29.03.2007 Feature Article


29.03.2007 LISTEN

The introduction of the cell phones and the internet is making the Postal Service very irrelevant—so they think!
Are we developing IT at the expense of P&T?
After so many months without any rainfall in most part of Ghana, the raining season finally just started, but I'm not happy. I'm not happy because when it rains the lobby of the post office in my town turns into a small man-made lake. The water leakage from the roof of that post office is enough to meet one's personal water need for a few days. But, it seems the town doesn't care and the kwaebibrim district assembly doesn't want to touch it. Who needs a Post office when you can text on your cell phone and send e-mail in seconds?

The debut of the Internet (with its e-mail) and cell phones into the Ghanaian society is killing the importance of the Postal Services. When was the last time you sent or received a hand-written letter from the Ghana Post office? For those of us living outside Ghana, when was the last time you got a hand-written mail from Ghana? When you open your mail box chances are you'll find some sweepstakes, bills, credit card offers and a letter from your healthcare provider. The art of letter writing is dead—period! Thanks to the Internet and the cell phones!
Since the e-mail debuted no one seems to have time to write letters by hand, any more. We virtually send Greetings cards instantaneously via e-mail, and the card companies have created cards for every occasion .All we have to do is sign our names to them. No wonder, my penmanship skill is going down the drain. Hey, who wants to write nice when everything is cooked up for you? With a touch of a key board, I can instantly send a message around the globe and receive almost an instantaneous reply. So who wants to be bothered with a pen and paper, not to mention the snail mail? God knows how long it takes a mail from Tweapease to get to New Jersey.

In this day and age it's very tempting to fire off an outrageous statement, just to pass the time. The feel-good part is that the recipient of your e-mail message is far away and you don't have to worry about a lazy mail man dropping your mail somewhere. Nevertheless, the drawl back is that you can ultimately put your message immortalized on someone's hard drive in Timbuktu. The person can choose to forward it all around the world, instantaneously, without any guilt or hesitation.

Against this backdrop, the role of the Postal Service in Ghana is diminishing, but that doesn't mean that we should neglect its role in the society and in the communication equilibrium. Human beings tend to have a very short memory. But, who doesn't remember the days when all phone calls were made from the post offices around the country? What about telex and cable grams? My first savings account was opened at the Post office—don't laugh! My mom even told me that at one point, the malaria medication was sold exclusively, at the Post Office. So what went wrong? Don't get me wrong. I don't expect any modern day Post office to function as an eighteen century one. But, neglecting it totally is going to cost us more, down the road. Because it forms very integral part of the communication equation.

Speaking of the Postal Service, how come Ghana doesn't have a zip code system so as to speed up the mail processing , distribution and delivery ?The Zip Code System can also track down mail and save time . But, I know that is not a priority. Perhaps, the Postal Service Head doesn't even use its service and the policy makers don't have to mail any letter. I bet they have their fax machines and expensive laptops with wireless internet hooked-up. And, with their cell phones they can text their friends and families all over the world. They would rather talk about IT than P&T, whilst the raining season is approaching.

The rain will come and the Asuom Post office's roof will leak, as it does every raining season—for the past two years. So I'll be selling some raffle tickets to raise some funds to fix the leaking roof, whilst the government is figuring out a way to hook up internet in every district capital. Indeed, the price of technology is very expensive. It also makes you mixed -up your priorities, very quickly. Hel-lo! I'll flash you, because I have no unit.

Kwaku Adu-Gyamfi
New jersey, USA

* The writer is a social commentator, the chairman of the Asuom Youth Club (AYC), the founder of Adu-Gyamfi Youth Empowerment, Educational Foundation and Apprenticeship Programs.