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Opinions of Thursday, 2 November 2017

Columnist: A-K Adam

Poor understanding of I.T. knowledge and management by government policy initiative and implementation in Ghana – The hullabaloos’ on medias and airwaves

It is sad to constantly reading and hearing what is happening in Ghana economy with its political interjections across the media landscape on every policy initiated by a government in Ghana. The aim of this article is to narrate and advise both government and the citizenry and also the computer software developers or internet security technocrats about the way and manner we handle important initiatives despairingly. This is to add a voice of Management expertise on current policies and happenings that surrounds certain policies implementation as sagas.

First and foremost, it is important for every government to set up any policy it deem it fit for the nation irrespective of any political party in power but it is also important for the government to always do due diligence of any creation of policy before making it public. Ironically, it appears that every policy in Ghana is done at a rush manner because of the constant perceived of some public outcry anytime any government institute a policy and then try to outdoor it or implement such policy into the economy. Let’s put politics aside and do critical and constructive critique of policies in Ghana rather than always trying to win political points be it a government in power or an opposition party, which is out of government.

It is important for government to always try as much as possible to consider management by efficiency, which simply means knowing what is right and doing it right. If government is putting up a policy without considering how efficient and effective it would be, then, every citizen has the right to criticize such decision. But is it true that, only when a policy is implemented and in action, is the time one could determine whether such policy implemented is efficient and effective. This is the more reason why government must always perform feasibility studies, piloting, test amend and test severally and also engage other scholars or technocrats across the political landscape in Ghana for their input or affirmation of the policy as designed, since we are all Ghanaians.

If such is always done, I don’t think that any opposition member will turn round to badly discuss or criticize the implementation of any policy. Governments always fail in this manner of management practice, which must be incorporated into to the way and manner they create policies by involving and engaging opposition in any policy discourse. Not that, a sitting government create and implement, and for opposition to hold press conferences to state their dissatisfaction to the media landscape. I don’t think this is the way forward as a country just in the name of democracy and freedom of speech.

In fact, it is not a good practice for governments to just believe that after going through the procurement processes and then selected a potential contractor/bidder and handed over the contract is going to yield a perfect objective of the policy or programme at hand, no. There should always be another expert knowledge and ideas as to what the winner of the contract or the contractor produces in a form of seeking these experts knowledge for competence in delivery of the service.

Besides, it seems the practice of governance processes and procedures in this country are not up to standard, simply, because governments have not been able to implement a single policy with an overall support of the masses especially, those who know how. It is something that current and successive governments must work on to achieve, in that, at least majority of the populace will have understanding of what is to be implemented and how successful or achievable it will be. But if we do everything in this country in terms of party lines, only to score political points just because of promises in the party’s manifestoes then we are bad managers of the economy.

It seems also that, governments have failed to understand the concept of Management Information Systems (MIS), and its applications and implications if not well practiced. This simply refers to data designed into systems, converted into information from both internally and externally to managers to enable them to make timely and effective decisions. The question is, how accurate are those policy decisions taken for the people to trust and follow and do as they are told? Basically, this refers to the paper work that is presented by the government to the winner of the bid as a contract, but also what the contractor produces as finish production of the job are those matters and issues that should help the government to make proper decisions. If such does not conform to plans then it will always become a failure.

The essence of all these is that, I expect every technocrat or specialist in Ghana to always perform and act professionally with due diligence in their criticism of government policies in public and in all media types. This is because, if a policy or programme is not implemented and put into action, you will never know whether it will be achievable or not and therefore, quickly running down every policy that government initiates and introduces without putting a contribution through the right channel as a professional.

And then using media airwaves is unprofessional and lacks technocratic morality, which is bad management expertise in practice. Professionals and experts must always follow due processes and channels in adding their voices or expertise to work for mother Ghana rather than always seeking to score political points. The same way is that ruling governments must always understand and pay attention to concerns raised by members of the public if it comes to their attention officially/formally and thereby not rubbishing or disregarding such effort made by a citizen. Because, these are the main reasons why other people always resort to the media airways to air out their knowledge of a particular issue or programme which in effect causes confusing and stumbling block to every progress that the governments want to make or do. This is always a problem in Ghana.

For example, looking at the recent happenings in Ghana about the current government introducing its programmes and policies, it has all received mockery and laughing stocks from some people of the public. That is, the SHS placement system, free education, digital addressing system and the general digitalization policies the current government enrolled so far, and each of these policies has received negative comments which government will always have to come back several times to explain matters to Ghanaians as clarification for understanding.

For me, I think because of the four (4) year period of rule of government, make every government to rush on policies and programmes at all times in this country since the inception of the 1992 constitution. Yes, technological systems are developed to help mankind or any entity to work fast, quickly, efficiently and effectively. And these are the main purposes of technology and nothing else. But since, technology is created and design by human beings, it has its own challenges that it brings upon the users of such devices, no doubt about that.

Therefore, the governments has not really done well in the execution of SHS placement system since, no one knows what the general process is in that policy, it is only the government (may be Ministry of Education and WAEC), and the I.T. officers in charge of the programme policy. But I must say that they have not done well to show us professionalism and how good technocrats they are in handling such programme, in which the process brings a lot of problems for condemnation by the public. It is very bad for them and the government.

In management practice, there is no excuse for failures and poor performance of any work because management demands professionalism, efficiency and effectiveness, and above all good productivity, which means successes and achievements. But it is always a failure, why? I believe some people are not really technocrats as they want us to believe and so government must always do proper scanning and experimenting for the right caliber of contractors and staffs. The reason for this is that, if the policy is well developed with the necessary policy documents as dummies, then the public or parents must know this before even the process start. Besides, it must be trust worthy by citizens in that, they will not be cheating and favouritism. If the systems are properly and technically designed, and it’s allowed to work, then no one will show blame or complain.

Another instance is the, addressing system, which in fact, baffles me a lot as the current government did not get their decisions right. Because, technically and I.T. security wise, they should have known that this system they are trying to implement cannot be broadly applied to all persons and activities at once. They should have stressed that it is only for government purpose at the moment to get address to each home and company buildings for tax purposes.

This will have solve half of the problems because, it is very bad practice for government to implement a programme policy and want individuals to use their own personal devices like mobile phones to help it to capture address data. This is very bad practice in management process and functions because,

1. The system will receive fake names and addresses

2. It will be a mess and confused system since the system is about satellite systems

3. Criminals could invade the system for their bad acts because it will be easy for them to trace anybody they want to locate etc.

In fact, I find it difficult to understand why the government tried to make it look cheap? Why can’t the government make it like a project work and hire people to go round and capture the addresses data for them and in this case the government will allocate physically the addresses to the homes? This alone could create part-time or temporal job vacancies for the state, for the unemployed to get something to do.

One disaster about the way the government want can never work because, e.g. can you force people to use their personal phones to do something for you voluntarily in this kind of economy with polarization of issues? More so, I am highly disappointed about the company government engaged to handle this policy. I don’t see them as experts, I doubt because they should know better.

Again, I would advise the government to always include experts and other technocrats in the cabinet meeting for matters concerning Information Technology because I don’t think all the members in the cabinet has prerequisite knowledge about Computer programming and Computer systems Engineering and so on to ask intriguing questions for proper perusals.

If this was done, I believe a lot would have been improved. As it stands now it is about people going to the Google play store and to download the address system app. Who will pay for the bundle of downloading the app? I don’t know whether the laws or constitution of Ghana enforce people to use their personal phones for this work and how about those who don’t have phones. I understand they can go to the nearby Post Office to request them to come and get the address for them, wow, I guess this is after thought of the policy. How about if they decide not to even go?

The same issues must be properly considered under the National Identification project, in that, proper address details such as name of property, property number if any or use the plot number, traditional family head name if any, region, town, village, area common name known and is familiar by the people, person’s name, DoB, age if necessary, street address if available, occupation/profession if any, postal address (don’t think it is necessary since it is not linked to any of our locations), etc. Of course, not all of these features will be included on the ID card but the database I suppose should have this broad information about citizens for future use if any problem occurs.

Such broad database will be useful for security officers and other government agencies. I also would have wished that the works done so far in terms of systems designed would have been published for the public expert input. Public systems development does not only lie on the onus of the NI Authority. Public must be engaged to understand what is been developed since it is about citizens future. Recruiting and training people to execute the project can come with data systems design problems such as the suggestions I have indicated above, are they included? Ghana’s social and cultural lifestyle is different from European countries and so, our systems cannot look like theirs.

The NI cards database must have a history of Ghanaian citizens, if not, then, it will be shambles in effect. Hence, management functions must be duly followed in practice. Finger prints are also important for security reasons as well. Will the NI cards have date of issue? Will it also have expiry date and if so for what purpose? I think profession as occupation must be on the card. Street names and address, do we have proper streets across the country? No. We have bush and pot holes and rocks streets and how can they be labeled? Hence, first thing first, this is why the rush on the digital addressing system since the street naming becomes defunct.

More importantly, I must also blame those few guys who show their knowledge about this policy in the media. I think it is bad, they should have written to the government about their knowledge of it rather than presenting it as if, it is bad for government to allocate address to homes and office buildings. I even think that the Police CID or BNI can invite anybody who goes on the media airwaves to show how they have cracked or hacked into that addressing system.

Because, Internet security or computer security is not a joke whereby people will be performing illegality and show casing it to the public. Since hacking means gaining unauthorized access to data in a computer system or device. It is unprofessional and criminal, they should know better. Hackers are always on the hide because such act is illegal. Systems must be protected against hackers, why because it is an offence or criminality to do that and it is not for fun or merry making? Let’s be serious professionals in this country.

What is cybercrime then? How about trespass or just breaking somebody’s door and entering? So, if you find any system weak, put it into writing to the right quarters for redress, I think it will be a good practice to do this rather than showing it or discussing it to the public. We are all the government isn’t it? And so we must all look for good things for Ghana.

Of course, the contractor has done a poor job by not having proper managerial skills in advising government of what is doable and what is not in the mean time. Besides, the whole system is not the contractor own system developed, hence, it is technically problematic. Google and other third party software are part of this system as integration. I also, read that there is Data Protection Act in place to monitor and safeguard this addressing system.

But this protection has nothing to do with the citizens directly at this stage since they are not even the custodian of such data information. Data Protection is only a measure just in case the wrong is committed then what will happen next and this lie heavily on the contractor.

In conclusion, both the government and some technocrats must be careful one way or the other and do due diligence and constantly apply managerial skills for proper decision making about policy design and implementation.
Thanks.

A-K Adam

akadam_gh@yahoo.co.uk