We were operating a system where most of the population could not be uniquely identified. It was possible to be born in Ghana, live a full life, die and be buried, and there would be no trace of you on any documentation that you ever lived and died in this country,” Dr Bawumia added, to support the magnitude of the shortcomings the government had fixed.
On the issue of the lack of unique identification of citizens, the Vice President said the implementation of the biometric national ID cards was addressing that major issue.
“So far, 15.5 million people have been enrolled on the Ghanacard by the NIA, and most of the population will be enrolled by 2022. The issuance of the Ghanacard has provided Ghana with a database that will be the anchor for all transactions in the future, providing a unique identity to all individuals.
“With the Ghanacard, the identity of people, even dead people, can be established using their fingerprints,” the Vice President said.
Touching on the lack of a proper address system, Dr Bawumia said the government leveraged GPS technology to implement a digital address system capturing every square inch of land and so far identified and provided unique addresses for 7.5 million properties.
“The Land Use and Spatial Planning Authority (LUSPA) has also provided street names and house numbers for every street in Ghana.”
Dr Bawumia described Ghana’s property address system as unique because Ghana is the first African country to implement a digital system combining house numbers and street names.
“It is a superior address system and leapfrogs the addressing systems that have been implemented and in use in many advanced countries,” he added.
Dr Bawumia said one of the biggest problems impeding financial sector development in the country was financial exclusion. He said most of the population were excluded from fully participating in the financial system because they could not open and operate bank and financial services accounts – a problem he said reinforced the dominance of cash payments.
“When we assumed office in 2017, we decided to use digitisation to solve this problem. The data showed that 70% of people in Ghana had no bank accounts, but 80% of the adult population had mobile phones with 30 million mobile money accounts,” Dr Bawumia said.
“It was also not possible to send money to customers of different telecom companies. So we asked the questions: why can’t we make it possible to send mobile money across different telecom companies? And also, why can’t the mobile money account function like a bank account ‘by making it interoperable with bank accounts? The answer to these questions was the implementation of the ground-breaking mobile money interoperability system.”
“Thanks to the Bank of Ghana and Ghana Interbank Payments and Settlement System (GhIPSS), the mobile money payments interoperability has made it possible to transfer money seamlessly across different mobile money providers and between bank accounts and mobile wallets.”
“It has also solved the major problem of the over 70% of people not having bank accounts. Today, because of mobile money interoperability (MMI), you can transfer money from a customer of one telco to a customer of a different telco and also make payments from your mobile money account into any bank account, and you can receive payments from any bank account into your mobile money account. You can receive interest on savings, acquisition of loans (e.g.qwick loan) on your mobile wallets. As a result of MMI, over 90% of the adult population now have access to a “bank account.”
The Vice President further noted that Ghana is Africa’s first country to implement interoperability between bank accounts and mobile wallets, describing it as “no small feat, especially at the cost we did it.”
Dr Bawumia noted that service delivery in the public sector was replete with many bottlenecks, including delays, long queues, and bribery and corruption.
With the implementation of digitisation, he added, services such as applications for scholarships, passports and drivers licenses, services at the ports, registrar general department, renewal of national health insurance cards, motor insurance, among many others, have all been digitised, making it easier for citizens to access those services and make payments through their mobile phones.
On the issue of domestic revenue, Dr Bawumia noted that several digital initiatives had been undertaken, including designating the Ghana Card number as tax identification numbers, provision of digital address system, financial inclusion, formalisation of the informal sector and the digitisation of the processes of filing taxes.
Those, he said, had contributed significantly in broadening the tax net to aid revenue mobilisation.
Dr Bawumia also mentioned the provision of CCTV’s to the Ghana Police Service, with three networked national command centres in Accra, Kumasi and Tamale, as another digital intervention intended to improve the safety of citizens.
Rex Mainoo Yeboah, ISD