June 24 2011
The management of national projects is a crucial benchmark that underlies a government’s attitude to ensuring success, efficiency and well-being of its people. The attention given to seeing through a successful implementation of any project that transcends political parties in power is an essential barometer to discern the efficiency and commitment of politicians to national agenda, and whether they are willing to promote the nation’s interest above parochial interests limited along party lines.
The national identification system supposed to be implemented by the National Identification Authority (NIA) seems to have fallen victim to this lack of commitment. It is at the brink of being a failed project not because of ineptitude of its workers, but because it finds itself marooned in terms of prioritization of government efforts for national development.
In a country where there has always been conflict and duplicity of information regarding individuals, especially where the issue of identity is crucial for reasons that go far beyond data collection, it is surprising that this exercise has not been given the necessary support to see it through. A national ID does not only mean that there is one reliable trusted database for citizens, but ensures that access to services such as communication, health, employment and social interventions are facilitated without wastage. For example, banks see high risks in giving loans not only because of the cost of money, but because of the fact that a reliable addressing and identification system for the whole country is non-existent at best and resolving this alone will make the cost of borrowing far easier than it is today. Imagine the amount of growth that it will cause to the private sector and its attendant effects on reducing Ghana’s unemployment problem.
The ongoing SIM registration exercise would have been a far more successful one if citizens had national IDs that would be recognized by everyone, thus reducing the need to produce a multiplicity of IDs and leaving so many other SIM card subscribers out of the registration process.
While lots of policies with less significant economic, social and national footprint have been fully funded and received attention from stakeholders, funding and support for the implementation of this very necessary project has not been forthcoming. It is important that the government redefine its priorities if it wants to leave a legacy worth admiring. For an exercise with the magnitude and importance that the national identification system possesses, there is the need for an unprejudiced look at how to turn it from a looming national failure and waste of funds to a national success story. It is high time government and policymakers realize that their goals for society do not ultimately lie in interfering with our economic activities.
The government does not need to give us handouts; the government needs to strengthen institutions that give us an identity, a voice, and the ability to make progressive decisions without barriers or boundaries. As it is right now, one of the major boundaries to Ghanaians in exercising daily important activities is a lack of identification. Let the government give its citizens an identity and see if it does not promote access to health, education, services and reduce the level of fraud and crime in the country. If we as citizens have been denied our identities for so long, and the government does not seem committed to giving us one, then it means that the citizens do not deserve the government and the government does not deserve its citizens.
In a nation of approximately 25 million people and with the level of technology available, if private mobile phone companies can between themselves penetrate 17.6 million Ghanaians through the patronage of their services, the nation with the powers, resources and logistics at its disposal could easily handle the job of identifying 25 million Ghanaians. Mind you, in the next general election, approximately 9 million voters will vote in a single day, with results coming in a 72 hour window. How difficult then is it for such an initiative to be taken? How difficult will it be to conduct a similar exercise of magnitude and proportion of a SINGLE NATIONAL IDENTITY FOR ALL CITIZENS OF GHANA?
The humble appeal is that we do not turn another opportunity for growth and development into a catastrophic waste of funds, some of which have come under donor support and through taxpayers’ monies. Let us all help in appealing to the government to let the NIA make the identification exercise see the light of day. The winners will not only be the nation’s image, the winners will be all of us and the faith that we have put in our leadership.
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IMANI is a Ghanaian think tank dedicated to fostering public awareness of important policy issues concerning business, government and civil society. In 2009, The Foreign Policy Magazine named IMANI, the fifth most influential think tank in Africa. In 2010, IMANI was the only named African think tank ranked in the top 25 most innovative think tanks in the world by the joint United Nations University and Pennsylvania University Global Think tanks Programme. Visit us today @ www.imanighana.org