A tech revolution is sweeping Ghana’s public service

Ghana’s public services are undergoing an explosive digital transformation, unlike anything ever seen before in the country. 

The government of Ghana, through its digitization of the economy agenda, has invested tremendously to upscale the ageing public services and to make them fit for the 21st century — from investing in the simplest forms of technology and software to the most sophisticated forms like blockchain technology. 

The president of Ghana, Nana Akufo-Addo, has pledged that a minimum of 1% of Ghana’s GDP will be applied towards research and development in science, technology and innovations in the short to medium term, to be increased to 2.5% in the long term. 

West African innovation

The economy of Ghana as a whole has benefited from this digitalisation, which has not only improved quality of life for citizens but has also helped manage corruption and significantly improve the knowledge and skills of public servants. 

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Many of these digital initiatives are public-private partnerships between Ghana’s government and tech companies and is changing the way citizens interact with their government, and the services we are able to deliver. 

Some of the most impressive projects include: 

  • Ghana digital card, a unique, modern identity card for every Ghanaian and non-Ghanaians, which is the first nationally distributed eID in West Africa.
  • The mobile money interoperability system, which allows users to transfer money directly and seamlessly from one mobile wallet to another across networks. 
  • Ghana’s drone service, which offers on-demand emergency deliveries of vaccines, blood products and lifesaving medications to health facilities across the country, 24 hours a day. 
  • The Paperless port system, which speeds up the process of clearing goods at the ports from two weeks to four hours
  • Ghana Electronic Procurement System (GHANEPS), which enhances the process of procuring public goods, works, consultancy services and disposal of assets. 

An end to corruption?

One of the most exciting new initiatives is Ghana’s Electronic Procurement System (GHANEPS), which launched in April 2019. 

In line with international best practice, Ghana’s new e-procurement system uses the Open Contracting Data Standards (OCDS) to report and display information. 

We must invest more to expand training opportunities, including in the field of online learning, to enable public servants to adapt to the pace of change

In this system, all information is made openly available throughout the procurement process. This approach is designed to prevent corruption by minimizing human face-to-face interaction and increase productivity for both procurement officers and service providers, as all manual procurement process and procedures are automated

At the same time, service providers, suppliers, consultants and contractors will be able to respond to tenders, seek clarifications and other information from the comfort of their offices via the internet. 

The time and risks associated with tender submissions will be considerably reduced or even eliminated entirely. 

In addition, there will be a considerable reduction in the use of paper in the tender process, making it easier to audit and monitor, increasing accuracy in reporting and statistics, increasing the number of suppliers who are able to participate, leading to more tender responses and a reduction in procurement lead times. 

The implementation of the e-procurement is carried out in two phases, which is expected to continue through 2020, after which all public entities will be expected to use the e-procurement system.

Breakthroughs in blockchain and health 

In another sector, the Government of Ghana has recently partnered with IBM to explore how we can leverage their blockchain capabilities to modernise key processes of land administration. 

The new blockchain technology is expected to reduce fraud, increase investments and improve access to capital. In parallel, Bitland Ghana is working with the Lands Commission, to trial blockchain land registration in Kumasi, the second-largest city in Ghana, using the OpenLedger platform as the basis of their blockchain. 

The digital initiatives have also changed the public health system, which has recently been upgraded with the implementation of a new e-health strategy, which among other things establishes a new National Healthcare Data Centre.

As a part of this strategy, the government has begun a phased rollout of the new Lightwave Health Information System, which digitises and modernises the public health system. The system is currently being rolled out in the central region of Ghana, with plans for a national rollout on the horizon.

Reaping the benefits

The implementation of these digital initiatives has led to improvements in skills and knowledge level of our public servants, as the government invests in digital upskilling. This usually takes the form of on-job training sessions coupled with the extensive deployment of hardware to ensure a smooth implementation. 

However, a lot still needs to be done. We must invest more to expand training opportunities, including in the field of online learning, to enable public servants to adapt to the pace of change. 

The current digital road map Ghana is on has not only led to improvements in the quality of services but it has also placed the country strategically to reap the benefits of a tremendous growth in our economy. 

For 2019, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) predicts a 8.8% growth rate in Ghana in its World Economic Outlook, which would make Ghana the fastest growing economy in the world in 2019.

The digital initiatives have also opened the doors for many private companies to collaborate with government. There are still many untapped lucrative sectors in our economy in finance, health, agriculture, where the potential for a digital breakthrough is great. With our enabling environment for technology, private companies are encouraged to join forces with government and help boost our economy for prosperity. 

This opinion article was written by Mohammed Gazali Salifu, fellow at the Ministry of Health, Ghana.

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