Digital Identity in Ghana: Case Study Conducted as Part of a Ten-country Exploration of Socio-digital Id Systems in Parts of Africa

While there have been a number of prior studies on Ghana’s national ID system, it is rarely framed and assessed as a digital ID. In this report, we highlight the digital components of the national ID and show how it increasingly fits the frame of a digital ID. The report focuses on assessments of Ghana’s ID from three main angles: first, we investigate whether the relevant laws pass the rule of law test in terms of their aim and mandate. Second, we assess whether the relevant ID laws are necessary and proportionate in terms of the rights that the use of the national ID may interfere with. Third, we track how well the risks associated with the use of the national ID were considered and mitigated by the National Identification Authority and also in the relevant laws, before citizen enrolment. We conclude with recommendations for the National Identification Authority, the Data Protection Commission, civil society bodies and donor partners. Overall, we find that the legislative regime guiding the national ID system in Ghana is generally competent, especially as the Data Protection Act ensures that there are high standards for the collection, storage, use and sharing of personal data. We note that as the national ID project only recently finished a mass registration exercise, the challenges and success in using the system will become clearer in the next few years. An obvious danger, though, is that the increasing integration of the national ID with other databases deepens the potential abuse of the system for arbitrary surveillance. Also, the legislated mandatory uses of the ID means those without the card may be excluded from accessing certain services. Thus far, the main challenges have been impediments to enrolment, including the requirement of a digital address from enrolees, and claims that certain persons were prevented from enrolling because they were deemed not to be citizens. On the positive side, actions such as the zero cost of the card during mass registration, the government’s decision to provide digital addresses for all homes for free, and the provision of a number of redress mechanisms for those challenging the use of their ID data are inclusive and do empower citizens in the context of the national ID. The potential excesses surrounding the national ID require civil society and the Data Protection Commission to be keenly alert, competent and rights-conscious.