Digitization is a relatively niche topic in within information and communication technology (ICT), but the demand for digitization in the development field has grown significantly over the last few years, especially in Africa.
When we say “digitization”, you may think that it is just scanning or capturing paper records into a digital format. That’s partially correct, but the actual work cycle of digitization goes beyond what you think. It includes the whole process of transforming the data on paper records into “digital data,” which we can identify, search, access, retrieve, update, and archive electronically.
The steps toward digitization start with categorizing physical (original) paper records (e.g. sorting, listing and boxing) and assessment of the volume of workload. The depth and potential impact of digitization is huge. The digitized records will reduce errors and transaction costs in public administration. They will also improve government accountability and the quality of national statistics.
Eventually, digitization will support more timely and accurate data to a country’s open data portal. Digital public records data from different government entities could be integrated, and eventually the government will provide more seamless and efficient public service delivery (e.g. births registry linked to issuance of national ID, passport or driver’s license). In addition, the process of “digitization” will result in the creation of digital job opportunities for unemployed youth who have been trained to digitize records.
Through collaboration with The Rockefeller Foundation’s Digital Jobs in Africa initiatives, our team delivered a digitization capacity building program late last year. The main objective of this program was to build the institutional capacity of priority government agencies that are managing critical public records and therefore have a powerful need for digitization.
A total of eight government ministries, departments, and agencies (MDAs)* participated in this program. The training program focused on how to manage their digitization programs in a more structured and sustainable manner. We developed the training curriculum based on the results of needs assessment studies, consisting of business management skills for efficient digitization (including business flow to sort out confidential/non-confidential categories, volume estimate of the document needs to be digitized internally or outsourced) and technical skills (e.g. scanning processes and use of digitized records).
A total of 60 officers from MDAs completed the training course and received certificates in December 2014.
Since then, we’ve received several positive intermediate results from participants. Several MDA officers demonstrated a better skill to assess the volume of backlogged records needed to be digitized. After the training, our team collectively identified that 25 million backlogged records in eight MDAs needed to be digitized, and only 10 percent were classified. In other words, approximately 22.5 million backlogged records can be outsourced.
In addition to the face-to-face training course, e-learning content was developed and an e-learning portal was launched in January 2015. It provides continuous self-paced learning opportunities for MDA staff. Eventually, the e-learning platform should be open to all MDAs and potential digitization outsourcing agents.
What’s next? Our team will continue to support digitization work in Ghana under the eTransform Ghana Project. The MDA officers we’ve trained will play key roles in their respective agencies to sort out the record classification (i.e. whether digitization will be internal or outsourced), provide accurate estimates for the document volume and oversee the quality of outsourced work.
A version of this post originally appeared on The World Bank’s IC4D.
*The eight participating MDAs include: Births and Deaths Registry (BDR), National Identification Authority (NIA), Registrar General’s Department (RGD), Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA), Judicial Service of Ghana (JSG), Driver and Vehicle Licensing Authority (DVLA), Ghana Health Service (GHS) and Ghana Immigration Service (GIS).