After years of being in coma, the National Identification Authority (NIA) has revived the country’s identification project, with the issuance of a new card to President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo.
It marked the beginning of a new chapter for a project that has received millions in funding but has failed to achieve its objective ever since it was rolled out in 2007.
The NIA is working with the Management Systems Ltd (IMS) for the instant issuance of the cards for Ghanaians home and abroad.
The Vice-President, Dr Mahamudu Bawumia, also received his card at the official launch of the project Friday.
The President said the new identification card signalled the dawn of a new day in biometric identity management in Ghana, and the virtues of a public-private partnership arrangement in meeting the country’s development needs.
Addressing a ceremony on the premises of the NIA, President Akufo-Addo said the launch of the card constituted a practical demonstration of the fulfilment of yet another “promise of my party, the New Patriotic Party (NPP), made during the 2016 campaign.”
The President, prior to the event, also inaugurated the governing board of the NIA.
The public registration exercise for the project begins in November 2017 in the Greater Accra Region, to be replicated through the other regions one after the other.
Another milestone attained
He said after several years of demonstrated inability to do so, the NIA, under the tenure of a New Patriotic Party (NPP) administration, was about to commence the registration and instant issuance of national identity cards to all Ghanaian citizens, both at home and abroad, as prescribed by law.
“My presence at today’s event, together with the Vice-President of the Republic highlights the seriousness which my government attaches to the National Identification System project,” President Akufo-Addo said.
The President noted with pride that with his fullest endorsement, Vice-President Bawumia had ably spearheaded the technical and legal processes that had enabled the government to decide how to proceed with achieving a National e-ID system for Ghana which was beyond “needless controversy and polemics.”
He said the situation where different sectors of national institutions operated different biometric systems of information and data management was not the best.
Rather, the President said, assigning the collection and custody of biometric traits to a single institution “was safer and in line with current trends.”
Ensure security, integrity and confidentiality
The President, therefore, reminded the various stakeholders in the exercise of the need to ensure the integrity, security and confidentiality of identity data collected.
“It is important that the data collected is made available only to persons or institutions authorised by law to access the data and used only for the purposes for which the data was collected,” he stressed.
Features of the card
Giving information on the features of the new card, President Akufo-Addo observed that the new Ghana Card was a great improvement over the previous one, and met all international standards required of identity documents.
“For example, the national identity card has been enhanced to take advantage of new technologies such as tactile elements for the blind, chip embedding technology and iris capabilities in addition to taking all 10 fingerprints of an applicant,” he said.
Additionally, the President said, with a 128 kilobyte capacity, “the Ghana Card will enable other stakeholders to run their applications on the national identity card. Ultimately, the card would replace the sectorial identity cards in circulation, and shall be the only card to be used in transactions where identification is required as provided by law.”
One other unique feature of the national registration exercise, the President noted, was the fact that it would involve the registration of ages 0-5.
“This is a historic opportunity for us to sanitise and rationalise birth certification in Ghana and ensure social inclusion right from birth,” the President added.
Benefits of a secure national identity
The acting Executive Secretary of the NIA, Professor Kenneth Agyemang Attafuah, said the launch of the project marked a significant milestone in the country’s search, beginning in 1974, for a reliable national identification system that would give the people the regular benefit of a secured national identity, a formalised economy and a system of social inclusion and responsibility.
“It is my extreme pleasure to inform you by way of report that we have observed a number of significant milestones. Notably among them is the cleaning up of this very physical edifice that you see,” he said, in reference to the state of the national office of the NIA.
The Executive Chairman of the Information Management Systems (IMS), Mr Moses Baiden expressed appreciation to the President for reposing confidence in the ability of a local company to execute the project.
“This project demonstrates what can be achieved in the private sector if we put our minds to it and given the necessary support by the government,” he said.
He said the company and its partners were very proud that the card and the system were conceptualised, designed, built and manufactured in Ghana, saying it would deepen and strengthen the country’s democracy in addition to ensuring social inclusion and national security.
In June this year, the NIA indicated its preparedness to issue the card from September 15, 2017.
The Chief Executive of the authority, Prof. Kenneth Agyemang Attafuah, said the NIA was working with key stakeholders such as the National Information Technology Agency (NITA) to identify areas with low or non-existent internet availability to plan appropriately for the capturing of data and issuance of cards for residents in those communities.
“We’re working with NITA and the technical committee to map out this country and colour code in terms of availability of data connectivity so that before we roll out we know where connectivity may be a problem and then to develop auxiliary measures to address those deficits in connectivity.”
Although millions of cedis has been pumped into the NIA project since 2006, the Auditor-General in his 2015 report, indicated that about 1.5 million identification cards printed for distribution to Ghanaians were still in the custody of the NIA, defeating the purpose for which the cards were printed.
The NIA is responsible for the registration and printing of identity cards for Ghanaians following the passage of the National Identification Authority Act, 2006 (Act 707).
The A-G’s report blamed the situation on lack of funding their inability to distribute the printed cards as required.
The report stated that after the first phase of registration in 2006, the authority was expected to upgrade its system in 2009 to make it possible for citizens to have cards that would be recognised by all sectors of the economy.
However, auditors found that the authority did not upgrade the system, resulting in the inability to realise the objective of providing one identity card for a citizen.
NIA officers, however, told the A-G they were not receiving the necessary funding from the government to enable them to execute the authority’s planned activities.
The A-G observed that “the inability to achieve the objective of the project could also be due to ineffective planning.