Ghana, in the 1970s, experimented with the idea of national ID cards which were issued in the Volta Region on a pilot basis.
That exercise was truncated with the overthrow of the Second Republic in 1972. Since then, various governments have revisited the idea with no success, until 2003 when the National Identification Authority (NIA) was set up with the mandate to issue national ID cards and manage the National Identification System (NIS).
The story of the introduction of the ID cards is mixed, as the collation of data on Ghanaians was fraught with many challenges. The challenges included the inability of the NIA to pay people who were hired to collate the biometric data of Ghanaians for the ID cards and inadequate budgetary support from the government.
There were occasions when the exercise had to be suspended as a result of the reasons we have just enumerated.
Many people even forgot about the cards until about two years ago when the NIA announced that it was now ready to give them out to those who registered.
Regrettably, even that simple exercise of giving out the cards has hit a wall. As of today, we are unable to say how many Ghanaians have been issued with the cards, but certainly the number is not encouraging.
The Daily Graphic is aware that budgetary constraints have hampered the exercise, while registration officials demanded their pound of flesh, even when the challenges were explained to them.
Now the country has multiple identification documents that are demanded at various points such as the banks, educational institutions, entry points and non-financial institutions.
These documents include passports, voter ID cards, National Health Insurance cards, driving licences and of late the Ghana Cards, but the widely used cards are the voters ID cards.
Sometimes, depending on the situation, some of the cards are rejected for identification purposes, thereby creating a lot of inconvenience for those who require services. It is for this reason that many Ghanaians were excited about the NIS, so that there would be a uniformed ID card that could be used for every transaction.
Our economy is growing and, by extension, there is growth in consumer activities. This means that the credit card system that operates in the advanced countries should be in vogue in Ghana now. But many businesses are not too sure how the system will be managed when there is no national ID system to track every Ghanaian.
The Daily Graphic thinks the government should resource the NIA to be able to carry out its mandate more effectively.
Be that as it may, the NIA should look again at its operations and design measures to give out the cards to all those who registered.
We wonder whether the distribution of the cards to beneficiaries would require a budgetary allocation from the government. The NIA should just be innovative and think outside the box to distribute the cards to all those who registered.
This is because the inability of the NIA to get the cards to the beneficiaries has affected the confidence Ghanaians had reposed in it.
The Daily Graphic is not too sure whether the NIA is ready to take on the additional task of registering foreigners when many Ghanaians who registered a few years ago are yet to receive their cards.
The Ghana Cards have the potential to lower the risks involved in business transactions in the country, but it appears to the Daily Graphic that the additional responsibility that the NIA intends to take on will compound the challenges facing it in issuing out cards to all Ghanaians.
Let us do what is practicable and in our national interest first before we go out there to please others.
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