Unveiling the inconsistencies in Dr Bawumia’s claims on digitalisation in Ghana


The Illusion of Digital Progress: Dr. Bawumia’s Claims versus Tangible Investments in Ghana’s Digital Infrastructure.

In recent years, the conversation around digitalization has taken center stage in Ghana’s development discourse; the Vice President and Flagbearer of the ruling party (NPP), Dr. Mahamudu Bawumia, has frequently presented himself as a vanguard of Ghana’s digital transformation and positioned himself as a champion of this transformative agenda.

However, a closer look at the nature of these so-called advancements reveals a troubling reliance on surface-level developments-primarily introducing new features to existing applications-while neglecting the essential, foundational investments in digital infrastructure critical for sustainable growth and innovation.

A critical examination of the actual investments and implementations reveals a significant discrepancy between the proclaimed intentions and the tangible outcomes.

Beyond Applications: The Need for Robust Digital Infrastructure

Technical
ly, The OSI (Open Systems Interconnection) model is a conceptual framework used to understand and standardize the functions of a telecommunication or computing system without regard to its underlying internal structure and technology.

Its goal is to aid the interoperability of diverse communication systems with standard protocols. As the seventh and final layer of the OSI model, the Application Layer relies on the underlying layers and infrastructure for data transport and network connectivity, serving as the interface for end-user processes and network services.

The Vice President and Flagbearer of the NPP, Dr Mahamudu Bawumia, claims regarding his role in enhancing digital infrastructure, particularly with mobile money interoperability, do not align with observable substantial developments in this sector. Despite his assertions of being a pivotal figure in this area, there needs to be more significant new infrastructure projects initiated under his oversight that would substantiate these claims.

Under th
e administration of former President John Dramani Mahama, Ghana saw substantial strides in laying down the basic framework necessary for a thriving digital economy. This included significant investments in broadband connectivity, establishing technology hubs, and improving digital literacy through comprehensive educational programs.

Since independence, former President Mahama has built Ghana’s most robust and efficient digital infrastructure. His legacy encompasses a solid digital infrastructure that includes, among other achievements:

1. About 1000km of Rural Fiber Network from Accra to Bawku, which connects six regions in the country: Greater Accra, Volta, Oti, Northern, North East, and Upper East regions. This meets the internet and voice call requirements of millions of Ghanaians and thousands of businesses along that route

2. A 300km Metro Fiber Network was deployed across Accra and Tema, capable of providing Wi-Fi and other ICT services to millions of residents and businesses in the area.

3. An LTE/
4G network featuring more than 119 base stations was established throughout Ghana. It offers internet services and network backbone support to various government agencies, including ministries, departments, and districts.

4. The largest Tier-3 Data Center in West Africa, featuring 600 rack spaces in Accra and 45 rack spaces backup facility on the KNUST campus in Kumasi.

5. One notable achievement of the Mahama administration is establishing the striking headquarters building for the National Communication Authority (NCA). This facility enhances the efficient regulation of telecommunications services nationwide, particularly in monitoring the quality of voice calls and internet services telecommunication companies provide to millions of Ghanaians.

6. The Accra Digital Center, developed to potentially create approximately ten thousand (10,000) jobs for young people, now functions as an incubation hub for established and start-up businesses, a favored site for professional examinations, and an online passport
application facility. This center, a testament to President Mahama’s efforts, serves thousands of Ghanaians daily from various locations.

7. Also, former President Mahama facilitated the incorporation of digital applications into private and public sector business processes, enhancing efficiency and ensuring timely, effective service delivery to citizens. This includes but is not limited to :

1. Web Hosting, domain registration, and E-mail (.com.gh and .gov.gh) for all Government entities.

2. The Government to Citizens (G2C) initiatives, known as E-Services, have elevated the quality of governmental services to citizens and fostered better coordination among the public agencies involved. These initiatives have also minimized human interactions, significantly curbing the corruption traditionally associated with citizens’ applications for essential documents such as birth certificates, passports, driver’s licenses, etc. The Bawumia-led administration has renamed this platform as GHANA.GOV

3. The E-services
platform, www.eservices.gov.gh, now integrated into the www.epay.gov.gh platform, offers a comprehensive online one-stop shop where citizens from any location can access essential services without the need to endure long queues or navigate multiple government agencies.

4. The www.eservices.gov.gh platform was enhanced by adding an electronic payment gateway, www.epay.gov.gh, designed to streamline the payment process for all user-initiated transactions. The e-payment gateway supports a range of payment methods, including International debit/credit cards (Visa), Local debit/credit cards (Ghana), Mobile money (MTN, Telecel, AT), and Payments via cheques, cash, and bank transfers.

These initiatives were pivotal in creating an environment conducive to technological innovation and digital inclusivity.

In contrast, Dr. Bawumia’s focus has primarily been developing and publicizing digital applications and websites, such as renaming and launching the Aayalolo Bus System initiated by former president John Mahama to
Tap and Go Bus system. While these tools are helpful, they do not substitute for the robust digital infrastructure needed to support them.

Applications are only as practical as the networks they run on, and without strengthening these underlying systems, such initiatives are merely digital facades without enduring impact. Digitalization promises to revolutionize every aspect of our societal framework, from enhancing government transparency to improving access to public services and stimulating economic growth. Dr Bawumia has been vocal about his dedication to this cause, promising sweeping changes that align with global technological standards.

However, the reality on the ground tells a starkly different story. While the rhetoric has increased, expanding broadband in rural and underserved urban areas remains painfully slow, hindering the potential for digital inclusivity.

Misplaced Priorities and Missed Opportunities

The approach taken by President Nana Addo and Dr Bawumia-led administration has not only
overshadowed the foundational Digital Infrastructures initiated by their predecessor (John Mahama) but also shifted the narrative from building comprehensive digital capabilities to producing quick technological fixes.

This misalignment in priorities risks turning Ghana’s digital landscape into a house built on sand, susceptible to the vagaries of technological advancements without a stable foundation.

Moreover, by centralizing the development of digital applications within the government, Dr Bawumia is potentially stifling innovation among the youth and tech entrepreneurs. Ideally, The government should focus on enabling infrastructure, policy-making, and creating an enabling environment, leaving application development to the private sector, particularly the youth. This fosters entrepreneurship and creates much-needed job opportunities in the tech sector.

The lack of substantial investment in digital infrastructure critically undermines Ghana’s ability to compete on a global scale. It stalls the potentia
l for digital education, e-commerce, and remote services, increasingly becoming the backbone of modern economies.

This underinvestment not only reflects poorly on the commitments of President Nana Addo and Dr Bawumia’s administration but also directly impacts every citizen, especially the youth and businesses striving to expand their digital footprint.

The Real Measure of Digital Leadership

Authentic digital leadership is measured not by the number of applications launched but by tangible and sustained investments in digital infrastructure. These include enhancing internet connectivity across all regions and investing in power stability, cyber security measures, and advanced technology training programs that equip the workforce with the necessary skills for the future.

Ghana’s youth, brimming with potential and innovation, should be the primary beneficiaries of such a foundational digital framework. They should be encouraged to build applications and digital services that compete on a continental and glob
al scale.

The Need for Transparency and Accountability

The discrepancy between the promises made and the actions taken raises serious questions about accountability and transparency. How can Dr Bawumia parade himself as a champion of digitalization without following through on the essential steps needed to achieve it? The electorate must scrutinize Dr Bawumia and demand detailed plans and regular updates on the progress of digital initiatives.

Transparency and accountability in digital spending are crucial. Citizens deserve to know how their taxes are being utilized, especially in critical areas such as digital infrastructure, which has the potential to impact economic development and public services significantly. Dr Bawumia must provide clear and detailed reports on the costs and justifications for such digital projects to ensure that public funds are being used effectively and that these initiatives truly benefit the broader population.

Questionable Use of Resources

Dr Bawumia has positioned himself a
s a proponent of digital innovation, frequently heralding the creation and update of digital applications as evidence of progress.

However, closer scrutiny reveals that a notable portion of these initiatives involves changing the names and interfaces of applications and systems already established under the previous administration (President John Mahama). This raises questions about the value added to the country’s digital ecosystem.

The practice of rebranding rather than innovating or expanding existing digital applications is a misallocation of valuable resources. The funds spent on these cosmetic changes could be better utilized in more critical areas, such as enhancing internet connectivity in rural areas, investing in digital education, or supporting local tech startups and entrepreneurs.

The youth of Ghana, who are both tech-savvy and innovative, should be empowered through educational programs, grants, and incubation projects to develop new solutions tailored to the local context. This empowerment s
trategy would likely yield more substantial and sustainable benefits than the superficial renaming of applications.

Economic and Social Implications

In Ghana, a significant point of contention has recently emerged concerning governmental spending on digital projects, specifically concerning the current administration under Vice President Dr. Mahamudu Bawumia. Reports surfaced about substantial amounts of taxpayer money being used not to advance the digital infrastructure but to rebrand existing digital applications developed during former President John Mahama’s tenure. This issue brings to light concerns over fiscal responsibility and the strategic direction of Ghana’s digitalization efforts.

This approach has broader economic and social implications. First, it may signal to both local and international observers a potential stagnation in genuine innovation, which could affect investor confidence in Ghana’s tech sector. Secondly, it could contribute to public disillusionment with digital initiatives, as c
itizens may perceive these efforts as superficial rather than substantive improvements to their daily lives or economic prospects.

Conclusion: A Call for Genuine Commitment to Digitalization

As Ghana aims to position itself as a leader in digital technology in Africa, it is peremptory that leaders like Dr Bawumia revisit their approach to digitalization. Instead of parading new and renaming existing apps as symbols of progress, there should be a renewed focus on substantial investments in the fundamental aspects of digital infrastructure.

The success of digital policies should be judged by their depth and impact rather than by their visibility and immediate appeal.

It is time for Ghana’s digital policy to revert to a more balanced, comprehensive strategy that builds on the achievements of previous administrations while paving the way for future innovations led by the youth. Only then can Ghana truly fulfill its digital potential, creating a robust digital economy that benefits all its citizens.

To the es
teemed citizens of Ghana,

Let us not be swayed by mere digital facades. The true testament to leadership in digital advancement lies in the robust foundation laid during the tenure of former President John Mahama. His administration prioritized tangible investments in our digital infrastructure-investments that prepared the groundwork for a digitally inclusive and economically vibrant Ghana.

By sharp comparison, we now observe a focus on superficial enhancements under Vice President Dr Mahamudu Bawumia, characterized by the building and mere renaming of applications. This approach diverts valuable resources and attention from essential infrastructure needs. Such actions, while appealing at first glance, fail to propel our nation forward in any meaningful technological or economic direction.

Let us call upon our current leaders to honor and build upon the solid infrastructure initiated by former President Mahama rather than diluting these efforts with cosmetic changes. Our goal should be to foster genuine i
nnovation and create sustainable job opportunities for our youth, propelling Ghana to new heights as a true leader in the digital age.

Ghana deserves more than renamed applications. It deserves a commitment to real progress. Let us stand together and demand that our leaders invest in true digital transformation that benefits all, not just a facade that benefits few.

Author:

Rashid Awudu, CA, CISA, CRISC, CISM, CSXA, CCAK, SEC+, is a Chartered Accountant and Cybersecurity Consultant with expertise in Accounting and Finance, Cybersecurity Policy, Information Systems Security, Cloud Security, Risk Management, Data Privacy, AI Risk and governance, and IT Governance and Compliance.

Communication Member, NDC Massachusetts Branch, USA Chapter.

Source: Ghana Web