The dearth of data on govt websites

The invention of the World Wide Web, now popularly known simply as the Internet is one of the three most important technological breakthroughs of the ICT revolution, the others being the laptop computer and the mobile phone. Together they have dramatically changed the way we live to the extent that today’s civilization is virtually unrecognizable from what it was just a couple of decades ago.

But with regards to the dissemination of information, the internet is the biggest breakthrough of all; it allows people to access all kinds of information about virtually everything and in real time too, apart from enabling transfer of data and information instantly.

In Ghana, combined with successive governments declared commitment to transparency and most recently the passing of the long-delayed Right to Information Act, the use of the internet is supposed to give citizens unparalleled access to information about the activities of institutions and agencies of the state. Indeed, virtually every such institution now has a website meant to provide such information and data freely.

However, having a website is by no means the same as using it for what it is meant to do. While we commend most government agencies for their efforts at providing the public with relevant information about their activities, many of them leave much to be desired. Indeed, some seem to be progressing backwards rather than forwards in this regard.

A few examples. The Bank of Ghana enthusiastically announced its newly designed website in September. However, most browsers, including this newspaper find it much harder to use than the one it has replaced. Worse, it seems not to be regularly updated anymore.  To our chagrin this newspaper has discovered that even hitherto regularly updated data such as interest rates are no longer readily available – currently data on them, including even the BoG ‘s key Ghana Reference Rate ends in June.

Another example: the Ghana Investment Promotion Centre has stopped regularly publishing its quarterly investment report which is meant to inform on foreign direct investment inflows – values, sectoral and regional destinations, sources by country and so on. The most recent report on the GIPC’s website is for the last quarter of 2018, whereas in the past the repots for the first two quarters of this year would have been posted by now.

To be sure even these offer some data even if outdated. Others such as the website of the Ghana Amalgamated Trust, the special purpose vehicle established by government at the end of last year to source investment for the recapitalization of five indigenously owned banks, has no information at all apart from the names of its managing director and its board chairman, despite having been in operation for nearly a year now.

We entreat government’s institutions and agencies to use their websites for what they were established to do – provide up to date information on their activities and performance data.

The dearth of such information can only lead to rumours – some of it deliberately malfeasant- and misinformation – much of it deliberate – making the rounds and this does nobody any good.

Nature abhors a vacuum goes the scientific adage, and this applies to information too.