“50 CDs for free? What kind of country is that?” Our new friend Larry’s comment when a member of our group shows him U.S. prices for blank CDs should make important people in Ghana and inadequately skilled tech workers everywhere pretty nervous. After a smooth install that took most of the day, we’re hanging out in the server room of KNUST. Larry and about 5 of his buddies designed this room, along with the entire network of his former university. Yeah: former is wherein lies part of Ghana’s problem. Larry, his buddies, and a bunch of other smart people around the world have graduated with computer engineering and other useful degrees that are attractive to companies in much more developed countries. That’s the other part of Ghana’s predicament: Larry’s entire university is sharing partial access to a 1-megabit satellite connection; translation: Larry doesn’t get internet access speedier than slow at any time. Couple this with the fact that he makes a quarter as much per month as he’d make in a week in the U.S. and it’s easy to see why most of Larry’s friends are no longer residents of Ghana.
So, what are the president and Ashanti leaders to do? Most importantly, they need to realize that they can’t count on generosity like that of the Ashanti chief awarded yesterday who farmed with an engineering degree. That’s asking too much of people who see how well compensated those less qualified but lucky enough to hold citizenship in a First World country are. I know I can’t honestly ay I’d stay somewhere like here if I had an education and saw how First Worlders were living, and this is a nicer part of the Third World. To stop this brain drain, Ghana needs to empower any Larrys they can find. Putting him in charge of a server room’s a start, but he’ll need a sense of control over his work and fair compensation to keep him here for any longer length of time. Sure, it might upset existing power structures a little to pay your I.T. guy as much as professors, but I don’t see any other way to keep the young, educated class so essential for development from leaving, disenfranchised by blind obedience to traditional power structures.
In case the random rant didn’t give it away, today was relatively uneventful: narcolepsy in the van, new software for the labs, and Star lagers in the night about sum it up.