The Government of Ghana has launched a number of innovative systems in public service delivery such as paperless system at the ports, Ghana Digital Address System, e-Justice, e-parliament and the national ID card. These innovations are aimed at formalizing the economy through the establishment of a national database linking the country’s Passport Office, National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS), Driver and Vehicle Licensing Authority (DVLA), Ghana Revenue Authority among other public institutions. These innovative initiatives are backed by anticipated assurance that, they will help reduce corruption in the country, especially from the public institutions.
Taking into consideration the various efforts by government, some civil society actors and the private sector all aimed at bringing about efficiency public service delivery, Penplusbytes fashioned its 18th Tech Salon around the topic how tech driven innovations can support better public service delivery. Participants for this Tech Salon drew up a rich diverse group of participants from Ghana’s Civil Service, development practitioners, actors from the telecommunication industry, tech and development experts among others.
Our lead discussants for the day included:
Dr. Evans Aggrey-Darkoh, Public Policy Expert, University of Ghana;
Papa Arkhurst, E-Governance Expert;
Eugene Boadu, Head Corporate Affairs, mPedigree and
Bernard Adjoka, Senior IT Officer, Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority.
In what ways can innovation drive the efficient delivery of public services in Ghana?
Proper use of innovations in public service delivery promises faster and cost-effective provision of public services and improvements in consumer safety and public revenue mobilization. It will also facilitate the generation and processing of customer feedback to promote efficient provision of public services.
The participants, a select cohort of professionals widely exposed to the operations of public service delivery innovations in Ghana, reflected that the recently introduced online goods clearing innovations by the Ghana Ports and Harbors Authority was yielding benefits in plugged revenue loopholes and improved revenue collection. Through the adoption of online application processes, waiting times for identification documents like passports and drivers’ and vehicle licenses were also shortening.
MPedigree, a Ghana-based anti-counterfeiting solutions provider boasting footprints in many parts of Africa, was also mentioned for successfully using innovations to protect consumers and innovations against unsafe products and piracy.
The discussants however lamented some troubling bottlenecks affecting the optimal operations of some of the innovative systems deployed to enhance public service delivery in Ghana.
They noted with frustration that the innovations for expediting the clearance of goods at the country’s ports recently introduced by the Ghana Ports and Harbors Authority, fell short of integrating the internal operations of the organization with the new systems, leading to inadequate acceleration of the organization’s operations.
The wholesale adoption of foreign public service delivery innovations which is sometimes encouraged by the country’s foreign donors, was also identified to be highly inimical to encouraging effective home-grown innovations to tackle the myriad of challenges facing public service delivery in the country.
Poor public procurement practices, lack of proper coordination of operations in public bodies, cultural factors and low public-private collaborations to develop good solutions to address challenges in local public service delivery were some reasons cited for the lingering difficulties in deploying innovations to improve the provision of public services in Ghana.
To tap innovations for improved delivery of public services in the country, the discussants suggested there must be efficient generation and use of data to guide the design and delivery of public services. Similarly, new media innovations like the various social media platforms must be used to both educate the public and generate feedback on innovations for improved public service delivery.
Cultural norms that promote resistance to technology must be abandoned while best practices in using innovations to boost efficient provision of public services in other countries like South Korea are studied and adopted.
Conclusively, participants at this technology salon were of the view that the Ghanaian culture sees innovations as innate. Thus we should begin to regard innovations as a discipline which can be studied. Ghana’s educational system doesn’t teach how to be innovative, and our cultural orientation is affecting our innovative capacities. And of culture, it goes beyond customary structures. Our mentality, attitudes, way of reasoning all come into play.