African governments are increasingly living the realities of the digital age by adopting and implementing different digital/e-governance practices. The underlying objective of embracing these practices is to ensure an efficient governance process that facilitates governments’ services. One of such e-government services in Africa is the Biometric         e-gates innovation introduced at Ghana’s Kotoka International Airport, Accra.

Biometric e-Gates at Ghana’s Airport; An Emulative Innovation

The e-Gates, installed at the arrivals and departure halls of the airport, provide an automatic border control solution.

 

The biometric e-gates control and visa management system is part of a bigger e-migration initiative by the Ghana Immigration Service (GIS). The aim of this innovation is to enhance security clearance procedures and passenger processing. Thus, the e-Gates, installed at the arrivals and departure halls of the airport, provide an automatic border control solution. They also lessen the workload for immigration officers, as they perform identification, authentication and verification functions.

This novelty is a combined achievement of Ghana’s Ministries of the Interior, Communication and Aviation. Equally part of the success is; the Ghana Immigration Service (GIS), the Ghana Airports Company Limited, the Ghana Civil Aviation Authority and contractors – Gemalto, Josanti and Dart Company who all collaborated to achieve the fit.

Cost of the Biometric e-Gates

The realization of the project is thanks to the sponsorship of the Ministry of Communications. A total of $18 million dollars has been spent so far to this effect. According the Ghana Broadcasting Corporation (GBC), the project is part of the government’s digitalization agenda. Obviously, it is out to facilitate information exchange and safeguard efficiency in government services. It covers the Kotoka International Airport (KIA), the GIS headquarters and subsidiary offices, Disaster Recovery, two sea ports and three land borders.

The government says the focus of the e-immigration system is the provision of an end-to-end integration of border control operations. This also includes permit and visa management systems, business processes (including document and record management). Added to these are a web-enabled system, improved and efficient information technology infrastructure and interconnection with key stakeholders.

 

The GIS is expected to make optimum use of the new Secure Border Management System. It is specifically developed for Ghana but conforms to global standards and completely different from the current system.

A survey by Ghanaian aviation experts reveals that more than six out of ten travelers support digitalization of airport services. They appreciate a faster deployment of biometric technologies to speed up check-in, boarding, and security procedures.

How the Biometric e-Gates Work

The biometric e-gate has been developed under the e-Transform programme, a World Bank funded project under Ghana’s Ministry of Communications. It performs three major functions – identification, verification and authentication of travelers’ documents.

At the biometric e-gate, a passenger places the identification page of his/her passport on a screen for an automatic identification scan. After identification, the e-gate opens for the passenger to go into the verification booth. Where the biometric information conforms, the door automatically opens for the passenger to go out to the other side. However, where the information doesn’t conform, the door remains shut. An alarm then triggers, requesting the passenger to wait for an officer.

This is an indication that with the e-gate, it is pretty difficult for any falsification of identity at the airport. It’s not going to be business as usual for those individuals involved in faking and stealing other people’s passports.

A necessary and emulative innovation?

Generally, Ghana is among the African countries that have chosen to move with the digital age and the new media. A larger percentage of the country’s population consists of people of the digital generation. Consequently, adopting the biometric e-gates innovation is not only enhancing governance and security in the aviation industry. It’s also to meet up with the needs of its largely digital-driven population.

The e-gate is a novelty worth emulating by other African countries. Aviation standards in the developed world are changing to new daily digital realities. African nations therefore cannot afford to lag behind.  The port of entry in any nation plays a significant role in the first impression of first-time visitors. A modern and efficient aviation system thus, gives visitors a positive first impression about governance in the country.

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