Dr. William Ahadzie,
National Identification Authority of Ghana

Until his appointment as the Chief Executive Officer of the National Identification Authority, Dr William Ahadzie was a senior Lecturer and the Deputy Head of the Centre for Social Policy Studies at the University of Ghana. He holds an M. Sc Degree in Development Planning and a Ph. D in Sociology. He has extensive consultancy experience in various aspects of national development planning for both local and international development institutions. He worked as a consultant to NIA during the establishment of the organization. On assumption of office as the CEO, Dr Ahadzie has led the installation of the Automated Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS) and Card Personalization system in the Authority. National ID Card production and issuance began in Ghana during his tenure. He has also supervised the enrolment of eligible Ghanaians on to the national identity register and has set off an initiative to enrol foreigners permanently resident in Ghana and is working hard to fully install the National Id System that will allow for both off-line and real-time on-line identity verification and authentication.

Interview with Dr. William Ahadzie, CEO,
National Identification Authority of Ghana


In 1973 national identity cards were issued to citizens in the border regions of Ghana including Volta, Northern, Upper (East and West), Brong Ahafo, and parts of the Western Region. The project was however 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 several committees including a Technical Implementation Committee. Due to economic difficulties, the issue was not pursued. 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 ID report
  • establish the main principles and the conceptual procedures for an integrated NIS for Ghana
  • identify and recommend specific technologies for such a system
  • develop a plan of action and a time frame for the implementation of the system.

By 2003, the National identification Secretariat was set up by government to implement and manage the National Identification System (NIS).The Act establishing the National Identification Authority was passed in 2006.

During this time, the NIA was able 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 which came with chargers and batteries from the NIA’s technical partner Sagem Securite’ from France.

Pick-up trucks, vans and civilian buses were also procured for the mass registration exercise. Drivers for these vehicles were also recruited, interviewed and selected. Materials like cartridges, registration forms and writing materials were also acquired. Individuals were recruited, trained and selected as Mobile Registration Workstation Operators.

The National Identification Authority’s Head Office was also built and ninety-seven per cent (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, both located in the Greater Accra Region, for ten (10) days from July 27, 2007 to August 4, 2009. The testing selection and training of staff for the Central and Western Regions were also executed successfully, with mass registration taking off in the Central Region on July 1, 2008. By the end of July 2008, mass registration in the Western, Eastern and Volta Regions had begun and took place between August 2008 and July 2009.

On July 22, 2009, Dr. William Ahadzie began his appointment as the Executive Secretary and CEO of the National Identification Authority (NIA). He is currently preparing to execute the mass registration in the Greater Accra Region. He also has been very involved in the process to establish the National Identification System even before the inception of the NIA

In this interview, Dr. William Ahadzie outlines the background to Ghana’s drive to introduce an ID system in the country in terms of the past attempts, current implementation and attendant benefits.

What is the background to having achieved the goal of deploying a national ID program in Ghana?

Over the last four decades there have been various attempts to introduce an ID program in Ghana but each attempt has fizzled out for various reasons – lack of commitment or lack of resources etc. So we did not really achieve our goal until the beginning of the last decade when there was an national economic forum where everyone agreed that it was important that an ID system was established containing all the biographical and biometric data of Ghanaians and non-Ghanaians for purposes of planning, service delivery and the provision of e-services to those eligible for them. The NIA was therefore set up engage in implementing this program.

How important is this introduction of a clear strategy and supporting ID program in terms of attracting investment for the growth and development of Ghana?

National identification has become more imperative particularly following the discovery of oil. We therefore see a lot more people coming into the country and as a result more resources are made available with an attendant need to ensure the right people receive the correct services. Registration is therefore very important – as we need to collect personal data on citizens (both resident & abroad), as well as on foreign nationals living in the country. Creating and maintaining a national database and providing national identity cards will advance the economic, political and social activities in the country.

In terms of the implementation of Ghana’s identity and registration program strategy, at what stage are you in the development process?

We began the exercise with an enrolment process and, within Ghana’s 10 regions, we have enrolled eligible persons in 7 of the 10 regions. We are now moving into the remaining three and have also started the personalization of the cards. This is being followed up with deploying infrastructures that will allow real time identity authentication and also off-line ID verification.

What biometrics are you collecting during enrolment for future inclusion on the cards? 

We are using face recognition and fingerprint technology as the basis for the biometric data collected from citizens. The process of registration to collect personal information (text data, fingerprints & photograph) is relevant to persons from the age of 6. In addition we have a process for randomly-generating and assigning unique personal ID numbers (PIN) to each individual linked to their personal data. This will also aid us in our response to the growing need for providing eID services. We are currently working with stakeholders to upgrade existing technologies and promote platforms that would allow interoperability among the different systems in current use.

As far as e-government is concerned, how and where will the NIS implement these services?

A number of government driven sector-services will benefit through the promotion of NIS. The electoral system will become an integrated resident management of the Voters’ List based on digital data, serving as an additional layer to the electoral system.

Health delivery services can use NIS’s biometric data for strict monitoring on persons enrolled in the NHIS hence a credible database. In education, data from the NIS enables the Ministry of Education to plan effectively for the provision of targeted educational infrastructure and other resources for their community, while in security, forensic examination and analysis linked to the NIS can help security services establish the true identity of persons present at the crime scenes.

The NIS also provides up-to-date data that forms a sound base for policy formulation and implementation in social services putting people’s rights and responsibilities at the care of the nation’s development.

Other ID-related initiatives will see Vehicle Registration and Driver license being provided with biometrics for authentication and verification of persons during vehicle licensing and registration – as well as a proof of identity for social security benefits.

What are some of the main drivers that represent a more widespread need for the introduction of Ghana’s ID program?

In today’s globalizing world, characterized by issues of safety and security of states and individuals and out of proportion risks related to financial fraud, the need for governments, the public and private sector organizations to ensure security in their transactions with their clientele has become an unquestionable imperative.

Our government like others is looking for better ways to ensure the security and privacy of citizens, borders and infrastructure, while at the same time, seeking to provide targeted services in effective and accessible ways.

Efficiency in public expenditure management has become an overarching objective in the face of the global financial meltdown-and constrained aid flows. In the same vein, public service agencies and private business institutions are looking to protect their operations, build trust and minimize the risk of financial loss caused by identity fraud.

On their part, individuals are looking to the institutions they interact with to guarantee the security of their dealings and the privacy of their personal and financial information.

With this in mind, how can this help meet the identity management needs of user agencies and individuals across the country?

The issue of secure identification has become central to the operations of this disparate group of governments, institutions and individuals. All are increasingly turning to biometrics for secure, convenient identity. The Government established the NIA to create a national identification system as a response.