The 4th Industrial Revolution is here, whether we like it or not. Ghana, as part of the global economy, can choose to watch yet another innovation passes us by, or we can jump onboard and even in many aspects, lead the way.
In the entire Ghanaian political landscape, there is only one politician pushing Ghana into the future rather than into the past.
Vice President Dr Mahamudu Bawumia has staked a huge chunk of his political capital on the digitalisation agenda. Amidst heavy opposition, Bawumia has forged ahead.
Ghana needs the digitalisation agenda, mainly for a few very important reasons I’ll illustrate below.
Oftentimes with such sweeping changes, we have to take the long view, something Ghanaians are notoriously bad at.
Nevertheless, bear with me and I’ll lay out the case for why Bawumia’s digitalisation is the future Ghana needs.
Stay ahead of the curve
The future is already here. The 4th industrial revolution Bawumia often speaks of is not a mirage approaching lazily on the distant horizon – it’s already here and transforming economies.
The 21st century is entirely about transitioning to a digital world. We were already headed there, but the coronavirus pandemic of the past few years hastened the process. Now we have more people working from home than ever. New apps spring up every day to make life easier for the ordinary citizen as every aspect of our lives gets more digitalised.
Why not digitalise our economy and systems, too? There are massive benefits to be reaped from moving to a digitalised system, but most importantly, there are advantages to getting there faster than everyone else.
Every single day, we hear of one more aspect of Bawumia’s digital agenda which is either the first in Africa or one of the first in Africa. The drone service, the electronic pharmacy platform, the fully integrated mobile interoperability – the list goes on and on.
The agenda is setting Ghana up to be ahead of our peers, to be far more ready than anyone else to take advantage of this new world order.
There will come a time when Africa would have to join the rest of the world in going completely digital and when it comes – Ghana will be far more ready than any other country on the continent to roll with it, take advantage of rising opportunities and become a leader of the entire continent – essentially staying ahead of the curve. The benefits we will reap from that early advantage will be enormous.
Fix government finances
Africa has a big problem called under-development. The reasons are plentiful – we can start all the way back at the legacy of slavery, colonialism and imperialism, but also constant post-colonial coup d’etats and their attendant instability, corrupt mismanagement of resources by politicians and bad or completely terrible trade deals negotiated by those same politicians – the list goes on and on.
Ghana is no exception. And despite attempting to fix these issues for so long, we have completely been unable to. The Ghanaian politician is either unwilling or unable to turn things around to fix the problem.
Only one man appears to have identified the issue, and that is Ghana’s Vice President Dr Mahamudu Bawumia. Bawumia postulates that a lot of Africa’s problems (or underdeveloped economies in general) lie at the feet of inadequate government revenue generation.
In a speech at the 10th annual International Tax Conference of the Chartered Institute of Taxation, Bawumia brilliantly identified the problem – and he was 100% right.
He said due to a lack of proper systems, underdeveloped countries cannot raise enough money for development. Couple with rampant corruption and the little that is raised is also heavily misused by those in charge. Under such circumstances, can we ever develop?
Diagnosing the problem is only half the battle, the other half is proposing a solution, and that is where digitalisation comes in.
Bawumia’s digitalisation agenda tackles the problem in two-folds – collecting the data of all Ghanaians is how you widen the tax net and increase domestic tax revenue to record levels. That is sorted with the Ghana card registration drive, as all Ghana card numbers will now serve as tax identification numbers.
The second solution is to ensure this revenue is not wasted, and that is solved by digitalising operations of all government agencies, putting the work in the hands of computers rather than leaving the majority of it to the fallible human. The digitalisation of operations at among others, the passport office, DVLA and other institutions, ensure that corrupt middlemen are cut out. Hitherto, they received the biggest chunk of the pie, whilst now citizens can pay for their service, receive it promptly and the government receives the requisite revenue its services generate.
That is the future Ghana needs – a future where the government raises enough money, wastes less and hence does more for the ordinary Ghanaian.
Ease of access
Finally, Bawumia’s digitalisation agenda is the future Ghana needs because it is aimed at making life easier for Ghanaians. The entire concept of science and technology is predicated on inventing solutions to make life easier for people.
Digitalisation is the next step in that regard and Bawumia’s agenda is already making life considerably easier for Ghanaians.
Firstly, the ghana.gov platform, where all government services can be accessed by the ordinary person, has completely revolutionised the concept of getting a public service done, as we hinted in the previous section.
Once upon a time, you had to leave your home or office and journey to a government office to get something done. Most at times when you get there, you had to join a long queue to get your service rendered. It could take anywhere from weeks to months to get what you need and if you wanted a shortcut you probably had to find someone and pay them a huge sum of money to get it done through the backdoor.
All that is gone now as Ghanaians can now apply for almost any service they need from the comfort of their homes on the ghana.gov platform. In many instances, you can also get your completed documents delivered to you at your home due to your digital address – that’s tangibly making life easier for people.
As already mentioned, medical drones are also helping to deliver blood and other life-saving medical supplies to remote areas – literally saving lives.
Mobile money interoperability lets you have a bank account in your pocket – and you can even apply for one from home and get it as well.
The digital address makes it a hundred times easier to order things online and get them to your home rather than in the past when you needed to provide a landmark address.
The newly launched national electronic pharmacy platform (NEPP) means you can order lifesaving drugs from the comfort of your home.
The list goes on and on. The digital agenda is aimed at making life much easier for the ordinary Ghanaian as it leverages technology to make all services more efficient, faster and easier to be delivered to the customer.
Can anyone honestly say that’s not the future they want? We cannot remain stuck in the past and do everything in person – digitalisation allows us to move things to a new level, get services rendered faster and enable us to focus our precious time on our work, increasing productivity and other attendant benefits.
If you look around the Ghanaian political landscape, no one else is even talking about digitalisation, which as shown above is clearly essential in the current global setup.
Bawumia is literally ahead of his time, he is looking to the future whilst others are looking to the past or worse, have no plan at all.
We have heard it and seen it all from our politicians and none of them offers anything new. Our problems have existed for half-century since independence and will continue for another half century if we remain glued to the status quo.
Unquestionably, Bawumia’s digital agenda is the future Ghana needs. It identifies problems in the current system and proposes fixes that are tangibly and objectively, better than whatever was there before.
We are in the 21st century and our problems require 21st-century solutions. We have to stand up and demand that from our politicians now, and Bawumia is head and shoulders ahead of his peers in steering the country in that direction already.
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