Ghana says it plans to eliminate paper from most services and transactions by next year as it aims to become Africa's most digitalized economy.
The government claims that it will have “electronically tagged” every home, including informal housing in slums, via GPS by early 2020. In addition, there are plans to make payments for all government services cashless by next year.
“By leveraging technology to improve transparency and accountability in administrative systems, we are completing in short order what many years of administrative reforms had not been able to accomplish,” said Mahamudu Bawumia, Ghana’s vice president, at the Financial Time's Africa Summit in London last week. He added that digital technology will not only draw more people into the economy but will also help eliminate corruption.
By the end of last year, there were 456 million unique mobile phone subscribers in Africa — and that is expected to rise to 623 million by 2025. Bawumia said that Ghana has already surpassed Kenya in mobile payments, and the country is also working on digitalizing its land registry using blockchain technology. Within two years, it also plans to digitalize all hospital records and is already in the process of digitalizing court records, he said.
And in what he calls a “game-changer,” Bawumia said that Ghana is in the process of introducing national ID cards.
“It will form the basis of an integrated database with passports, tax identification numbers, and drivers’ licenses,” he said. “No one can hide.”
With that in mind, Nanjala Nyabola, who has written about “digital democracy and analog politics,” warned that there needs to be checks and balances against increased digital scrutiny. But Mo Ibrahim, whose foundation monitors governance in Africa, said the benefits of digitalization was more important than privacy concerns. “If nobody knows you are born or nobody knows you died, who are you? You’re a nobody,” he said.