Vice President Dr. Mahammudu Bawumia has announced that beginning first quarter of next year, the Ghana Card will be recognized as an electronic passport (e-passport) and as a valid travel document in some 197 countries and 44,000 airports across the world.
He said Ghana’s foreign missions abroad and the foreign missions of other countries in Ghana will also recognize the Ghana Card as an authentic travel document, adding that Ghanaians in the diaspora who have Ghana Card will, for instance, be able to travel to Ghana with their Ghana Card without going for a Ghana visa.
Dr. Bawumia said this will be possible because from next year, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) will be activating the e-passport function of the Ghana Card on its platform so it will be recognized in all 197 countries and 4,000 airports that are ICAO compliant.
Foreign embassies and high commissions across these countries will also be able to establish the identities of Ghanaians through their fingerprint and so even if one does not present the physical Ghana Card, they can still be identified and be served accordingly.
The Vice President was delivering a lecture on the topic “Transforming An Economy Through Digitalization – The Ghana Story” at the Ashesi University. It was part of his Bawumia Speaks Lecture Series.
The lecture focused on a myriad of digital infrastructure put in place to build systems that will leapfrog the development of the country into a digital economy.
Dr. Bawumia said the Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo led government has, since 2017 been building the components of a centralized digital system, which provides addresses for properties and locations, promotes transparency and accountability, provides efficient public services, tackles corruption, improves efficiency in the health and education sectors, enhances domestic revenue mobilization/tax collection and provides financial inclusion and a cash-lite economy.
One of the key components of the digital economy, Dr. Bawumia noted, was the national ID registration that produced the Ghana Card, which integrates a wide range of biometric date on individuals and is set to even do more for Ghana and Ghanaians in the coming years.
He explained that government has this year, been working with the International Civil Aviation Authority (ICAO) to globally activate the e-passport function of the Ghana Card and that has culminated in Ghana becoming the 79th member of the ICAO Public Key Directory (PKD) Community.
“This means that by the end of the first quarter next year, the Ghana Card will be recognized globally as an e-passport and can be read and verified in all ICAO compliant borders – that is 197 countries, 44,000 airports in the world,” he said. “When this happens, Ghana Card holders will be allowed to travel on any flight to Ghana.”
Dr. Bawumia said, furthermore, when the Ghana Immigration Service digital architecture is linked to the Ghana Card, soon, Diasporan Ghanaians who have Ghana Card should not have to obtain visas to return to Ghana.
He was proud to say that the Ghana Card project was implement by the National Identification Authority (NIA) and a local company called Margins “and we are proud of them.”
According to him, the Ghana Card project was started by former President John Agyekum Kufuor and it was abandoned for eight years, under the NDC governments. But since the current administration revived the project, it has captured at least 15.7 million people so far, and many more people will be registered in the coming year, particularly as people rush to register to beat the SIM registration deadline.
Births and Deaths
Dr. Bawumia said with Ghana Card, even dead people can be identified using their finger prints, adding that the digitalization of the Births and Deaths Registry is also almost complete and when it is done, it will become possible for newly born babies to be given ID numbers within one month of their birth, and then when they get to age six and have fully developed biometric features, they will be given Ghana Cards.
“What we met at the Births and Deaths Registry was messy, sad and chaotic – it was a department which had three separate databases working in silos and so it created room for wanton corruption and inefficiency. But all the three databases have been integrated into one to cut the revenue leakage and reduce the inefficiency,” he said.
Dr. Bawumia said that going forward, the births and deaths registry will also be integrated with the databases of the Ghana Police Service, health service, immigration service, the NIA and Ghana Statistical Service so that the records of births and deaths will be consistent across all those institutions.
The Vice President made the point that it is in integrating the various national ID databases that the tone would really be set for Ghana’s digital transformation and development, hence work is ongoing to create a centralize digital database which allows all databases to be able to communicate with each other and support national development.
He acknowledged that whereas digitalization is a powerful tool for accelerated economic transformation, its real benefits is long-term and therefore it takes a visionary leader to choose digitalization over a quick fix that will deliver electoral victory within a short time.
The Vice President therefore lauded President Akufo-Addo for choosing to digitalize the economy to lay the foundation for Ghana’s development in the long-term, and not just taking the short cut for his parochial political benefit.