- The critics and experts were absolutely sure this couldn’t be Ghanaian. Some labelled it a “419 scam”; others said the app was “amateurish”, a “copy”. Some smelled political patronage ...
The Asaasegps Prophecy.
When a whole Vice-President of a country puts his reputation on the line and declares a Ghanaian product the best in the world, that can be pretty dicey; but that is what Dr Bawumia did. In 2017, when so-called experts and NGOs swooped down on Vokacom Ghana Limited like vultures upon a hapless prey, it was his voice that caused many Ghanaians to sit up.
Simply called asaaseGPS or GhanaPostGPS, Vokacom had come up with an app that would use a method known as reverse geocoding to provide easy-to-remember digital addresses which can be saved and referred to from any location when necessary.
The critics and experts were absolutely sure this couldn’t be Ghanaian. Some labelled it a “419 scam”; others said the app was “amateurish”, a “copy”. Some smelled political patronage – until the details of the procurement process were revealed that Vokacom beat off competition by 27 companies, including world renowned IT gurus in a National Competitive Tender.
Fast forward to September 2019. International Telecommunication Union (ITU), the United Nations specialised agency for information and communication technologies met in Budapest, Hungary, to look for the world’s most innovative promising SMEs and initiatives that use ICTs for social impact. Before experts from the agency’s membership, made up of 193 member states, international and regional organisations, were entries from 175 SME technology companies from across the world.
The award for ‘Best Business Model’ in the world went to Vokacom. The company also received special recognition for “Excellence in providing and promoting innovative ICT solutions with social impact”.
What was it about “asaaseGPS” that impressed the ITU Awards panel?
Principally it is the app’s benefits to every segment of society. By it, the individual is enabled to share their address, making it easier to receive mails and parcels and to be reached by the country’s Fire, Police and Ambulance services in case of emergency. In the current National Identification Card registration exercise, one of the requirements is the individual citizen’s digital address.
Vokacom’s Group CEO, Nana Osei Afrifa, explains the uniqueness of the Ghanaian solution: “None of the digital address systems in the world focuses on local relevance in the same way that the GhanaPostGPS platform does. A digital address system complete with postcodes that references surveyed data is totally unheard of in the world!”
My vote for them for 2019 is because they are in the process of exporting the technology to other African countries.
Approtech handwashing technology
If technology for development is the acquisition of electronically controlled automation and sophisticated satellite-induced inventions, then Ghana is not ready to solve its water/sanitation problems, especially in a world where only 53 per cent of schools provide ‘basic handwashing facilities for their pupils and students, a factor behind increasing rate of upper respiratory tract infections, diarrhoea and pneumonia.
For years, the Third World has battled with the problem of cross contamination at communally operated water taps, especially in schools, hospitals and mass gatherings. This is because as Mr Julius Kwami Tsatsu, a social entrepreneur, discovered, “the users deposit germs on the tap they turn before handwashing and pick the germs back when closing the tap with their clean fingers.”
So he created Teckytap to prevent it. Made of aluminium and highly coated galvanised pipes and plumbing materials, it is operated by a pedal to dispense clean water during handwashing. The design eliminates the need to touch a possibly contaminated tap or faucet after a handwash.
If you went to the “factory” of Teckytap at Kwabenya, near Accra, you would dismiss it as a wayside welding shop, but that is where Ghana has found an answer to one of its near intractable WASH challenges.
Call it “approtech”, and you are proudly right. Local assemblies struggling to bag enough IGFs for development and entrepreneurs should be cashing in to install Teckytap at funerals, religious conventions and mass and other gatherings.
Kwami Tsatsu, whose NGO, Community Alliance Foundation, is the brains behind this engineering intervention, reports that quantities purchased by World Vision Ghana and a few individual philanthropists are yielding desired results in schools in the Central, Eastern and Volta regions.
My airline of the year
Give me Africa World Airline any day. Six years after take-off, this 50 million dollar Ghanaian-Chinese venture, with shares by SSNIT and Strategic African Securities, both of Ghana, and Hainan Airlines of China, is still in the air, leaving behind (on the ground, actually), its year-mates, namely Starbow, Antrak, Fly 540 and CitiLink.
Today, AWA is not only the synonym for efficient domestic airline operations, roaring to and within the North, in addition to dominating the Accra-Takoradi-Kumasi-Tamale routes; it is also a major player on the West Coast. Check the Tamale-Wa route!!!
I remember that day, in December 2013. As I sat by Togbe Afede on the inaugural flight to Lagos, I proposed to him in a whisper: why not an AWA partnership with the government of Ghana for the dream national carrier?