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Opinions of Wednesday, 16 January 2019

Columnist: Frank Owusu-Asamoah/Prosper Kwame Nartey

Hardware or software approach to development: The politicking of the NPP and NDC

The development of a country forms the basis for which a political party is voted into or out of power. When power changes hands in the politics of a country, it mostly means citizens want something better than the previous government could provide. How does the citizenry perceive the concept of development? Particularly, how do the two main political parties that have gotten the chance to rule under the dispensation of the fourth republic also understand development? Coming to a common understanding on the meaning of development will inform citizens’ choice for a particular political party and for the development of our democracy.

We live in a technologically driven society. The internet and social media has revolutionised the 21st century. A computer system consists of two main elements that is the hardware and software. This concept of the computer can be akin to the thinking of the two main political parties that have gotten the mantra of leadership under the fourth republic of Ghana.

The computer hardware is the collection of all the parts that you can physically see and touch. Some hardware components are easy to recognise such as the keyboard, monitor, mouse and system unit. Software is a set of instructions for a computer to perform specific operations. The basic function of the software is to enable the individual hardware components to communicate with one another. Without the software, the hardware may be connected together but will not be able to communicate to themselves to produce meaningful output for our use. Software can be a system software (operating systems like Windows, DOS, UNIX iOS and android), application software (Microsoft office word, excel, power point, video games, etc) or malicious software (which is deliberately developed to damage or compromise computer systems). Without these operating systems and other application software, your computer, your IPad, iPhone or android Smartphone is just a piece of flashy useless masterpiece. Both hardware and software are needed to be working together at the same time for a computer system to work properly.

The New Patriotic Party, NPP mostly has a software approach to development whiles the National Democratic Congress, NDC have a hardware approach to development. In spite of their seaming abysmal inclination towards their weaker limb, they have showed in deed and word, their affinity for one.

On 21stDecember, 2018, Gloria Afeku the current Tourism Minister and Hon Betty Krosbi Mensah were on Adom TV to have a panel discussion on the morning show dubbed mpensenpensenmu. As the show wore on, Hon Afeku from the NPP dared Hon Mensah from the NDC to mention at least ten developmental programmes/projects under their leaders off head. I admired these two great minds talk about their parties and the achievement of their political leaders. As I paid critical attention to these wonderful minds I deduced how both parties perceive the meaning of development of the nation. This goes a long way to influence the policies and programmes of these two parties in pursuing the development agenda in Ghana.

The NDC practices the hardware politics of development, where it perceives development mostly in brick and mortar or physical infrastructure, such that you can touch, feel and have the physical evidence that this is what my government has done. So Hon Betty Krosbi Mensah mentioned the Terminal three, the Circle interchange the Community based Secondary Schools, CHIP compounds and roads that were constructed under the erstwhile President John Dramani Mahama. The NPP can be said to practice the software approach of development where development is perceived in the form of policies and programs that improves the quality of life of the people, to better integrate the populace into the ill-conceived and disintegrated system. In this vein, Hon Afeku set out, stating Free SHS, Nations Builders Corps (NABCO), Planting for Food and Jobs policy, Youth in Afforestation, Reinstating of allowances for Trainee Teachers and Nurses and Revamping the National Health Insurance Scheme. Obviously these are policies that cannot be seen physically with the eyes like a monument, yet they help improve the quality of life of the people, making them well placed to properly interact with and be integrated into the system.

To better understand this latent but true phenomenon that has plagued our dear country Ghana, a critical look at the development track records of the parties can be analysed. Perhaps when Chairman Rawlings took over the reins of Ghana, because of the under development of the nation, he embarked on a lot of physical infrastructural projects in a bid to develop the Nation. This culminated into politics of roads and bridges. Then the quest for School blocks and health centres cropped in with equal momentum. This tradition perhaps has sunk down into the NDC as the real meaning of development and the tradition has been carried on. Under Rawlings, Atta Mills and John Dramani Mahama, the NDC has embarked on physical projects as the sure means of developing the republic of Ghana. But we all agree that development goes beyond just brick and mortar (infrastructure).

Software are specially written codes, meant for sale, which we mostly don’t want to buy. We want to get a friend's copy on a CD, or download a cracked version from the internet. The original applications come with frequent updates for fixing bugs and online or on-site support from the vendors but most people prefer the free versions. Some users of computers and other ICT gadgets would not make any investments in software, if their systems could function, no matter how slow and intermittent. As the software aspect of the nation's development can easily and conveniently be ignored or overlooked to the boos and jeers of the exploited masses, the NDC has been the greatest beneficiary.

The government is formed from amongst the people. It is therefore not surprising that both parties are running with the mind-set of a portion of the populace.

Very few individuals and organizations, especially in Ghana commit financial resources to the optimal operation of their computer systems (including smart phones) by way of acquiring software. Those who do this are seen and branded as wasteful and imprudent.

This is how the NPP is being treated, albeit the massive work being done in terms of "software aspect of development"-governance systems integration, optimization and Human-System interface development but cannot be seen as a physical structure, in the brick and mortar form. But these are social interventions that cannot be ignored. A nation that is now struggling to put together, a national database of its citizens is a clear case of trying to install many different application software on a computer (with its connected hardware) that has no operating system (OS) installed. In practical sense, it is not possible to succeed! When the operating system is installed, then can other software applications, hardware and their respective drivers be installed. The NPP 1 and 2 can only be applauded for the bold steps taken towards the implementation of the National Identification System; better late than never. The fact that the NDC spent eight years in government without continuing from where President Kufuor left off is a confirmation of their suspected repugnance to the 'software' aspect of our national development.

It must be noted however, the fact that a party is being described as a software or a hardware inclined, does not mean it doesn’t cross paths to engage in either hardware or software developmental agenda. The point that is being established is that the NPP predominantly has a software approach to development whereas the NDC has a hardware approach to development.

If the 41 campaign promises that were touted by the vice president, Dr Mahamudu Bawumia on the 31st of December, 2018 as having been fulfilled are anything to go by. You will agree with this hard truth. He outlined them as: Free SHS, restoration of teacher training allowances, restoration of nursing training allowances, Zongo Development Fund, renewed focus on agriculture through the Planting For Food and Jobs program, National ID Cards, National Property Digital Address System, digitized clearance of goods at the ports through paperless system, Development Authorities (Northern, Middle Belt and Coastal), One District One Factory program, One Village One Dam program, One District One Warehouse program, Nation Builders Corps program (NaBCo), National Entrepreneurship and Innovation Program, rehabilitation of VALCO to resume operations, leverage our natural resources to obtain a $2 billion innovative infrastructure financing arrangement with Sinohydro, establish integrated bauxite and aluminium industry, mobile money interoperability, reduce electricity prices, reduce the hardship in obtaining a driver’s license, reduce the hardship in obtaining a passport, reduce the hardships in renewing the national health insurance, establishment of an Office of the Special Prosecutor on Corruption, reviving Ghana’s railways, transparent allocation of Ghana’s oil blocs, reversal of the trend of declining economic growth, restoration of discipline in the management of our public finances and we have delivered with lower fiscal deficits, passage of a fiscal Responsibility, establishment of a Fiscal Council, establishment of a Financial Stability Council, reduction in inflation to single digit, reduced interest rates, relatively stable exchange rate even in the midst of global volatilities, reversal of Ghana’s trade position with the rest of the world from deficit to surplus, reduced and abolished 17 different taxes in two years, revived the NHIS-cleared the GHC1.2 billion arrears inherited under the NHIS, to move away from a predominance of sole sourcing to tendering in procurement, a change from destructive galamsey activities to a more regulated small scale mining activities, increased by 50% the portion of the share of the PWDs of the DACF, doubled the Capitation Grant and created six new regions. None of these can be seen or touched; all are 'software' kind of development.

An online portal's attempt to publicise the achievements of the John Mahama-led NDC in the Greater Accra region further vindicated our position in the list, thus: International Maritime Hospital (IMAH) – Tema, Kotoka International Airport: New Arrival Hall & Cargo Center (Accra), New equipment at K.I.A, Offices at the cargo center, Kotoka International Airport, The new cargo center at Kotoka, the all new cargo center, Ghana Civil Aviation Training Academy, JOB 600 (Office complex for parliamentarians), Housing Project (Saglemi), University of Ghana Teachings Hospital (Legon), Court Complex (Accra), ShaiOsu-Doku District Hospital (Dodowa), Housing Project (Tema), Greater Accra Regional Hospital (Ridge-Accra), Nkrumah Circle Interchange (Accra), Housing Project (Ashaiman/Borteyman), Nyamedua city Housing Project (Kpong), 225 MW Karpower plant (Tema), Resourcing of key institutions: 500 vehicles presented to educational institutions, New helicopters, hanger and other equipment for the air force, marine police resourced, new buses for the millitary, regeneration housing project (Adenta), Water desalination Project (Teshie-Nungua), Sakumono sea defence project, National data centre, New office complex for ministry of foreign affairs and regional integration, sea defence project (Ada and Keta), Kpone water project, Kpone Thermal plant, Business processing and outsourcing centre, cold stores (prampram), American house-Ashalley Botwe road, Giffard road (37 roundabout to Labadi Junction, Accra), Dansoman dual carriage highway, Burma camp road, Spintex Road bypass, TeshieNungua-Sakumono beach road, Ashaiman roads, Awoshie-pokuase road, Adenta community day School, Kwabenya day School, Adenta water project, Bukom Sports Emporium, Dansoman School complex, etc.

The NDC has had 16 years out of the 26 years of the fourth republic in addition to the 10 years of the PNDC, whiles the NPP has had 10 years in total out of same. If you ever wondered why the Ghanaian society is in so much disarray, the reason is simple. We have spent 26 years of our life as a country, buying computers and their accessories with the systemically inherent inaccuracies, imprudence, poor decision-making skills and plain thievery, whereas we have spent just 10 years in trying to acquire the software including the operating system, drivers for all the hardware, antivirus and so on, also equally fraught with suspected shady deals. The computers are as useless as can be imagined, without the operating system. Ghana has been connecting computer hardware peripherals to a computer that has no operating system installed on it. If we will ever catch up with our contemporary trailblazers of development, we must invest in the 'software' aspect of development, thus getting the systemic fundamentals established, the basic of which is the compilation of a credible database of the citizenry. This will form the platform upon which all human interactions within the system will be appreciated, and our efforts not overlooked. The National Identification card in its current form and shape will require every citizen to interact with the system at every point in time, as the TIN and other modes of identification will be required whenever accessing every form of public social service. Investment in the human resource base, by eliminating militating barriers to education. This will create an inclusive economy in which the farmer, the commercial driver, the carpenter, the welder, the tailor as well as the lawyer, the medical doctor, the Engineer, the politician, the pastor, the journalist and everyone else feels part of the system, and that is what the NPP is doing now.

Frank Owusu-Asamoah
(frankofak@gmail.com)

Prosper Kwame Nartey
(narteyprosperkwame@gmail.com)