In October 2017, the President of Ghana launched the National Digital Property Addressing System (NDPAS) also known as the Ghana Post GPS with the aim of providing every location in Ghana with a unique digital address. It is hoped that the Ghana Post GPS will achieve a nationwide use for spatial database information for good governance and socio-economic development.
Penplusbytes gathered a vibrant group of state actors, technologists and civil society actors for its Accra Tech Salon to find ways to improve the Ghana Post GPS using appropriate technology and making it easily accessible to all citizens in Ghana and improve government services.
The discussion featured diverse group of participants with lead discussants including:
- Augustine Blay of the Office of the Vice President
- Jonathan Ansah of Ghana Post
- Kofi Otchere of NITA
The Ghana Post GPS
The Digital Property Address System is an ICT based navigation system designed by a Ghanaian information technology firm, to tackle the challenges of property addressing in Ghana. It is designed to promote the digital mapping of properties and parcels of land across the country for easy navigation and relevant spatial data for effective service delivery.
The participants and lead discussants focused on the following key questions:
How can digital addresses be useful to both urban and rural Ghanaians?
A key issue raised was that the addressing system would help resolve challenges that emergency response institutions face. Rescue teams in Ghana have always been impeded by navigation difficulties in times of accidents at homes, roads or other forms emergencies. This new technology will enable the police service to easily access addresses and deal effectively with crimes. Health providers, fire and ambulance services can easily identify incident locations in order to save lives at a faster rate. All these will be to the benefit of the ordinary Ghanaian and improve government operations.
One of the lead discussants posited that, the addressing system will also create a database of businesses for a more improved and systematic means of tax collection as each business will be registered. Registered business on the system will also mean addresses can be located, which will reduce risk for businesses to access loans, reduce cost of doing business and invariably create job opportunities for Ghanaians. It will also provide the added value of enabling citizens to easily locate service providers by searching on the app.
Should Ghana use existing mapping apps or customize existing ones?
This question generated a lot of debate between the technologists and the participants. The participants claimed the Ghana Post GPS is nothing new and government could have just built on Google maps, which would have saved the country a lot of money. They also argued that Ghana could have generated the digital addresses for free on Google by just building on existing apps available, and there was no reason to have given a private company the same job to do. However, one of the lead discussants was of the opinion that Ghana needed its own digital addressing system, which goes beyond a simple navigational map. The Ghana Post GPS is a licensed version of a global addressing platform that gives a digital address to each country in the world.
The takeaway on this question was how to customize the app to allow people without internet access to use simple SMS and the need for the app to be improved to be able to function offline to allow people without access to internet be able to use it.
What is government’s communication and data strategy for the project?
A point was raised by a participant that orientation on the use of the Ghana Post GPS app has not reached every Ghanaian and the need for government to develop a communication strategy, which will use all media platforms especially social media including WhatsApp to reach all Ghanaians. This it is believed will make the app truly Ghanaian and achieve some of its objectives of reducing the risk profile of citizens and enabling them to access services.
After the session, a participant recommended that SMS and community radio networks should be used to reach people in the rural areas to inform and educate them about the app.
Another participant also recommended a customized game version of the app be invented to enable youth to play with it and become familiar with its uses, which will lead to creating of innovative ideas for future updates on the app.
The general recommendation was for government to engage other technologists (developers and programmers) to look at all the loopholes identified and strategize the national digital and properties addressing system to really be effective in the country, the Government together with stakeholders should really reflect over the loopholes and find lasting solutions there from.