The Question- The System

An organisation I am a part of(NSBE-National Society of Black Engineers) organised an event where we went to secondary schools to talk to science students about science and engineering courses they could pursue in the university. After the talk, it was question time then they asked” If we have scientists and engineers coming from the university every year, why does government and other companies employ foreigners to undertake projects, because we should be qualified enough to do most of the work ourselves. Some also said they know Chinese children build gadgets. We said we have Civil engineers but its mostly white men who build our roads. Why?”

Their questions got me thinking, but I gave them the most obvious answers; Ghana doesn’t have the resources like machines and equipment to undertake such projects.We still buy the equipment from the foreigners. So its cheaper like that and when they come, they employ us. It was a lame answer but I got away with it, but the question troubled me because I was about to graduate(finally) and I for once looked at life after school, and got scared.

I’m not scared because we will not get jobs, my fear is this, I’ve seen very intelligent students with brilliant ideas that would change the nation, but what will happen to them after school? They will get sucked in by the SYSTEM. The system that doesn’t allow graduates to think, they just do. Some will travel outside to seek higher education, some will just join these inefficient Ghana something something companies, get brainwashed and made to believe their quota is to get used to the system and live in it. After, they will buy a house, a car, get married, give birth and wait for retirement. That’s the end of the education.

I will limit myself to sciences and engineering. Most of these engineering firms and telcos import their software and are taught how the system works, by a year, they would be experts in the system then all innovation is killed. Scientists? lol the most prominent one I know in Ghana is Prof Allotey. What happened to the others? Some became tellers, businessmen etc. What about starting something? Entrepreneurship? Go to linked in and check, you will see Entrepreneurs who are working for people. Honestly, I think the term Entrepreneurship has been abused in Ghana, that is another article.

Maybe the reason why we employ foreigners is because we aren’t well taught, we are mostly taught to use and maintain what the foreigners have built. Innovation and brainstorming is not encouraged, after all, do you know more than your lecturer? What about the government buying the equipment so the locals here can use? Do we always have to import everything, even mental work?

Well, we can change this. We must. The SYSTEM isn’t good enough and we must not allow the younger generation to suffer what we suffer, that would be wickedness. We can build a better Ghana by restructuring our educational system.

My graduation speech is very simple: I thank God, I thank my parents, and thanks to all the passco!! Hasta La Vista, so long and thanks for all the fish. May the Force be with us all…

My take on Ghanaian software developers and hype

Software is supposed to solve problems and who better to develop an app to solve a problem in Ghana than a Ghanaian? Its normal when we feel proud that a fellow Ghanaian and African is developing apps, but now, all it takes is for someone to create an app and that person would be hailed as the next Bill Gates, like we have had over 1000 Bill Gates in the space of a year(true talk). Software development in Ghana is becoming like our music industry; from underground to 1 hit song then kaboom! vanish. This is not helping our IT “industry” at all. I am not saying there aren’t good developers; there are and I know a lot and most of them are low key, not basking in the temporary glory of one app that honestly does nothing. Like someone trying to build a Facebook for Ghana, why bother? So is it like we are going to have a Ghanaian version of every app?

Software development takes time, its not a popularity contest. If you want to be as popular as Mark Z then you should read about him, he started Facebook a long time but we heard about it when it became stable. Software has an interesting way of embarrassing people, it might work well with 100 users but once it gets to 1000 or more users, it might crash. Start ups are now the movers and shakers of the IT industry worldwide and as a country, we aren’t far behind, we have a lot of promising Start ups and if they get the RIGHT AMOUNT of hype, it increases our credibility.Start ups are good, not all Start ups will succeed, its normal. We don’t want a situation where no one will trust start ups from Ghana because we hyped every kind of start up!!

We need software products and developers who can compete globally not local champions who get unnecessary hype just by compiling code. When I hear those in the developed world commending us for some apps we develop, I feel more insulted than proud. Its a patronizing attitude, like “wow, people from Africa too can program? they tried, at least they can run “hello world””. When will we also create stuff that will dominate like Facebook, twitter, instagram etc? Or even develop our apps targeted specifically for Ghana but others will see and want to use elsewhere? Apps that solve problems locally but can compete globally? Its a global village after all.

I am not saying software developers should not be given attention, I am saying the hype and recognition should not be the target, the hype should be for the problem the app is solving. How many of us know Herman Chinery-Hesse of Soft tribe? Hype should be given to functionality. Software developer isn’t a celebrity status.

An IT me,