When it comes to technology, it is usual to expect the advanced countries leading the way and developing countries struggling to follow.
In the area of digitization, however, the government of President Nana Addo Dankwa Akuffo-Addo is audaciously rewriting the scripts with remarkable world-leading strides in its digitization drive.
Ghana, the first sub-Saharan country to attain independence from colonial rule, has quickly established itself as one of the leaders of Africa’s digitization drive.
In the last four years, it has issued biometric national identity cards, the first country in Africa to implement a digital address system, the first country in the world to introduce mobile money interoperability between bank accounts and mobile money wallets, the first country in Africa to introduce a universal QR CODE payment system, the first country in the world to introduce a universal QR CODE that accommodates both bank accounts and mobile wallets.
Ghana has also established itself as the largest medical drone delivery centre in the world!
This is an amazing feat by any standard.
A few days ago, the government launched the integration of the National Health Insurance Card with the National Identification Card, a move which allows the nearly 16 million Ghanaians with National ID Cards to use their national IDs in place of the National Health Insurance cards, which holders are significantly lower than the national card. What this means is that more people will be able to access national health insurance through their Ghana card.
Yesterday, the Vice President, Dr. Mahamudu Bawumia commissioned government's Free WiFi for all tertiary institutions project.
These major gains in the government's vision to digitise the Ghanaian economy and promote a cashless society, are the latest among other gains, including the paperless port system, online business registration, online applications for passports, driver's license, amongst others.
The government of Nana Akufo-Addo deserves commendations for pursuing this vision audaciously and achieving so much in its digitization drive in less than 4 years.
IMPACT ON ECONOMY AND CITIZENS
The impact of digitization on the economy has been telling, and to the people of Ghana, it has been extremely positive and relieving.
For the economy, the digitization of various government services has curbed corruption and thus increased the government's revenue. It has also helped in providing government reliable data for planning and decision making.
To the people, the benefits of government's digitization process are enormous. It has not only made life easier, it has also included many people who were hitherto excluded from many things, especially the financial system.
Today, through mobile money interoperability, the market woman in Kejetia and Makola market, probably without a bank account, is able to receive money directly on her mobile money wallet from her son's bank account, regardless of which mobile number she uses.
Today through digitization and universal QR code, Ghanaians can pay for anything they buy, including from the smallest retailer in the neighbourhood and pay through their universal QR codes, regardless of their banks and mobile phone numbers.
Today through digitization, one can comfortably buy prepaid electricity units with a mobile phone without the panic and fear driving out in the middle of the night.
And today through digitization, our tertiary students can access free internet on various campuses for their research and studies.
All these bring about immense benefits to both the state and citizens, and the government, and all those who have played various roles to lead this digitization crusade deserve commendations.
THE BAWUMIA FACTOR
One person who has doggedly spearheaded government's digitization drive is Vice President, Dr Mahamudu Bawumia.
As someone who was initially sceptical about government's audacious digitization drive, which was headlined by Dr Bawumia, I must admit I have been proven wrong and I have been impressed by what has been achieved so far.
Indeed when Vice President Bawumia launched the government's ambitious digitization drive in the early days of the Akufo-Addo government, I was one of those who were taken aback by his move.
For someone who is portrayed as an astute economist, I was wondering why he would focus on an area, which I erroneously thought should be the exclusive preserve of people with PhD in IT.
Perhaps, my criticism of our economist Vice President's foray into a digitization drive must have been partly influenced by the barrage of cynic attacks aimed at his person by his political opponents. He was verbally abused and mocked, for what his critics said, abandoning his economic duties to focus on digitization.
However, with just some few days for the Akufo-Addo government to complete its first term in office, the successful digitization of the Ghanaian economy and the easy online access to, hitherto, difficult government services, have proved that those of us who disagreed, criticised and even mocked Dr Bawumia were naively wrong.
My understanding of the linkage between digitization and the successful management of a digitized economy was made simple when Vice President Bawumia was interviewed by Kwame Sefa Kayi on Peace FM recently.
In that interview, Dr Bawumia pointed out that digitization is the bedrock for the effective management of a modern economy, as it provides much-needed data to governments for informed economic and management decisions to be made.
He also pointed out that digitization has contributed to making life easier for people in advanced countries because once there is a digitized national identification and address systems, interest rates come down for businesses and individuals.
As Dr. Bawumia explained the linkages and also outlined the benefits and successes of digitization, I completely understood why the head of the government's economic management team has been so keen on digitizing the economy.
It is indispensable in contemporary economic management and the life of citizens, and any serious government would do exactly what the NPP government is doing.
But the big question is, why have influential elements in the opposition parties, including economists, been mocking Dr Bawumia for leading an important initiative as digitizing the economy?
Is it that they don't appreciate the significance of a digitized economy to the country and its citizens? Or is it just one of those usual politics of opposing everything, even if it will benefit the nation?
Laymen like myself can be pardoned for mocking the digitization process. But when top politicians and economists, who present themselves as an alternative to the government lead such criticism, it leaves much to be desired and portrays them, as people who don't mean well for the country.
In less than 4 years, the Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo government has shown great vision and verve towards this project. From what has been achieved so far, the future of Ghana promises to be incredibly exciting in the area of digitization and making life easier and cheaper.
This is what leadership is all about: thinking through the box to solve local problems in a contemporary way.
If we have become the first African country to introduce mobile money interoperability and universal QR code, we have to commend our government and rightfully be proud as a people.
The future is bright!!!