Frustration: Websites of govt institutions fall short in providing information to public

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Despite the Ghana government’s Digital Ghana Agenda, several government agencies and departments continue to operate as if the winds of digitisation haven’t blown their way.

While many such government institutions continue to operate with absolutely no web presence at all, few others barely do, and even so, their websites are not fit for purpose.

The Digital Ghana Agenda seeks to digitise government services with up-to-date information, deploy a digital property addressing system, and institutionalise paperless port operations among others.

However, a search conducted by The Fourth Estate on the availability of information on the websites of randomly selected state institutions in Ghana revealed that some of the websites were poorly managed with dummy content and broken links among others.

The National Information Technology Agency (NITA), which is mandated to oversee the effective use of information and communications technology in government institutions, enjoins Ministries, Department and Agencies (MDAs) as well as Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies (MMDAs) to “develop websites that contain informative and up-to-date content that is well-written, caters for the needs of a wide range of audiences, and is easily accessible.”

NITA also requires all MDAs/MMDAs to provide a minimum set of information such as policy documents, and legislative and sectorial documents to the public on their websites.

These are the bare minimum requirements, but most government agencies have failed to meet them, thereby frustrating the hundreds of people who visit their websites for current and quality information.

Broken links and dummy content 

The website of the National Disaster Management Organisation (NADMO) lacked essential information, hindering users’ access to critical disaster-related data. Despite its pivotal role in disaster management, the website provided no statistics on disasters in Ghana although there was a tab named “datasets” on the website’s homepage.

A dataset is a collection of data, normally presented in a tabular format. Every column describes a particular variable.

On July 5, 2023, when The Fourth Estate visited the NADMO website, a click on the ‘datasets’ tab returned the user to the website’s home page. As of February 15, 2024, the situation was the same.

Similarly, the publication tab intended for reports led to a page titled “Our Yearly Activities“. On this page, three tabs  World Civil Defence DayWorld Humanitarian Day, and International Day for Disaster Reduction were displayed prominently. However, each of these tabs led to an error page, which simply said Not Found. The regional information tab on the NADMO website did not provide any significant data and is yet to capture the fact that Ghana now has 16 administrative regions – almost six years after the six new regions were created.

Screenshot of issues found on the NADMO website

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NADMO Departments 1

 

NADMO Departments 2

 

NADMO publications

 

NADMO website story

 

 

NADMO website regional info

 

The website of the One District, One Factory (1D1F) Secretariat, is better than the NADMO website in terms of design. It offers a user-friendly interface, providing an overview of the total number of projects, factories, and registered companies. However, essential details such as a list of factories, their locations, and their operational status have not been provided. All the links that urge users to “see details” on the homepage only lead back to the homepage.

one district one factory homepage
1D1F projects website story

One would have expected the situation to be better with the Ministry of Communications and Digitalisation which oversees the country’s communication and digital infrastructure. When The Fourth Estate visited the ministry’s website, there was information that the ministry was running five projects: Girls-In-ICT, E-Transform, Digital Terrestrial Television, Eastern Corridor Fiber Optic Backbone, and Ghana Cares Obaatanpa Programme. For a long while, clicks on each of these project links led to pages with dummy content (placeholder text and/or images), which have nothing to do with projects.

However, a visit to the website on February 15, 2024, showed that information had been provided on three of the projects (Ghana Cares ObaatanpaGirls-In-ICT and E-Transform). However, information on Digital Terrestrial Television was inaccessible and the Eastern Corridor Fiber Optic Backbone tab still contained dummy content.

Issues found on the Ministry of Communications’ website

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MOCD Eastern Corridor Fibre Optics

 

MOCD Project Related news 2

 

 

MOCD Digital terrestrial Tv

 

The website for the Free Senior High School (SHS) initiative provided statistics on school placement and enrollment. However, links concerning infrastructure projectsschool feeding project extensions, and other essential information at the bottom of the homepage led to pages with dummy content, initially but now lead to error pages.

Free Shs old website 2
FREE SHS OLD WEBSITE 1

On February 15, 2024, The Fourth Estate found a revamped website for the Free SHS programme with an improved interface and design. However, there were lingering issues such as blank pages. (herehere and here).

Issues found on new Free SHS website

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Free SHS Deputy Coordinators website story

 

Free SHS mission and values website story

 

Free SHS Regional Coordinators website story Copy 3

 

Free SHS updates website story

 

Free Secretariat Secretariat Staff website 1

 

Information accessibility and outdated information

In a data collection exercise, The Fourth Estate explored the Electoral Commission’s website seeking data on Ghana’s parliamentary and presidential election results from the past 12 years. However, only information on the 2020 presidential and parliamentary elections was accessible as of February 15, 2024.

Electoral Commission website sc

As of August 21, 2023, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration’s website had the name and image of Hon. Thomas Mbomba as the Deputy Minister though he was also listed at the same time as the Deputy Minister of Roads and Highways on the Ministry of Roads and Highways’ website.

Screenshot 3
Screenshot 5

But on September 7, 2023, Thomas Mbomba’s details were absent from the homepage of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration. The team further gathered that Mavis Boadu had assumed the role of deputy minister in July, although this update was only reflected on the website later in September 2023.

The website of the National Road Safety Authority was inaccessible in August 2023 leading to a page with an inscription, “Sorry! If you are the owner of this website, please contact the hosting provider: webmaster@nsra.gov.gh.”

NRSA website not found

However, on January 25, 2024, the same website was found to be active. Nevertheless, some defects persisted. The “Geo View” tab within the “Statistics” menu, aimed to offer regional statistics on road accidents, only displayed a regional map of Ghana, without the specific regional statistics on road accidents.

Issues found on the new website of the National Road Safety Authority

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NRSA Documents website story

 

NRSA new website statistics

 

NRSA new website statistics 2

 

The Ghana Aids Commission’s website has some sections, “Programmes and Campaigns” on the homepage that contain drop-down tabs like “95-95-95”, “HIV preventionHIV treatment” and “Key population” which led to blank pages. A document under the Research section led to a page that read “404 Page Not Found.”

Issues found on the Ghana Aids Commission’s website

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Ghana Aids report 2

 

Ghana Aids report 1

 

HIV 95

 

Ghana Aids Commission Key population

 

Ghana Aids Commission HIV treatment

 

Ghana Aids Commission HIV prevention

 

On the Local Government Service website, the most recent Annual report on the website was that of 2019.

LGS ANNUAL REPORT

Links such as “Annual Reviews” on the Ghana Health Service’s website as of February 15, 2024, had no content while others like Programmes of WorkResearch ProtocolsEvents, and Speeches led to blank pages. Links under the GHS Excellence Awards section were all unresponsive.

Issues found on the Ghana Health Service’s website

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GHS Speeches website story

 

GHS Programmes of work website story

 

GHS Annual Reports website story

 

GHS Research website story 1

 

The latest annual reports for the National Health Insurance Authority (NHIA), the Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MoFA) and the Electricity Company of Ghana were those of 2018, 2021 and 2019 respectively. As for the Social Security and National Insurance Trust (SSNIT), the annual reports on their website spanned from 2014 to 2021.

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NHIA reports 1
Non-availability of current annual reports on the websites of NHIA, SSNIT, ECG and MOFA
MOFA reports website story

 

ECG Annual Reports new 1

 

ECG annual reports new 2

 

SSNIT Report 2

 

SSNIT Report

 

Error Pages and Missing Reports

 On the homepage of the Ministry of Energy’s website, links to the ministry’s regulatory documents and the “Petroleum Commission’s Petroleum Upstream documents” led to error pages.

Ministry of Energy website story

Similar problems were encountered in accessing the petroleum downstream documents. Aside the Fiscal Provisions link which leads to a PDF document, the links under Laws, Regulations and Enabling Acts did not lead to any content. Another search for the website in January 2024 resulted in a security threat warning.

Ministry of Energy regulations and acts website story

The National Commission for Civic Education made available well-organised annual reports, even providing access to reports dating back to the 1990s. However, reports from 2006 to 2010 were missing from the website. The most recent report accessible was from 2022.

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NCCE 1

 

NCCE 2

 

NCCE 3

 

NCCE 4

 

NCCE 5
Annual reports on the NCCEs website

The Ghana National Fire Service’s website provides two links named “Acquiring Fire Certificates”, one within the fire safety tab at the top homepage and the other beneath the homepage. The first link led to a page with the inscription “file not found” whereas the second tab provided detailed steps on how to acquire a fire certificate.

Ghana Fire Service Website Story

Additionally, a link meant to provide information on types of fire extinguishers was unresponsive.

The Public Utilities Regulatory Commission is another state institution that had missing reports on its website. Annual reports from 2009 to 2015 were unavailable on the website. The latest annual report was from 2022.

PURC new

On the Judicial Service website, the only annual reports present were from 2015 to 2016 and 2017 to 2018. The  USD97 World Bank-funded electronic justice (e-justice) system tab led to a privacy error page with a safety warning message.

Judicial Service E justice website story 1
Judicial Service Annual Reports Website Story 1

Furthermore, a  “Lodge a Complaint” link redirected users to a different website, justanswer.com, featuring content unrelated to Ghana’s legal authority.

Other attempts to access the same “Lodge a complaint” link led to various unrelated pages, including a Shutterstock page and another platform showcasing complaints from Nigeria and the US. In a follow-up visit, the same consumer complaint tab led to a form affiliated with the Judicial Service.

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Judicial Service lodge a complaint 2

 

Judicial service lodge a complaint to just answer 1

 

Judicial Service Complaint 3

 

Judicial Service lodge a complaint infobip 2

 

Judicial service complaint 4 1

 

Judicial service complaint page to shutterstock consumer page 1
Issues found on the lodge a complaint tab on the Judicial Service’s website

 Institutions with multiple websites

 A search on Google for the Ghana Scholarship Secretariat (GSS) website provided two results: www.scholarships.gov.gh and www.scholarshipgh.com.

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Scholarship.gov .gh press release on homepage

 

Ghana Scholarship Secretariat.com

 

scholarship secretariat website.com
Double websites of the scholarship secretariat.

The former, hosted by NITA, only had content on scholarship notices while links such as events, technologyeducation, and community lacked information. Social media links on the website redirected users to Facebook and Twitter pages named Jegtheme unrelated to the secretariat.

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Scholarship Secretariat govgh Website story

 

Scholarship gov gh education website story

 

Scholarship Secretariat gov gh website story 1

 

Scholarship Secretariat facebook page

 

Scholarship Secretariat twitter page
Issues found scholarship secretariat.gov.gh

The About Us page also lacked substantial information about the Secretariat and contained dummy text.

Scholarship secretariat.gov . about us

Similarly, a search for the Ministry of Trade and Industry website on August 25, 2023, led to https://moti.gov.gh/home, featuring an obsolete interface and content. Despite Alan Kyeremanten’s resignation as the sector minister on January 3, 2003, his name and image were displayed on the website’s homepage. Pages such as news and publications and the Deputy Minister of Trade had no content.

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MOTI homepage 1
MOTI 1 1
MOTI leadership website story 1
Issues found on first Moti website
MOTI staff of ministry 1

 

MOTI .gov .gh 2 1

 

MOTI .gov .gh notices 1

 

However, a follow-up search on September 4, 2023, revealed another website, https://moti.gov.gh/v2/, with more appealing features and current information.

MOTI new website 1

It was apparent that the ministry had two websites – one with outdated information and the other with current information and more appealing features. The findings were the same when The Fourth Estate visited both websites in January and February 2024.

In response to The Fourth Estate’s findings, Mr Solomon Richardson, Director of Technical Services at NITA, explained that the existence of double websites could stem from the past practice of private entities hosting websites for institutions. Currently, NITA hosts approximately 90% of these websites, which use gov.gh in their domain names.

Updated Websites

 The Bank of Ghana’s website stands out for being regularly updated with essential documents, reports and news. Its user-friendly interface makes the website easy to navigate.

Other institutions maintaining up-to-date websites include the Ghana Police Servicethe Ministry of FinanceThe National Identification Authority, the Ministry of Information, and the Ghana Standards Authority.

How does this affect the institutions?

Software Engineer Justice Selorm Bruce, in an interview with The Fourth Estate, bemoaned the frustrating experience encountered on the websites of numerous state institutions. According to him, it denies citizens their right to access crucial information.

He entreated state institutions to be more proactive in making information available and also in addressing technical hitches that hinder the accessibility of information.

NITA’s response

 Mr Solomon Richardson, the Director of Technical Services at NITA, pointed out that the duty of updating websites falls under the purview of the communication and public affairs units within the various departments and agencies.

“The website is supposed to be owned by the communication or public relations unit. Every information over there [sic] is owned by the public relations and communication unit of whichever institution it is. Because that is your public station for the information you are communicating so they should be able to know that they have a problem,” he noted.

Regarding sanctions for state institutions whose websites violate NITA’s guidelines and standards, the agency said it is working on incorporating new sanctions in its Legislative Instrument currently undergoing stakeholder engagements.

The Fourth Estate contacted all the institutions with identified website issues through letters and emails in October 2023 but is yet to receive any response from them.

Source: The Fourth Estate

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