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11.12.2011 Business & Finance

Does The Brain Drain Still Matter?

By Graphic Ghana - Daily Graphic
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Human Capital Flight, commonly referred to as the ‘Brain Drain,’ is a problem that has been afflicting Ghana and the entire African continent for quite a while as thousands of professionals and talented youth leave Africa to seek greener pastures elsewhere.

However, the dawn of social technologies such as social media (Facebook, Google+, Twitter), Cloud Computing Applications and Crowd sourcing methods raise the question of whether the brain drain still poses a serious problem as in the past.

Simply put, ‘brain drain’ refers to the large scale emigration of individuals with technical skills or knowledge. According to The African Monitor, the brain drain ‘has cost the African continent over $4 billion in the employment of 150,000 expatriate professionals annually.’

Ghana itself loses professionals in every sector, especially the medical profession where in the period 1999 to 2004, ‘448 doctors or 54 per cent of those trained in the period, left to work abroad’ (according to the National Statistical Service).

The brain drain has thus resulted in an oft-times severe lack of trained professionals to operate in many sectors. This means our professional human resource is often over-stretched, resulting in the employment of many expatriates to fill positions.

However, with the emergence of social technologies and the Internet, the true seriousness or impact of the brain drain must be reconsidered.

The advent of the Internet has brought people from all over the world together not only for social means but for business as well. Technologies such as cloud computing applications now allow people from various areas of the world to come together to work on a project, in a crowd sourced model.

Google Documents allows many different people to come together to work simultaneously on a document. Video conferencing tools such as Skype allow people to see and talk to each other over any distance, for any amount of time. Video conferencing has already found practical use in matters ranging from long-distance business meetings to distance education. It is even allowing senior surgeons to consult live on surgeries happening a great distance away.

Considering the existence of these technologies it can then be argued that the effects of the brain drain are not so serious today as they once were considered. Using these new technologies, Ghanaians living abroad can still contribute to activities within the country. Lecturers abroad can still teach Ghanaian students, doctors can still consult on cases and help train young doctors and businessmen abroad can continue to participate in work activities taking place in Ghana.

The technologies outlined here don’t directly address the core problems that cause ‘brain drain’ and they certainly do not fully replicate the value of a person’s physical presence. However, these technologies will allow our talented Ghanaians abroad to return ‘digitally’ and continue to contribute to the growth and success of this country.

As we make strides in improving conditions in this country to prevent our people emigrating en masse, it would be wise to implement some of these technologies to ensure that we can still make use of the acquired skills of those who have left.

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