EXCERPT | Ghana: ICTs in Public Management

EXCERPT | Ghana: ICTs in Public Management

By S. K. Mahama Ewurah
College of Public Administration, Huazhong University of Science and Technology, Wuhan, China

Image Attribute: School pupils have benefited from the UNDP's intervention in creating ICT awareness and spreading computer literacy within rural districts of Ghana / Photo credit: UNDP in Ghana

Image Attribute: School pupils have benefited from the UNDP's intervention in creating ICT awareness and spreading computer literacy within rural districts of Ghana / Photo credit: UNDP in Ghana

It is obvious that no government or business operation can be done without some kinds of involvement of ICTs in the process. However, research shows that the policies and implementation of ICTs in delivering public services face several challenges in different countries due to country level peculiarities and cultures. These challenges are socio-technical from the perspective of soft and hard implications of the eGovernment systems.

The Ghana economy was in decline within a period from 1974 to 1980 and couldn’t utilize any ICTs to overcome the constraints at the time [1]. The low productivity was partly attributed to policy failures, the heavy hand of bureaucracy, mismanagement, staff redundancy, inefficient state enterprises, and poor infrastructure. The devastating features challenged the capacity of the civil service for implementing any initiative and policies and also affected performance and morale resulting in the low productivity [2]. The country could not do otherwise then go in Economic Recovery Programme (ERP) and the Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP) [3].

Ghana is located on the West Coast of Africa and formerly known as Gold Coast. It shares boundaries with Burkina Faso, Togo, la Cote d’Ivoire and the Gulf of Guinea covering a total land area of 238,500 square kilometers. In July 2013, the population of Ghana was estimated to be 25,199,609 from over one hundred ethnic groups with over 25 ethnic languages.

The problems of implementing the reforms stemmed partly from the lack of leadership and lack of innovations and technology in the service. These challenges, at that time, rekindled the observation of the first president that “it amazes him that up to the present many civil servants do not realize that we are living in a revolutionary era”. The country has wasted time serving colonial masters and cannot any archaic snail-pace methods of work that obstruct progress. He told civil servants to develop a new orientation to enable them to eliminate all elements towards red tapeism and waste [4]. This supposedly marked the beginning of thinking “outside the box” and embracing innovation but it wasn’t until in the late 1990’s, Ghana government faced problems with the upgrading of its personnel management system and embraced the use of ICTs to automate the processing, retrieval, and storage of personnel records of its civil service staff [5] .

This brought about many decisions to reform the civil service workforce across all government agency and departments for critical administrative reforms through the application of ICTs. The reforms further demanded that the structural adjustment programs should include goals for the civil service to improve their management and reduce labor costs by downsizing government staff in the public-sector workforce through ICTs in order to get loans from the IMF and World Bank. Despite the foregoing efforts, the civil service was still lacking the capacity to implement subsequent reforms due to the failure in the registry system to keep data recordings about the number of staff in the civil service. The data available were riddled with numerous inaccuracies including records of non-existent staff, position and tenure and inaccurate data on employees due to the manual handling of the registry.

The manual system for tracking staff contained a lot of errors and needed some information management tools to correct it. Because of these problems, the workforce reductions as required by funders and donors were not met. Ghana, therefore, developed its first Human Resource (HR) information systems in the civil service in 1998. The efforts to build the HR system lasted almost four years longer than projected to implement due to both technical and social reasons but finally developed. The data inaccuracies in the manual records still caused problems, as some employees didn’t get their salaries for the subsequent months in the new system.This called for the need to do more software programming and data validation. There were still pockets of data inaccuracies in the electronic records but the country forged ahead to use back-office database systems that promised greater data accountability and accuracy. Now management was able to take right policies and decisions about personnel management using the new HR information system [2]. Although it was a difficult experience, the HR system provided early technological infrastructure to pioneer eGovernment services in the country. 

Subsequently, after the elections in 2000, the Ministry of Communications and Technology lead Ghana into building telecommunication infrastructure that can bring about eGovernment services in the country.The earlier initiatives concentrated on refining its existing administrative structures to function as the databases for Ghana as the national clearinghouse for information in consultation with: The Office of the President; Ministry of Finance (MoF), Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA), Ministry of Health (MoH), Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MoFA), Ministry of Trade and Industry (MoTI), Parliament including Ten Regional Coordinating Councils. This also resulted in the development of ICT4AD policy document in 2003 (this policy document is at the heart of this study and carries its own topic). Also, in 2006, Ghana launched eGhana project in preparation for its eGovernment strategy in the country. The goal of this project is to improve the development of the ICT sector, IT Enabled Services, support local ICT businesses and encourage the development of eGovernment government communications and applications. Among the many objectives, the focus is to implement a web portal, create standards to support the interoperability of its computer systems, set up a high-speed network for data sharing, improve the training of government ICT-related employees and improve the security of government databases [6].

Ghana is now struggling with new issues to develop the interest in developing and using ICT/eGovernment services in the country [7]. The use of mobile phones has exploded in Ghana, in using mobile communications in accessing audiovisual content. However, a policy maker remarked that most of the content involves sports, entertainment and rather than addressing the challenges of education, employment and empowerment [8]. There is also growing concern that government must develop an Internet culture in the country to lure people into using services online to promote eGovernment services in the country. To meet this objective, there must be assurance of systems integrity. This calls for some legal reforms to litigate Internet fraud and cyber-related issues.

The Communication and Information Directorate of Ghana is refining their systems with strategies to connect together all administrative processes and to increase the performance (e.g. minimizing the downtime of computer servers and acquiring equipment) of the systems. This will bring trust in the eGovernment services as the systems become more reliable and trustworthy.

Recommendation:

First, the advent of ICT has inevitably restructured the way; processes are operated and therefore, policy makers must make right responses in the manner; ICT reforms are formulated to support and manage new types of government practices albeit within the local content. For instance, ICTs have affected interpersonal connectivity that has greater implications for organizations, society, public welfare and collective action.The government must match along these trends to remain internationally competitive.

Second, the technology underpinning ICT in the country from developed countries, the government should where necessary re-make these technologies in local content to uniquely benefit the local people. The government should also support and recognize these trends including small ventures that often rely on technology for their businesses and National Information Technology Agency (NITA) should be proactive in enhancing the coordination among all sectors to ensure uniform digital integration and adoption of the latest ICTs such as Internet of Things and Industry4.0 to make the ICT more beneficial.

Cite this Article:

Mahama Ewurah, S.K. (2017) The Concept of eGovernment: ICT Policy Guidelines for the Policy Makers of Ghana. Journal of Information Security, 8, 106-124. https://doi.org/10.4236/jis.2017.82008

Copyright Details:

Copyright © 2017 by author and Scientific Research Publishing Inc.This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution International (CC BY4.0).http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

References:

[1]. Rothchild, D. (1991) Ghana: The Political Economy of Recovery. Lynne Rienner, Boulder.  

[2]. Ayee, J.R.A. (1991) Civil Service Reform under the Provisional National Defence Council. Journal of Management Studies, 7, 1-12.  

[3]. Nkrumah, S.A. (1992) Aspects of Administrative Reforms in Ghana under the PNDC Government. University of Ghana, Ghana.  

[4]. Nkrumah, K. (1962) Statement at the Seminar for Senior Civil Servants at Winneba. The Government Printer, GP/1384/2,500/4/61-62.  

[5]. Cain, P. (2001) Automating Personnel Records for Improved Management of Human Resources. In: Heeks, R.B., Ed., Reinventing Government in the Information Age, Routledge, London, 135-155. 

[6]. World Bank (2012) Governments Can Save Up to 75% with Electronic Payment Program. Washington DC.  

[7]. ITU (2009) State of ICT Statistics Collection and Dissemination in Ghana. 7th World Telecommunication/ICT Indicators Meeting, Cairo, 3-5 March 2009.  

[8]. Perrin, A. (2015) Social Media Use 2005e2015. Pew Research Center. 
http://www.pewinternet.org/2015/10/08/social-networking-use-2005-2015/    
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