10 reasons digital address system is flawed [Article]

1. Citizens participating in the creation of an official national address system wrong

Perhaps the most fundamentally important aspect of creating a national address system is the expected confidentiality and authority which drives the entire concept.

It has never happened anywhere in history that citizens are allowed to play a role in establishing a national address system. It is and has always been the fundamental responsibility of Government to formulate the address system and simply inform citizens about their new addresses and how it is used.

Allowing citizens or individuals to play a role in address formulation has never happened anywhere in the world because first of all it defeats the very purpose of it establishment in terms of its integrity, confidentiality and sanctity.

2. Multiple Registration per household

Taking into consideration that individuals across the country have been given the responsibility by the Government to register their own addresses, anybody anywhere can simply walk to the front gate of anybody’s house and register. Again, tenants sharing a house may all decide to register at the same place.

This will lead to too many address units at the same place making the entire concept look ridiculous and frivolous. Example, in a typical household, the father may register using his name; the wife may do same and possibly all the kids at home including the teenagers may all register.

3. Determination and confirmation of new Street/Roads Names

Perhaps one of the most devastating flaws in this whole idea of digital address system is that, it provides no lead or direction with respect to how new roads or streets will be named in this whole arrangement. Is it the new home owner? The tenant who rents a house or possibly the Ghana Post along the line may come back to provide names for all new roads? Officially more than 90% of roads in Ghana are not named or at least not documented.

Therefore under this arrangement, naming a street has been left in the hands of the occupants or residents who live on a particular road or street. This could lead to frequent changing of street names since there is no officially recognised authority owns it.

4. Over reliance on GPS

The very existence of the entire National Digital Address System APP runs and depends absolutely on the Global Positioning System (GPS) which is owned completely by the United States Airforce. Even though this is a great opportunity given the numerous benefits it comes with, running an entire address system of a sovereign nation on a system that it has no control over whatsoever how functions is not a clever thing to do and must be abolished.

Especially when emergency services are going to depend on this to provide services in an emergency, an address system must be that which every citizen can connect with and understand its functionalities. This is why even in the most advanced countries, addresses are kept as simple as possible based on the traditional incremental house numbering system with a street name so even children can relate to and can refer to it in an emergency.

5. Change of address if moved/relocated

A national permanent address system should be that which citizens could physically refer to easily as their homes and not that which consist of several numerical order with some alphanumeric prefixes. Even though the Ghana Post have not made any provisions with respect to how a citizen could change his or her address when moved to different accommodation even within the same vicinity or relocate to a different region, it is obvious the process will be the same that one would have to stand in front of his or her gate, download the App and then register a new address.

Such a practice can’t possibly be something that derived from deep thought and therefore must be scrapped immediately before government pump in even more funds which will end up being a waste. Again, does it mean every time a new tenant moves into a new address, he or she must register address with Ghana Post? Or inherit what had been registered by the previous tenant?

6. Not serving purpose

Usually in today’s world, the most central purpose based on which a nationally organised address systems are created is not only to put corporate and residential dwellings into a structured order but also several human societal happenings including taxations, crime solving, emergency services as well as businesses whose very existence centers on such systems. However, the just recently launched Digital Address System by Ghana Post cannot be seen to serve any of these above mentioned purposes given the fact that, state institutions cannot be expected to fully rely on address provided by individuals.

Therefore, car owners and business owners still cannot have a single official unique address, backed by a legislation which either the Registrar General or the DVLA could use as a reference point on which a business or a vehicle could be known to be located or found by relevant authorities when necessary. Therefore, this very idea of Digital Address system is simply superfluous and can’t be taken serious.

7. Incompatible with A to Z (Discourages Tourists)

Again the purpose of establishing an official address system should not be confined only to the use of it by the emergency services but also tourism. Any country that recognises or is sensitive to the importance of tourism as an industry must first make provisions that enable tourists to move around freely and easily as well as have access to any possible tourists’ attraction sites by simply purchasing what is usually called an A to Z. Such documents contain physical addresses and not a bunch of numbers and several alphanumeric codes. The production of A to Z booklet itself could be a heavy source of revenue for the City of Accra or any other publisher if this is done properly.

8. Unsatisfactory to the needs of banks and all financial institutions

In the last few decades in Ghana, banks and all other financial institutions rely on sketches on maps provided by applicants of loan facilities or any financial service of some sort or even opening a normal bank account. Even today, every customer seeking to open a bank account in Ghana will be required to draw a map leading to his or her home of residence, taking cognizance of any relevant landmark that may be located close to the home of the customer. Banks desperately are required to do this in order to be able to locate their customers when necessary.

Unfortunately, the new Digital Address System (DAS) massively failed to solve these problems. What the Ghana Post has just introduced i. e. the DAS is what most people now consider it to be simply a Ghanaian version of Uber taxi service. It is however obvious that those who directed the development of the APP as well as the Ghana Post itself critically lacked understanding on the purpose for which such thing are done. It is therefore recommended that the Government seeks help in establishing an effective and purposive national public address system backed by legislation in its usage both by the general public as well as the corporate bodies and institutions.

9. Issue of Land reform unresolved

The country has over the years been faced with major challenges concerning land tenures and ownerships since independence. It is of a fundamental importance that any thought or plan to develop a national address system must first tackle the issue of land within the policy framework that will guide boundaries and regulatory policies. However, the ultimate goal must be to achieve a stage where lands are no longer referred to with “plot numbers” but rather a unique “House Number”. From here citizens will be able to buy and sell houses with house numbers instead of the current long confusing plot numbers because Land Titles will have house numbers on them as its unique primary identification number. This will go a long way to sanitize the entire overall land demarcations and ownership crises which continue to increase year by year. Without a doubt this is the most absolute way of tackling the land tenure system completely in Ghana.

10. Vulnerable to Internet Connectivity

The thought that the functionality of an address system of an entire country solely depends on the availability of internet connectivity must seriously frighten every well-meaning Ghanaian to death. This literally means, all these major businesses whose business model purely depends on finding address will come to a halt the moment internet connectivity comes down. This including emergency services such as the Ghana Ambulance, Police and other security Services as well as the Ghana Fire Service. It cannot be emphasized enough that a national address system must be free from any complicating concepts but rather straightforward, logical and easily comprehensible so all citizens can relate to it

By: Kofi Annor