Ghana: Achieving quantifiable policy-making perfection through transparent data insights & computation

By Kwabena G. Osei-Bonsu & Eugene K. Agbo
Over the past three decades, the Ghanaian economy has experienced a skyward trajectory of progressive economic growth and development. Nonetheless, today, it is fraught with a significant number of challenges the severely afflict transformational growth, redistribution, social equality and sustainability.
The resilience and sturdy growth of the Ghanaian economy now faces a series of tests. Ghana, currently faces an unnerving economic and financial crisis which is a culminated result of pre-existing vulnerabilities and substantial external shocks. Distressingly high altitudes of corruption, an unrestrained increase in fiscal deficits and public debt levels, combined with the demoralising effects of the COVID-19 and the Russian-Ukraine war have led to a sharp deterioration in investor confidence, accelerated inflation and a shrill currency depreciation.
Ghana now finds itself in an IMF program seeking to reorganise and stabilise its economic fortunes towards a brighter future. In making inroads towards restoring and sustaining macroeconomic stability and achieving overall socio-economic prosperity, it is imperative for Ghanaian policy makers to prioritise smart and effective governance by leveraging data-driven insights to make shrewder, sustainable, long-termist policy decisions. The benefits of data-driven policy making are incalculable.
Data is the essential elixir of effective policymaking. Today, the abundance of data has forced a global rethink on how we approach human governance and policy making. Universally, there has been a gradual embrace in employing and leveraging big data analytics in the process of public policy formulation and improving the efficacy of public sector services.
Indeed, data has now become the spine of informed global decision-making that continues to shape our governance landscape to be more responsive and efficient in identifying and resolving societal challenges. The continued promotion of data-driven policy making as observed by Bright & Margetts (2016), comes from a conceptual and practical place where governments identify advantageous methods of leveraging data to ensure an enhanced means of earmarking of resources, quantifying success, and reducing the running costs of government-administered programs.
The use of big data analytics in the planning, design, service delivery, and evaluation phases of policy formulation augments citizen satisfaction and smart governance – which ensures an accurate, ready, and context-positioned public policy system.  Moreover, big data insights enhance policy formation, implementation & performance by strengthening decision-making based on evidence & offering expedient public opinion on the policy and its outcomes. It is on this empirical claim that Sarker et al. (2018) assert that, to achieve effective and citizen-centred public governance and administration, there must be the existence of a secure repository of “accurate, available, discoverable, and useable data”.
In recent years, the Government of Ghana has embarked on a commendable digitalization agenda to drive economic growth and development, reinforced by a commitment to leveraging transparent data insights and computation in policymaking.
The implementation of a national biometric identification system and a digital property address system are but a few examples of how the sub-Saharan country has made utility of big data and technological innovation to simplify living for all Ghanaians. Nonetheless, despite the fact that Ghana has recognized the pivotal role of data-driven decision-making, there still exists significant lapses in the efficient utility of big data analytics in the public administration process. This article seeks to investigate the potential of big data analytics and computation for public policy systems in Ghana and identify the benefits of data-driven decision-making for smart governance.
To begin with, factoring in big data insights in the process of policy formation promotes citizen-based participation in the overall decision process. The most fundamental metric for evaluating the success or efficacy of a public administration decision or policy is by measuring the favourability of such policy in the eyes of the people for which the policy is designed to serve – the citizen. Gathering data insights from the lenses and perspectives of the Ghanaian citizenry ensures broad representation and inclusion & sets the tone for accurately locating the heart’s pulse of the general populace to be able to identify the true public sentiment and challenges.
This then allows for the design of commensurate policies to resolve these problems in a sustainable and efficacious fashion. Big data analytics encapsulates the inclusion of citizens’ opinions in the process of decision-making, making it easier for public administration services and institutions to determine whether a policy is having the anticipated impact for the people for whom it is formulated. Ghana, by embracing data-driven decision making models, will further expand stakeholder involvement which is imperative for the policy design phase, thereby offering policymakers real-time granular knowledge for creating policy frameworks that are efficient and find mass & sensible favour with its citizenry.
Secondly, data-driven policy implementation paves way for better compliance, supervision and identification of irregularities that may affect public administrative actions and decisions. Identifying mistakes or irregularities forms a significant composition of a public administrative body’s monitoring system. Big data analytics and computation augments this process by locating what may be policy irregularities or anomalies and allows for the public power in charge of maintaining and supervising the sustainable efficiency of the policy to act in a timely fashion to resolve any adverse interferences.
As spelt out by Xu & Liu (2022), big data allows for the expedient discovery of irregularities via the assistance of predictive and behavioural analytics, which can even highlight potential policy implementation shortfalls even before they happen in real time. Guenduez (2010) submits that, the application of proper data models may even reveal anomalies with a probability of up to 95% ! Ghana can employ the use of big data to identify probable instances of tax evasion, healthcare and public infrastructure anomalies and mitigate them or prevent them from happening altogether. The supervisory and risk prevention function of Ghanaian public agencies therefore severely improves with the use of large data insights.
Finally, leveraging data insights allows for the rapid and efficient scaling of public delivery services. Government agencies, by harnessing the potential of large data insights can significantly improve the quality in the delivery of public services. ‘Smart’ governance is achieved, when a bulwark of public services is delivered in a manner that meets the needs of the citizenry in a timely and cost-efficient manner. Technological advancement and innovation has created vehicles that allow for the most logical and efficient delivery of public services in all parts of the world today to meet consumer satisfaction.
By gathering and analysing a host of datasets, governments find a durable ability to boost public service delivery by competently restructuring processes, decreasing wait times & catering to individual necessities. Ghana can employ the continued use of big data to refine and improve services such electricity generation and distribution, water networks, social housing and other important services. The use of large data models will help better understand the behavioural patterns of the Ghanaian customer to better understand their demands and provide public services in line with such needs. It will also ensure the optimal functioning of the service provider’s functions.
In conclusion, data insights must form a central part of the contemporary analysis of Ghanaian governance. By harnessing the power of data, Ghana is not only fashioning out more effective policies, but also building a more resilient and prosperous future for its citizens. Data-driven decision-making will drive Ghanaian policymakers to make more informed choices, provide well-ordered and efficient public services, and eventually build a more flourishing and inclusive civilisation for all Ghanaians.
  • Bright J., Margetts H. (2016). Big data and public policy: Can it succeed where e-participation has failed?Policy & Internet, 8(3), 218–224.
  • Guenduez A. A., Mettler T., Schedler K. (2020). Technological frames in public administration: What do public managers think of big data?Government Information Quarterly, 37(1), 101406.
  • Sarker M. N. I., Wu M., Hossin M. A. (2018).Smart governance through bigdata: Digital transformation of public agencies [Conference session]. 2018 International Conference on Artificial Intelligence and Big Data (ICAIBD).
  • Xu B., Liu Y. (2022). The role of big data in network public opinion within the colleges and universities.Soft Computing, 26, 10853–10862.
    Kwabena G. Osei-Bonsu & Eugene K. Agbo are co-founders of AfricaPolls, a multidisciplinary Africa focused public opinion and data company that specialises in market research and analytics. We collect, analyse, and interpret data from online panels and surveys to provide insights into public opinion, consumer behaviour, and market trends. Through responsible and ethical polling strategies, we aim to assist for-profit multinational corporations, charitable organisations and governments to make informed decisions driven by reliable data insights on the African continent.

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