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A thank you from two Ghana digitalization process beneficiaries

BY: Ajoa Yeboah-Afari

Recently, it was interesting to come across an online post by a Ghanaian visiting from the USA, who was evidently overwhelmed by his positive experience of the digitalization process underway here. I realised that the unknown visitor and I have something in common.

And he is clearly full of admiration for the ‘unopposed Chief of Digitalization’, Vice-President Mahamudu Bawumia. I confess that I, too, although previously apprehensive about tackling anything in the realm of technical, Information and Communications Technology (ICT) etc., now consider myself a proud digitalization convert!

Traditionally, when there is need for extraordinary wisdom, consultation to reach a difficult decision, the expression used is ‘conferring with the old lady’.

Yet, some recent experiences are leading me to conclude that there are people who see grey hair – the badge of old age – as synonymous with mental retardation or lack of ICT skills; or both.
In one incident, the attendants in a shop that sells computer wares, where I went to look for a cartridge/toner for my printer, made it clear that they thought the specifications I had put on paper, to make the transaction easier, had been written for me by someone else!

Another incident was when an Uber driver in an argument with me over the fare he quoted, which was higher than the fare the application had stated when I booked the ride, told me “the one who booked the trip can check for you.” When I asked if he thought me incapable of making an Uber booking, he had no answer.

Doubtless, to them my hair colour rules me out of modernity!
Well, I could have told them that I’m even a proud Bawumia convert, a digitalization disciple, so knowing the specifications of my printer cartridge, or booking an Uber ride, is, as the saying goes, ‘small beer’, in fact, child’s play!

Additionally, I’m now quite adept at using technology to make payments, participating in the growing paperless or paper-light systems. As explained by a source: Digitalization means to convert business processes over to use digital technologies, instead of analogue or offline systems such as paper or whiteboards.

In a nutshell, digitization refers to information, while digitalization refers to processes.
When I ventured into settling my utility services bills via mobile money (MoMo), after depositing money into my MoMo account, I was surprised at how easy it was. Again, there was no hassle when I paid my last Internet Broadband bill, and the confirmation by a text message was immediate.

So, encouraged, I decided to pay my water bill too, electronically, even though I was somewhat sceptical about if, and how soon, I would get a receipt. However, not only did I get a prompt confirmation text, a couple of hours later I also got a receipt by email! I was relieved – and impressed!

For years I have been sending my wards to go and pay my utility bills, but, thankfully, my wards are now free from those errands!

Prior to the above payments, last year, I was able to renew my passport through the online application system and have it delivered to me at home!
Of course it is thanks to the digital address system that the drivers of ride-hailing companies like Uber and Bolt are able to locate my house when I book a ride. Also, using the digital address, a visitor arrived at my gate without problem.

As for the benefits of the Ghana Card, enabling every Ghanaian to have a unique identification number, it would take a whole article to catalogue!
Certainly, I can understand the excitement of the Ghanaian visiting from the US, whose extremely positive experience with Digital Ghana, prompted him to post a glowing testimonial on social media about getting a Ghana Driver’s Licence in record time.

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Part of the visitor’s message reads:
“I am no politician, but I now realize and appreciate how much Bawumia’s digitization policy is transforming Ghana. We will thank him for this one day.

“I had a flight to catch back to the US (but) I decided to get a Ghana Driver’s Licence before leaving for the airport. I got to the DVLA head office, told them my story and they agreed to help me. I paid the exact requisite fees and they asked for my foreign licence.
“Within five minutes they were able to pull out my worldwide driving record (to find out) whether my licence had been linked to any criminal issues. They then asked me to do eye tests (etc.) and asked me to wait for 20 minutes while the licence was being processed.

“I tell you they even offered me coffee while I was waiting. Within an hour I got my Ghana licence!
“I have never had any such an experience anywhere in the world! Driver’s licence offices were where I have had my worst government experiences everywhere.
“Ghana DVLA of today made me feel proud of my country.
“After the process, I was expecting to be asked to “do something” but no. I couldn’t believe my experience. Nobody asked me (for a tip).

“In fact, if you have links to Dr Bawumia, please share (this) with him. I am sure he has received a lot of insults and cheap shots over his transformative digitization vision. A simple and nice non-political story such as this can do him a lot of mental good,” the visitor concludes.

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As the impressed compatriot observed, Dr Bawumia has been receiving “insults and cheap shots”, but it’s probably because ‘a hungry man is an angry man’. The dire economic situation in the country, doubtless makes it difficult for some people to appreciate the tremendous developments and social interventions under President Nana Akufo-Addo and his Vice.

Still, obviously, despite the advances, it’s only when one has money to send somewhere that the money transfer innovation, for example, becomes meaningful. Not surprisingly, the ability to cater for one’s family and dependants is clearly what most people would use to assess how well their country is doing.

Accordingly, the earlier the economy revives, the better people will be able to acknowledge all the fantastic progress Ghana is making, though going by international media reports, most countries, too, are battling a dreadful cost of living crisis.
But I have faith in the ability of the Akufo-Addo administration to resuscitate the economy.
In the meantime, I, too, say thank you, Dr Bawumia!
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