In 1973 national identity cards were issued to citizens in the border regions of Ghana including Volta, Northern, Upper East and Upper West, Brong Ahafo, and parts of the Western Region.
The project was discontinued three years later due to problems with logistics and lack of financial support. This was the first time the idea of national identification systems arose. Again, in 1987, the Government of the Provisional National Defence Council (PNDC) through the National Commission for Democracy (NCD), revisited the national identity card concept by establishing committees including a Technical Implementation Committee. Due to economic difficulties, the issue was not pursued. Once again, in 2001, when the National Economic Dialogue was convened, the National Identification System (NIS) was seen as a major policy concern. As a result, a multi-sectoral Technical Committee consisting of stakeholder organizations was established to do the following:
- Study and review the 1991 National Identification report;
- Establish the main principles and the conceptual procedures for an integrated national identification system for Ghana;
- Identify and recommend specific technologies for such a system; and
- Develop a plan of action and a time frame for the implementation of the system
The Technical Committee completed its assignment in 2002 and submitted a report to the Cabinet. The report was accepted, but it had to form a basis for the government and state to:
- Cover all citizens including legally resident non Ghanaians;
- Help with crime prevention, healthcare, welfare services, disaster management;
- Assist in the delivery of public services to targeted populations, banking services;
- Create a credible voters register, social security;
- Check the application and acquisition of passports and drivers’ licenses; and
- Aid with increased revenue collection.
By 2003, the National Identification Secretariat was set up to implement and manage the National Identification System (NIS). The Act establishing the National Identification Authority was passed in 2006, with Prof. Ernest Dumor appointed as the Executive Secretary Under his tenure, the NIA was able to acquire a host of logistical items required for institutional building of the NIA. The authority was able to acquire 1,510 Mobile Registration Workstations for the mass registration exercise that came with chargers and batteries from the NIA’s technical partner SAGEM from France
Pick-up trucks, vans and civilian buses were procured for the mass registration exercise. Drivers were recruited, interviewed and selected. Materials like cartridges, registration forms and writing materials were acquired. Individuals were recruited, trained and selected as Mobile Registration Workstation Operators.
The National Identification Authority’s Head Office was built and 97% of the building completed. A pilot mass registration exercise was held to test the forms and equipment deployed for the exercise as well as the registration process as outlined by the Authority. This pilot registration exercise took place in two communities — Abokobi and Sege — in the Greater Accra Region, for 10 days from July 27 to August 4, 2007. The testing selection and training of staff for the Central and Western regions were executed successfully, with mass registration taking off in the Central Region on July 1, 2008. By the end of July 2008, Prof. Kenneth Agyemang Attafuah was appointed as the Executive Secretary and oversaw the execution of mass registration in the Western, Eastern and Volta Regions between August 2008 and July 2009
On July 22, 2009, Dr. William Ahadzie began his appointment as the Executive Secretary of the National Identification Authority (NIA).
National Identification Authority
The National Identification Authority (NIA) was set up in 2003 under the Office of the President with the mandate to issue national ID cards and manage the National Identification System (NIS). This resulted in the passing of the NIA Act, 2006 (Act 707) to give it the necessary legal premises on which to operate. The National Identity Register Act, 2008 (Act 750) was also passed to give authorization for collection of personal and biometric data and to ensure the protection of privacy and personal information of enrollees.
The full mandate of the NIA included the establishment of a national data center so as to manage a national database, as well as to set up a system to collect, process, store, retrieve and disseminate personal data on the population (Ghanaian citizens – both resident and non-resident, and legally and permanently resident foreign nationals), ensure the accuracy, integrity and security of such data, and to issue and promote the use of national identity cards in Ghana.
The Automated Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS), the core platform technology for the NIS, enables accurate and prompt fingerprint matching with real-time accessibility when completed. The AFIS boasts world-class fingerprint identification accuracy of at least 99.9% and exceptional performance in terms of system processing speed.
The NIA facilitates the integration of all public sector/ civil operation, law enforcement, corporate and business applications/systems to the NIS, and the provision of general identification services. The process of issuing current generation of identity cards started on July 4, 2011. The setting up of the NIS is in response to providing up-to-date data that will facilitate the nation’s development agenda.