NATIONAL ID SYSTEM: FUNDAMENTAL QUESTIONS NEED TO BE ADDRESSED- GROUP
A group calling itself, New Era Africa (NERA) says an improved and credible National Identification System will bring enormous benefits to various sectors of the economy, but some fundamental questions need to be addressed to ensure its robustness.
According to NERA, the National Identification Authority, the state agency tasked to undertake this exercise is purely political and as a matter of fact, is under the exact control of the Executive.
The gains notwithstanding, it is essential to get some fundamental and secondary issues cleared before we start this important program. The issues if left unresolved and not articulated with clarity to the public may exacerbate the problems – rather than solve – the problems we already have.
In statement issued and copied to akoraonlineradio.com and a Kumasi based Boss fm, NERA believes the success of the National Identification Authority will depend on how well they articulate the gains in procuring ID cards, how best they allay the fears associated with registering for the ID card, how NIA will credibly collect, store and maintain data, raise enough revenues as organization through card replacement, verifying or authenticating data for the private sector, outsourcing some information to researchers, business men and disruptive entrepreneurs.
BELOW IS THEIR FULL STATEMENT :
THE NATIONAL ID SYSTEM: ENSURING ROBUSTNESS BY ADDRESSING FUNDAMENTAL QUESTIONS
Acuity Market Intelligence (2017) projects that, the number of electronic ID cards will reach about 3.6 billion citizens across the world by 2021 and it is refreshing that Ghana after almost 15 years of little action, will be counted among these countries that will make this happen. The NEW ERA AFRICA (NERA) believes that the National ID card exercise is the most important exercise that permeates all spheres of our developmental drive.
Undoubtedly, an improved and credible national ID system will bring enormous benefits to various sectors of the economy. It will among others; help telecommunication and financial companies build robust Know Your Customer (KYC) and know your employee systems thereby improving cyber security and reducing risks of huge Non-Performing Loans, boost overall security and engender confidence in interactions between citizens and security services, promote economic empowerment, drive us towards a relatively credible democratic dispensation as far as voting is concerned and enhance Ghana?s position as a safe and trustworthy state for credible businesses investment. The system also has the potential of improving our cross border interactions (regional integration) provides great opportunity for young entrepreneurs including those in fintechs to revolutionalize the economy.
The gains above notwithstanding, it is essential to get some fundamental and secondary issues cleared before we start this important program. The issues if left unresolved and not articulated with clarity to the public may exacerbate the problems – rather than solve – the problems we already have.
For instance, the National Identification Authority, the state agency tasked to undertake this exercise is purely political and as a matter of fact, is under the exact control of the Executive. The fundamental questions are; how do we ensure some level of autonomy exists to insulate the National Identification Authority (NIA) and the Data Protection Commission (DPC) from unnecessary political control? How do we ensure data is not politically exploited?
Assurances and education on data storage and its exploitation is unfortunately missing. It is the belief that a ?big brother? will be storing the data. It is therefore essential that the citizens are briefed on the trustworthiness of the entity and individuals storing the data and how the private sector can source these data. Authorities should endeavour to bring clarity on how bright minds can build on these foundational data for research, business planning and development, what type of data can be readily accessed by an individual (the private sector and even the public officials including police officers) and what type of data is deemed sacrosanct that may require the intervention of ?higher hand? to procure and how do we safeguard the data from abuse by both public and private sector agents.
The level of preparedness or robustness of the system.
On the robustness of the system, what has NIA put in place to ensure correct and accurate data of the citizen are captured (have we learnt from the Israel?s experience and our own biometric failures that characterized our elections?). Again, how do we conduct routine clean-ups and maintenance to make this data infrastructure enduring and how sophisticated are the data tools and equipment?
What kind of system is in place to ensure that citizens willfully and honestly disclose all relevant information needed by the NIA. As it is now, some issues surrounding the Digital Property Addressing System remain unresolved and it is highly probable that wrong residential information will be given out during this exercise. Again, assuming a citizen with passport decides not to go for national ID card, what happens? What superior arguments and sensitization is the NIA doing before the process takes off in order to get genuine national buy-in.
Resolving the issues and ensuring a robust ID system
1. Dissolution of the births and deaths registry and activities of it incorporated into the National Identification Authority. This will make the NIA the body solely responsible for collecting data on people from birth and ensure easy coordination. The NIA should then take steps to open sub metro offices or at the very least District offices. The Authority should be resourced enough to register every pregnancy and delivery in the country in order to ensure up to date records at any giving time.
2. Strong integration of the National ID exercise with the Digital Property Addressing System. The only way we can harness the gains of the ID system is having a very good residential tracking mechanism. This has the potential to boost rent tax, property tax, encourage creative individuals to come up with solid business models and make the Ghana Reference Rating (GRR) as introduced by the Bank of Ghana with tacit support of Ghana Association of Bankers beneficial thereby improving the financial and overall business regime.
3. Most importantly, the NIA should stop working in the shadows and actively disseminate information to the citizenry. The real work of NIA is not just issuing of Ghana cards. The success of the NIA will depend on how well they articulate the gains in procuring ID cards, how best they allay the fears associated with registering for the ID card, how NIA will credibly collect, store and maintain data, raise enough revenues as organization through card replacement, verifying or authenticating data for the private sector, outsourcing some information to researchers, business men and disruptive entrepreneurs.
There is no gainsaying that a national ID system will be a tremendous boost in many ways. Over the years, there have been failed attempts to get one in place. The issue is back on the table, appearing as one of the top priorities. There are however fundamental issues that must be resolved. The Authorities are encouraged to resolve these issues as identified in this piece and elsewhere and open frank conversations so citizens know what is happening.
Bernard Owusu-Mensa (0202087542) Founding President
Hardi Yakubu (0243931165) Vice President, Research and Strategy