Issues relating to satisfactory quality output, increased productivity, enhanced welfare, as well as general trends in economic growth and development are greatly dependent on and influenced by the quality infrastructure available for use in a country.
In very simple terms, quality infrastructure refers to a well-established system aimed at ensuring that quality is highlighted and promoted in industrial production and trade matters in both local and international markets.
This guarantees protection of public health and safety, as well as protection of the environment.
One of the major pillars of quality infrastructure is metrology, which refers to the science and practice of measurement.
Any effective metrology system is characterised by the ability to properly calibrate measuring instruments and ensure that such instruments are fit for purpose.
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If a measurement system is to be useful, it must be stable and coherent so as to increase knowledge and also guide industries to be innovative and competitive.
Metrology is essential for technical coordination and exchange of information. For a developing country like Ghana, metrology or accurate measurement is necessary for economic development because of the continuing increase in demand for improved measurement standards for use in various sectors of the economy.
The use of accurate measurements helps enhance increased productivity, leads to poverty reduction, brings fairness to parties engaged in trade and ensures quality health.
The regulation of measurements ensures a level playing field for all operators in the economy. In the case of farmers, for example, it ensures that they are given the correct payments for their produce.
If 20kg of tomatoes is valued at GH¢300, then that is the amount that should be paid to the farmer. Second, it ensures that all consumers also receive the correct amount of goods for their money.
If a consumer wishes to buy one kg of rice and the price to that weight is GH¢15, then that is what he/she will be given.
Third, the control of pre-packaged goods such as bottled water, fruit juice, food items and other products help reduce cheating on the part of the seller.
Fourth, the correct measurements of goods exported in bulk ensure that only the correct price, based on weight, is paid while at the same time the government is able to collect the appropriate taxes on exports also based on weights.
In the area of road safety, the regulation of measurements pays attention to speed limits, level of alcohol in the blood of drivers, vehicle weights and also appropriate vehicle loads allowed by law.
This helps avoid overloading, thereby reducing accident rates. Motor accidents lead to a significant drain on the scarce natural resources which could otherwise have been used in a more constructive manner to benefit the country.
We need to pay attention to this because overloaded vehicles lead to the destruction of our expensive road infrastructure not designed to cope with such overweights.
Besides, braking systems of vehicles not designed for such overloads also result in accidents while the verification of axle weighers and weighbridges for the enforcement of axle load on our roads helps increase the lifespan of the roads.
In the health sector, accurate measurement of basic parameters such as patient’s weight, temperature and blood pressure can lead to more accurate diagnoses.
This ensures improvements in health and quality health care, leading to higher productivity, favourable economic conditions and poverty reduction.
Furthermore, the calibration of medical and laboratory devices in the hospitals and medical laboratories enable laboratory technicians to come up with good laboratory results.
The effect is that doctors are able to diagnose and prescribe the right medication for the ailment, thus reducing cost of medical health delivery.
Again, calibration of pressure and temperature-measuring devices at Ghana Gas facilities in the Western Region has enabled them to resume their operations on time after their maintenance shutdowns.
Similarly, provision of verification services guarantees consumer protection which ensures fair trade, both locally and internationally, without which there will be cheating and rejection of exported products.
In today’s world, population growth, life expectancy, increasing international travel and trade, as well as innovation in modern medicine and manufacturing, have come to place a heavy burden on healthcare systems.
This burden is commonly felt in many developing countries, including Ghana, so getting measurements right improves road safety, patient outcomes, saves time and reduces costs.
Thus, socio-economic development is greatly dependent on metrology, so this must be greatly encouraged and supported by all stakeholders in the country.
The writer is Director of Corporate Communications, Ghana Standards Authority.