We’ve gone past the understanding that tech will be a major factor in growing our country forward. The current government’s efforts in promoting tech services across the various sectors should tell, if you’ve not given any heed to that.
Within all these developments, we neglect the core wherewithal that will cover these services and the infrastructure that runs them. I’m still at a loss at how we seem to be launching several services that don’t necessarily talk to each other.
To be fair, there have been efforts to make the Tax Identification Number the “identity” for all Ghanaians, but that should go even further. The Ghana Card should be the starting point of all this, but has already been turned into a circus with a comedy of errors. Everything we own digitally should be held by the National Information Technology Agency(NITA), which is still an agency. I think it could be promoted to an Authority – I don’t know if that makes a difference – to make its work more efficient; it should be answerable directly to Parliament.
NITA staff should be among the most well-resourced in our country, considering that government has budgets for even more frivolous expenditure. It’s already been reported that Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies owe NITA as much as GHS 13 million! It beats me that our national data center is in a quite well-known area, in our capital city. Ideally, it should be distributed, out of Accra, well into the nearer parts of Eastern Region for easy access, with on-site support and maintenance staff and no power interruptions!
Currently, NITA runs under the Ministry of Communications which will always be subject to political manoeuvre and ideologies. We’re already talking about National Data Protection Commission, and the National Cyber Security Center, which also have great work to do, in these times of digital evolution.
As we grow as a nation, our needs will evolve. Obviously, we have not been able to make the necessary preparations to hold biometric data of our citizens, which is a shame. Nonetheless, not all hope is lost. Earlier this year, NITA hosted a forum dubbed “The New NITA” which shows the agency is working to turn things around. If such initiative has been shown, they should be given more responsibility.
Beyond hosting and managing the government’s online properties and the .gov.gh domain, I believe NITA should be one of the most prioritised outfits in our country going forward. I’ve long known that GenKey, a company HQ’ed in the EU, facilitates our biometric registration. At the time of the 2012 elections, NITA had been in official operation for only 4 years, so may have not been best resourced for that, but this needs to change. It’s been more than 10 years now, and this is definitely not beyond our call. If the right service level agreements are in place, well-trained officials at NITA should be able to handle these solutions in partnership with the Electoral Commission. We should own our data, as simple as that.
International companies are actively recruiting tech professionals from our country, so there’s definitely a pool of human resources and talent to be tapped from, and developed.
For a given, we are not aware of any breaches to this biometric data as at now. If crypto exchanges can be hacked, you can guess what could happen to our national data. From the recent comments of the Electoral Commissioner, a lot of effort needs to be made to build and maintain our systems, and cut down on consultancy costs that could be used to staff NITA, for it to be even more productive.
EC OPENS UP: ‘Our system and biometric data are controlled by external vendors’ – EC Boss, Jean Mensa.
Full video here: https://t.co/Mtc3U6A6BE#JoyNews pic.twitter.com/vVjpwsYjIq
— #JoyNews (@JOYNEWSONTV) May 22, 2019
We have the capacity to build such solutions and make the most of them for our nation. If we don’t, we better start working on them, as we can’t trust any other organisations to safeguard our data. There is so much data that is being gathered by all these government agencies; DVLA, GhanaPostGPS, NIA, EC, MFA(Passport), NHIS, GRA, Births and Deaths, etc. A quick scan of ghana.gov.gh shows a list of more than 100 government institutions. I can’t tell if NITA is well prepared to handle data from all these organisations; we’ve got work to do! Safety(including digital safety) of citizens in and out of the country should be a priority for governments.
Beyond all these, NITA should be well-prepared and resourced to host data for companies that wish to host their sensitive data within Ghana; banks, hospitals, insurance companies, etc.
There are lots of prominent companies in Ghana who seem owned by Ghanaians, and are not. The last thing we should leave to be non-Ghanaian owned is data on more than 10 million citizens. Posterity will not forgive us.
We can do better for NITA, we can do better for Ghana.