Ghana’s move to a digitized society is at such a slow pace that I’m afraid could contribute to the country’s slow drive out of poverty.
It is amazing that in this age, toll booths in Ghana still collect cash from drivers. On my regular weekend trips to Aburi in the Eastern Region, I find toll booth attendants busily taking cash from commuters. On occasions when the traffic is intense the booth attendants divide themselves into two to facilitate quick service and that is what is captured in this photograph.
So why is Ghana in this day and age manually taking cash from commuters and pretending to be issuing receipts?
I once used the Tema Motorway and when I got to the tollbooth, the attendant asked me to drive on because the only money I had on me was a GH¢50 note and he couldn’t give me my change. So it made me wonder how many drivers like me have been given the chance to drive on for want of change.
Allowing a toll-booth attendant the discretion to determine who drives through without paying the toll is dangerous for our country. Ghana cries out for aid, and there are always complaints about inadequate tax revenue.
If the attendant has the discretion to permit a driver to drive on, wouldn’t he have the discretion to take some toll money to buy food when he is hungry?
In the mid-1980s, technology advances in Europe led toll authorities to research Electronic Toll Collections (ETC). This reduced the cost to operate toll roads by eliminating the labour required to collect tolls manually. In order to track and bill drivers, the toll authority issued an active radio frequency identification (RFID) transponder with a unique signature to each driver.
On October 28, 2016, Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) toll collectors worked their final day in toll booths, marking the conclusion of almost 30 years of digital transformation in the Massachusetts toll industry.
The elimination of toll booths in favour of electronic toll collections created value for both driver and MassDOT.
Drivers benefited from improved convenience, the elimination of toll-related traffic and wait times, and reduced traffic congestion.
There are countless examples Ghana can learn from instead of having to stop at a toll booth, consuming time and often creating traffic jams, at full utilization, ETC saved drivers more than a total of 800 hours of time every day. This translated into a total of 280,000 hours per year.
If we are to advance and check corruption, the government must quickly digitize and automate toll collection in Ghana.
By Paa Kwesi Asare
The writer is a broadcast journalist at TV3