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GHANA: Jack Where Are You? A System That Should Be Doing More

GhanaPostGPS, with #JackWhereAreYou? as its slogan, is Ghana’s official digital property addressing system which is said covers every inch of the country and ensures that all locations in the country are addressed. With GhanaPostGPS, every location has a unique digital address.

The Vice President of Ghana, Dr. Mahamudu Bawumia, in October 2017 said Ghana’s digital addressing system, will cost the country about $2.5 million.

“It is more advanced than the United States or the United Kingdom or Germany because they are stuck to old technology, and we are leapfrogging. We are going to a new technology; we are going to GPS-based technology”, Dr. Bawumia said.

“What is even more exciting about this new addressing system is that, it was actually designed by Ghanaians in Dansoman. Our men and women are amazing, and they beat the international competition because we were wondering if our people can deliver it”, he added.

However, it is purported that the Ghana Post GPS was copied from an already existing platform, Asaase GPS.

“We developed Asaase GPS; it is a global addressing platform that gives a digital address to each and every country in the world. Ghana Post GPS is the licensed version of this platform for Ghana. I think it’s an issue of public education and letting people understand what it is. What the person was seeing wasn’t something someone had developed; it’s a platform that Vokacom had developed,” Nana Osei Afrifa, the Chief Executive Officer of Vokacom, said on the Citi Breakfast Show.

Another issue raised by software developers and enthusiast in Ghana (myself included) like Rexford Nkansah, a Senior Web Developer is the cost per year.

According to the Managing Director of Ghana Post, “Ghana is to pay tech giant, Google, an amount of $400,000 every year for embedding the company’s online map into the country’s newly designed National Digital Property Addressing System, Ghana Post GPS.”

However, the question is, does embedding this Google Maps API (Application Programming Interface) cost that much? Ideally, the cost of using Google Maps API should not be a fixed amount but should vary yearly depending on the number of request made by users in that particular year, even for an enterprise subscription. Source: https://cloud.google.com/maps-platform/pricing/sheet/

So stating that the country is to pay a fixed $400,000 every year sounds troubling and misleading.

But the main question is that, is the system doing enough? From my point of view, the platform should be doing more than it is doing.

Stefan Froehlich, an IT consultant has stated a few improvements needed in the platform.

“A problem I have identified with the software is that as soon as you open the app it forces you to sign up. The problem with this is that users can’t therefore randomly generate their location and share”, he added.

He added that the app has data integrity issues, “I just signed up with a random name and random phone number and the system allowed me to do so. This situation needs to be fixed if the app’s data is to be trusted”, he noted.  

He also lamented about the internet factor of the app. People without internet access cannot use the app and Mr. Froehlich suggested that the app should be improved to be able to function offline because there are lots of Ghanaians who do not have access to the internet.

He also highlighted that the 5 by 5-meter square that the software is designed to mark is inconsistent with the purpose of the software because if your property spans beyond 5 by 5-meter square then you will end up with multiple addresses for the same property depending on which part of the property you are.       

“The app should be improved so the boundaries of the property can be marked and given one address”, he explained.

Aside the problems noticed in functionality of the app, the country also needs to take full advantage of the platform.

Financial institutions can now give out loans knowing exactly where the customers live and work. This will give them confidence in getting their loans payed back.

Telecommunication companies can also add it to the requirements needed to register sim cards. This will help in locating mobile money fraudsters.

All these and more will be effective if there is a way to verify that digital address people give if it is truly their digital location.

It has been observed that most people uninstall app again after getting their digital address. The few who keep it installed will likely not use the app again.

I hope the Ghana Post GPS team keeps improving the platform to make it more useful.

 

By Desmond Kwame Nunoo

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