Barring any unforeseen circumstances, every new-born child delivered in Ghana next year will get, within a few months, a Ghanacard number, Vice President Mahamudu Bawumia has announced.
Speaking at a public lecture to shed more light on the digital strides chalked up by the Akufo-Addo government since it assumed office as part of measures to make public services more accessible and affordable, Dr. Bawumia said the actual card will be issued when the child is grown and the biometrics are fully formed (after age 6).
This, Dr. Bawumia said, forms part of digital reforms being undertaken at the Births and Deaths Registry to make it more in tune with the times and provide better protect information on the citizens and residents of Ghana.
The Vice President made the disclosure while speaking on the theme ‘Transforming an Economy Through Digitalisation – The Ghana Story’ on Tuesday, November 2, 2021 at the Ashesi University, Berekuso, and said the transformation at the Birth and Deaths Registry is welcome news.
“Easily one of the most depressing visits I have paid to a government office during my time as Vice President was to the Births and Deaths Registry headquarters. There was clearly insufficient investment in the institution. It was messy and it was sad. It turned out that the Births and Deaths Registry had three separate databases as registers for births and deaths, and those databases were in silos. It is not surprising, therefore, that corruption and fake birth certificates thrived in this environment,” he noted.
“Thankfully, the process of digitising the records is almost complete and the three databases have been cleaned up and integrated. Furthermore, we are integrating the Births and Deaths Register with the databases of Ghana Health Service, National Identification Authority, Ghana Statistical Service, Immigration and the Police – so that the record of births and deaths will be consistent across all these databases.”
Ghanacard set to become e-passport
He revealed that Ghana’s unique biometric identification card, the Ghanacard, will soon become an electronic passport for all Ghanaians.
Dr. Bawumia spoke extensively on the crucial roles the Ghanacard is playing as a catalyst for the digitisation drive.
The newest function of the Ghanacard, the Vice President revealed, will be its use as an e-passport for Ghanaian citizens travelling back home.
“It is not widely known that the Ghanacard is also an electronic passport (e-passport) that contains the biometric information which can be used to authenticate the identity of travellers,” Dr. Bawumia said.
“We have been working with the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) this year to globally activate the e-passport function of the Ghanacard, and I am happy to announce that on 13th October 2021, Ghana officially became the 79th member of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) Public Key Directory (PKD) community. The ICAO Public Key Directory (PKD) is a central repository for exchanging the information required to authenticate e-passports.”
Throwing more light on the e-passport function, Dr. Bawumia said the PKD allows border control authorities to confirm in less than ten seconds that the e-passport was issued by the right authority, has not been altered, and is not a copy or cloned document.
Dr. Bawumia added that a ceremony will be held in Montreal, Canada, during the first quarter of 2022 to enable what is known as a Country Signing Certificate Authority to be imported into the ICAO PKD System.
“This means that the Ghanacard will be recognised as an e-passport and can be read and verified in all ICAO-compliant borders (in 197 countries and 44,000 airports in the world).”
“When this happens, holders of the Ghanacard will be allowed to board any flight to Ghana. Furthermore, the good news for diasporan Ghanaians is that when the Ghana Immigration Service is linked to the NIA architecture, diasporan Ghanaians who hold the Ghanacard should not have to obtain visas to travel to Ghana.”
The Vice President also revealed that the Ghanacard, which is already valid for travel to all ECOWAS countries, is being linked with existing passports so that travel history will be preserved.
The world-class features of the Ghanacard have been acknowledged by international experts, and Dr. Bawumia expressed delight that national ID project was “executed by the NIA in collaboration with a world-class Ghanaian private sector firm (IMS)”.
Outlining a long list of innovations either undertaken or on the cusp of take-off, Vice President Bawumia announced, among others, the impending launch of an E-Pharmacy which will involve the digitisation of pharmacies in Ghana.
“Patients or people generally face difficulties when trying to find medicines in pharmacies. They have no way of knowing which pharmacies have the medicines. They could go to five pharmacies before getting lucky. Sometimes patients are directed to go to specific pharmacies to buy the medicine, denying them any advantage there might be of choosing from a lower-priced shop. People also don’t know what the prices of the medicines are at different pharmacies, and tend in their time of vulnerability to just buy at the prices offered when they find the drug. It is also difficult to tell whether the medicines are genuine or fake. There is also the problem of drug-abuse with prescription medicines like Tramadol.
“To address these problems, in 2019 I challenged the Pharmaceutical Society of Ghana to digitise the operations of pharmacies in Ghana. Following this and working with my office, the Pharmacy Council in collaboration with the private sector has completed work on a digital platform for all pharmacies in Ghana – and a pilot of 45 pharmacies is currently ongoing.
“Basically, the digital E-Pharmacy platform will offer the opportunity to everyone through a mobile phone to upload your prescriptions and find out which pharmacies near you have the medicines. Secondly, you can compare prices for the same drug offered by different outfits so that you can buy from the lowest-priced pharmacies.”
Consumers will also be able to order drugs and pay for them on their phones through mobile money or GhQR (Scan and Pay), etc. The medicines are then delivered to customers at home through a courier service.
As well, “The E-Pharmacy will enable Ghana to address the issue of drug-abuse. Those prescribed, controlled medicines like Tramadol, for example, will only be given a one-time CODE sent via SMS (once the prescription is uploaded) to use at the pharmacy. The e-Pharmacy platform will also check fake or counterfeit medicines, because the platform will be linked to the Food and Drugs Authority (FDA) which will monitor the batch numbers of all products in real-time. Any drug for which the FDA does not have a batch number will be classified as fake.”
The E-Pharmacy is scheduled for launch before end of the year, making Ghana the first country in sub-Saharan Africa to have a national scale E-Pharmacy – and one of only a few countries in the world with a national scale E-Pharmacy.
The lecture was attended by members of academia, students, the clergy, chiefs and other members of the general public, and was the latest by Vice President Bawumia aimed at getting the citizenry, particularly the youth, to have a greater appreciation of the work being done in the digital space, and solicit their views on other areas which may need special attention.