Ghana, Online Scamming, and the Internet’s Broken Promises

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Ghana, Online Scamming, and the Internet’s Broken Promises

Postby mtbturtle on May 12th, 2012, 10:20 pm 

April 27, 2012 | UC Berkeley School of Information

For the youth of the West African nation of Ghana, a country on the margins of the global economy, the growth of the Internet in the 1990s was full of promise — the promise of sharing in the prosperity of the information age, and of forging meaningful connections with the rest of the world, politically, economically, and socially.

But when Internet connectivity finally arrived after the turn of the 21st century, many of these optimistic youth struggled to form connections with the foreigners they encountered online.


http://www.ischool.berkeley.edu/newsandevents/news/20120427burrell_ghana_book
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An Internet café in urban Ghana (photo: Alan Lew, 2010)
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Re: Ghana, Online Scamming, and the Internet’s Broken Promis

Postby CanadysPeak on May 14th, 2012, 8:34 am 

Earlier, you posted a thread about values. That got derailed before I was able to reply seriously, so we might return here.

Ghana is an amalgam of several British colonies. The British found it convenient to administer it in (about) its present form, so it became a sovereign nation as such. That would be fine, if only everyone belonged to the same tribe, and if that tribe shared British values. None of that is true.

Let me illustrate with a story. When my (future) brother-in-law was a child of about ten, he fell into one of the ditches which serve as storm drains and sewers in Lagos. He severely lacerated his knee, and the danger of infection was obvious. His mother took him to the doctor. The doctor had been British educated, practiced modern medicine, yet understood the difficulty of obtaining an ample supply of pure antibiotics in Ghana. He observed that my mother-in-law-to-be was young. It might be best to let this child die and have another.

She eventually found a hospital with a supply of antibiotics and the boy was healed. Nonetheless, this points out that, in a land of poverty and high infant morality, and with only a minimal influence from classic Western Chrisyian thought, the life of a particular person (let alone child) has to be far less significant. The tale might have been worse had the doctor and patient belonged to any two tribes that are traditional enemies. In that instance, the doctor might have refused to even see the patient.

Tribal values are predominant in Ghana. Those largely subsume family loyalties and values. National values mean little (after all, what do Accra and Lagos have in common?). Moreover, traditional European values mean little.

The article speaks of local customs that seem to be scams. Again, it is a matter of local values. Dash is ubiquitous in Ghana, as it is in much of West Africa. Europeans often think that an inefficient form of blackmail. Yet, I've seen the same thing on the streets of New York where, upon parking the truck, I was asked by a couple of street urchins if I wanted them to "watch my hubcaps" for a dollar each. I did, they did, and the truck was OK (it had no hubcaps anyway).

If we continue to judge the former third world by affluent, American values, we run the risk of appearing as socially awkward as poor Mitt Romney in front of a Pittsburgh cookie plate (akin to a religious icon). Further, we lose the ability to form cultural and economic ties with those countries. China, which makes no bones of its self-interest in Africa, appears to be doing a much better job at this than we.

I am reminded of the sad scenario from the 60s when AID sent dozens of shiploads of cement to Ghana. Those ships largely sat in the Lagos anchorage until the cement hardened in the tropical humidity beyond use. The problem: there were insufficient port facilities for unloading the ships. Ah, yes, the cement was intended to be used for building port facilities. As the British colonial rulers used to say, noses in the air, "WAWA" (West Africa Wins Again).
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