Ghana Post Boss Lands Ursula Owusu In Trouble

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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, meaning Ghana is blowing more cash on the system described as poor and amateurish yet very expensive.

The $400,000 payment every year to Google, was revealed by the Managing Director of Ghana Post, James Kwofie last Friday, at a press conference organized by the Ministry of Communications, following criticisms of the digital address system.

Minister of Communications, Ursula OwusuEkuful, has come under heavy criticism over the cost of the digital address system.

It is said to be someone’s work, but copied and slightly modified by the contractors, who had been financiers of the New Patriotic Party (NPP).

Mr. Kwofie. made the revelation when he was giving the breakdown of the amount spent on the system which was earlier announced to be $2.5 million.

“In terms of the cost, what is being paid for is the back-end solution, data analytics, hardware i.e. the firewalls and servers, Google license, marketing and publicity as well as technical support, and GHc1.7 million VAT which goes back to the government. Contrary to popular believe, Google charges when you use their systems for local purposes or commercial activities. The Google license fee at the moment is $400,000 per year – that is the enterprise package,” he added.

He added that, an amount of GHc3.5 million, was also spent on publicizing the system.

“Publicity like I said, is GHc3.5 million, and there are very expensive firewalls, we can’t say how many, but that also cost a lot of money,” he added

President Akufo-Addo, about two weeks ago, launched the National Digital Property Addressing System, also known as the Ghana Post GPS in Accra, aimed at providing an effective means of addressing every location and place in the country, using an information technology application.

The app, which government said cost the country $2.5 million, has been criticized by some experts in the technology space, as well as some civil society organizations.

For instance, president of policy think tank, IMANI Ghana, Franklin Cudjoe, described the system as amateurish and not new.

He also questioned the security implications of the data received by the system.

“I’ve read quite a number of reviews by industry watchers, and some of the comments they’ve made are not necessarily helpful – to think that you could input just any data and generate an address in itself sounds amateurish. There are basic web portals, where you input any kind of data it could reject it, especially when you are filling forms. And to hear that obviously, that it is something with this app is quite troubling,” Franklin Cudjoe added.

But speaking at the press conference, Nana Osei Afrifa, Chief Executive Officer for Vokakom, the company that designed the app, assured that the data accepted by the system is safe.

He added that, ample measures, have also been put in place to forestall any data breach.

The US$2.5 million Digital Property Address System launched by the President, amid fanfare, has been condemned as poor and amateurish yet very expensive.

While, Franklin Cudjoe, charged at VOKACOM, developers of the Asaase GPS, saying their work is an embarrassment.

Sammy Gyamfi, an activist of the opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC), also described the payment of $2 million for the newly launched Digital Property Address System as a “rip-off and fraudulent”.

Vice-President, Mahamudu Bawumia, has been describing the US$2.5 million as the best in the world, but Mr. Cudjoe, emphasised in a Facebook post on his wall on Saturday, October 21, that the developers “must rectify what industry watchers, have described as ‘amateurish’ and an embarrassment to technology and innovation”.

Some Information Technology (IT) experts, who have reviewed the application available on various mobile operating systems, have given poor ratings of the app.

Mr. Cudjoe, who suggested that the application is not novel as suggested, pointed out that: “Copying is not so hard. Copying to perfection is adding value. The Ghana Post app did the opposite.”

He was of the view that, the country “shouldn’t hurry our President to be launching products that have not been properly verified” adding, “I hope the owners of the app make amends and apologise to the President”.

According to Sammy Gyamfi, the smart phone application, which is claimed by the developer as exclusive to Ghana and aimed at helping to revamp the ailing fortunes of Ghana Post, is a ploy to line the pockets of “people who just want to make money, because their party is in power”.

“…there are very serious issues with this application because this developer did not create it exclusively for Ghana. This APP is already in existence and it’s called ‘asaasegps’ and the only changes he made to it are colors to that of the NPP”.

“And this is what we spent 150 billion old cedis on. Also, the APP is renamed ‘GhanaPostGPS’ and there is the claim that it is exclusive to Ghana, but that is not true. I have friends in Nigeria and China using the APP and the evidence isn’t here,” Sammy Gyamfi said on UTV’s Saturday edition of “Adekye Nsroma”.

Mr. Gyamfi, who is also a student Lawyer, could not understand how a government led by “President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo and the bunch of self acclaimed knowledgeable men be outwitted into buying such a fraudulent application”.

These observations come two days after the launch of the National Digital Property Addressing System by the President at the Conference Centre in Accra.

President Akufo-Addo, was full of admiration for the project and stated: “It has been a barrier to job creation. It is for this reason that we have, over the last 9 months, the period of my stay in office, taken bold steps to formalise the economy and the way we conduct our everyday activities, including the way government delivers services to citizens most in need”.

However, Sammy Gyamfi, is of the conviction that the recycling of ‘asaasegps’ into ‘GhanaPostGPS’ smacks of fraud and further, warned the developers of the application not to accept payment for the work, since it would come with consequences.

But reports making the rounds are that, the VOKACOM, which is partnering Ghana Post to roll out the Digital Address System is owned by one Osei Afrifa, who had financed President Akufo-Addo in the last election.

After Nana Addo became President, Vokacom ,was allowed access to an existing data and application on address systems in Ghana and packaged it for the President, as something original.

President Akufo-Addo, is alleged to have supervised the procurement process himself, and although Vokacom, doesn’t even have any previous experience in rolling out such a system anywhere in the world, they were chosen.

The President, thus created something for one of his major financiers, Mr. Afrifa.

It is not clear, how many companies bided for the US$2.5 million contract and what was exceptional about the VOKACOM bid, which made the company win. But what is clear is that, the system has started on faulty note likely to put many people off.

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