Digitisation: Are Ghanaians losing their jobs to robots?

Closeup hands holding mobile phone with application for send and receive money. Man and woman holding smartphone and making payment transaction. Smart phone screen displaying payment sent and money received message after transaction.

I may be right that a high employment rate goes a long way to affect a country’s economy positively.

My questions lately have been: Are people not losing jobs over digitisation? What alternatives have been put in place to ensure that going digital employs more people?

Let me tell you places I haven’t visited for a long time and what might have happened to those employed in those fields;

  • I don’t remember the last time I visited the tellers in the Bank. Are they still there? Probably their numbers have been reduced since many access funds and transact even without visiting the bank.
  • The street vendor selling airtime, is she still at work? I can’t recall the last time I purchased airtime from a street vendor or hawkers in traffic. I buy direct from my bank with just a few dials. Is the street vendor still at work?
  • I don’t know when I will be visiting NHIS offices to renew my card since I can do at home. Will the number of employees there be the same?
  • My lotto agent is no longer seeing me because NLA now makes it possible for me to play on phone and receive payment via the same. How many customers have my agent lost so far to technology?
  • I ended the contract of my Social Media Account Manager. Now bot, a ‘robot’ does all the work for free. What is the account manager doing now?

It’s no evil; in fact, it’s a perfect thing to go mobile or take advantage of tech to ease customers the stress they go through to access services. It is like a decongestion exercise in Accra. While hawkers cry for not getting a place to sell to make a living, users of the pavements applaud authorities for good work done for ensuring free movements in town.

Let us take a look at some instances. The solution to the long queues at the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) centres was either to go digital or to expand offices and get more employees. To offer ease of access to service and cut labour, they went for the digital solution. And in fact, it’s the best anyone would have chosen. As every household in Ghana owns at least a mobile phone, there is going to be a drastic drop in the queues at the various NHIS offices and what will be heard next is that employees are sacked because they have been idle.

While Ghanaians wait on the National Lottery Authority (NLA) to distribute the e-kiosks to employ more Ghanaians, they have instead launched a mobile phone shortcode where lottery players can play the games from the comfort of their homes. What happens to the existing kiosks and the rest yet to be shared? Going mobile means just about ten people handling what over 1000s of people would have handled. This is good for every institution and it’s customers, except that it’s taking jobs away.

The guy who goes around sharing ECG and Water Bills should know that his days are numbered. It won’t be long for these utility companies to start sending bills by either email or SMS.

What’s the way forward

Unemployment rate will keep rising, and we shall continue to blame governments for it if we don’t adjust ourselves to fit in this digitalised world. Though the government has a role to play, for how long can we be blaming governments for things they fail to do?

Taking a critical look at the situation at hand, it’s no doubt that technology is winning and the few in the field are the ones enjoying today and will tomorrow.

Since no country’s success has been linked to its children being bilingual or multilingual, why are we not doing away with French and Arabic in our primary schools and introduce Ghanaians to IT at a younger age? We learn so much in school that play no role in our lives or our onward academic journey. Today, it’s hard to excel in any field without an IT background. So why are we not doing with some items in the syllabus and teach Computer Programming in the school curriculum?

Is the country putting in measures to introduce IT-related courses like Programming/Coding in our tertiary institutions? Are people granted scholarships to offer such programs abroad? Are these software/scripts used government institutions written in Ghana by Ghanaians? Are graduates considering a ‘second degree’ in software engineering/developing/programming/coding?

All institutions will be quick to accept a software or a digitalised system that would reduce labour and offer ease of accessing services by clients. What this means is that more people would be losing their jobs to these programmers soon.

Today, it’s almost impossible to get the best out of business without multiple IT skills. So it has to become part of us right from creche to University. I work as a Travel Blogger and a Travel & Tourism Consultant. With my skills in Web Designing, I create and manage my blogs/websites. I have bots that interact with my clients until they are ready to pay for a service, and I’m coming up with an appointment system where clients can book for consultations either in person or video chat. I haven’t had to go around begging for money to hire someone to do these for me because of the skills I have. Many people have great ideas to start online businesses but cannot afford the cost of setting up the platform. If the education system provided such people with basic knowledge in Web Designing or coding, they could have gotten somewhere with their ideas.

Today, journalists are going around seeking for employment while others with or without writing skills have taken over the online media space as ‘journalists’ because of their expertise in creating and/or managing a blog, managing social media accounts and handling other technical stuff.

Every business needs a website, so why is Website Developing not part of the school’s curriculum? If the authorities do not include the needed IT areas in the syllabus, acquire them yourself.

If you are a student and reading this, think IT. Whatever profession you find yourself in, your knowledge in IT will determine how far you can go.

By: Akesse Sanza (info@jetsanza.com)

Written By
More from Akesse Sanza

US visa restrictions against Ghana: See affected visa categories

Visa restrictions have been placed on Ghana by the United States on...
Read More