Technology in Ghana: Campaign Promise or Threat to the Future?

It started with a moment of happiness shared with the world. It’s the way things work now; take a picture and post it to social media. Sharing it once means all your friends and family have an opportunity to enjoy your special moments. It’s no different in Ghana than in the rest of the world.

The trouble, however, started when people felt the need to “body shame” Ghanaian bride-to-be Mzznaki Tetteh. And, yes, body shaming is a thing these days. People feel the need to comment on any and every photo they please. Some people are too fat, some too skinny. Others shouldn’t be wearing this, while more shouldn’t have posted that.

You could argue that posters beg for whatever criticisms they get when they make their private lives public. But, whatever happened to good manners?

Perhaps it’s something we’ll need to grapple with over the coming years. And, maybe, it’s the development of manners that Jacob Kor, the Director-General of the Ghana Education Service (GES), wants to maintain in Ghanaian primary schools. He believes that mobile phone usage in schools must be banned – or at least controlled – as pupils spend too much time on social media.

And they might be. After all, we can only hope that grown, educated adults are not posting intentionally hurtful comments on anyone’s social media – whatever their circumstances or body types.

But, outlawing students from holding onto cell phones during school hours isn’t necessarily the best way to alleviate the concerns of children on social media. While they do use phones to check in on social media, they’re also used to check in with parents. Given the general lacking of services that can be expected in Ghana, parents rely on those cell phones to communicate with their children. There’s no guarantee that school landlines will be working – or that messages about transport or arrangements will be delivered if they are.

Sure, there was a time before cell phones when parents and children would need to communicate through conventional channels, but the world is different now. And so is Ghana.

The last thing that anyone involved in education should want to do is limit progress in the youth. And let’s face it, if you take away the (albeit relatively recently) established means of information sharing, it’s akin to sentencing Ghana to stagnate. Technology is a requirement for Ghana and its people to progress.

That doesn’t dismiss the need for appropriate use, just as there’s clearly a need for people to learn about manners and living in a global community. But there’s no point in fighting it; technology, Smartphones, Facebook, Instagram, and Google are here to stay – or at least hold us over until more efficient platforms come into play. And Ghana won’t have a chance to play a part on the global stage if students can’t get in on the ground level.

Then again, maybe it’s not the right time to have this discussion. With Accra flooding again and debates regarding the feasibility of a new airline transforming Ghana into a transportation hub, maybe this year’s election needs to focus on existing issues – even if doing so never seems to move the country forward.

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