Laptops for Ghana MPs – A Good Idea

I earlier promised a post on why I support laptops for Ghana’s MPs. Here it is:

The Communication ministry led by Haruna Iddrisu last week made known they are providing laptops with modems for Ghana’s 230 members of parliament (No official information on this on the  Ghana Government website yet, but see JoyFM’s report here).

There was immediately an uproar. Most of the critique goes along these lines:

Many villages in the 3 Northern Regions fetch water from stagnant waters and used for cooking and washing. Hon. Haruna Iddrisu, just this morning when I was traveling from Yendi to Tamale, I saw one of your bill boards you used for the 2008 campaign in one of the villages I am talking about. You could have lobbied for the money to sink 230 bore holes this year in 230 villages in the north. Next year another 230 and here we go. God bless us all !!!!! (this is an acctual comment from myjoyonline.com)

Now I strongly disagree, and this is why I say providing laptops for Ghanaian MPs is a good idea:

  • In today’s world, to be able to do any political work you have to have access to good communication tools. To be able to make important decisions on water, politicians have to read proposals, write motions, communicate with citizens etc.In fact, it is shocking that it is news…did Ghana’s MPs not have access to ICT before last week?
  • Now we can easier demand accountability. Make MPs send all official emails through a centralized system so there will be transparency and a backlog if anything goes wrong. (Today many Ghanaian government officials send you emails from yahoo and hotmail accounts…)
  • Efficiency. Imagine if all motions and bills could be stored online. Maybe finally things could be done earlier than “the last year”?
  • Mzalendo in Ghana. Lets set up a website that keeps track on MPs work! This could never be done if MPs did not have access to ICT.
  • And last, but not least: Now our politicians can read blogs! Maybe even write their own on what they do! The Swedish foregin Minister Carl Bildt has a blog (in Swedish), The White house also has a blog etc.

The problem in the past has been the personal ownership of all “tools”. Like the personal car loan. I think governments should provide a car, an office with suitable equipment etc. to elected officials – just as for administrators –  but it should not be given/donated/offered to the individuals. May I remind you of Plato’s idea of denying the right of property to the rulers of his Republic (called philosopher kings)?

I’d like to challenge Osabutey Anny and Emmanuel Adu whom I know disagrees with me o this matter to respond.

And you, what do you think about MP laptops. Long overdue or a waste of money?

Photo borrowed from Single Particles.

15 Replies to “Laptops for Ghana MPs – A Good Idea”

  1. Maybe, one of your readers can also provide us with an MP’s job description.
    I don’t consider a laptop a luxury item but knowing the MPs’ job description will help me make an intelligent decision on their need for laptops.

  2. You know, I was initially opposed to the laptop idea on much the same lines as provided above. Now that I have read your opinion, I am kind of leaning towards your POV.

  3. A job description I can give you: A member of parliament is a law-maker. Lets not get caught up in details, a law-maker definitely needs a laptop.

  4. I’d like to read your (cynical) version. Maybe you can link to me to get that “discussion” we talked about at the last meeting?

  5. Kajsa, I’m for them getting laptops. What I hear those against the idea saying is that the funds could be used for other important things. (instant versus long-term gratification).
    Could it be that they are against the idea because they don’t know what MPs are supposed to deliver to the people? If we know details of what an MP will use this tool for, it becomes easy to justify him/her having it.

  6. 1. The MPs have sufficient funds to get laptops for themselves
    2. The fact that they have the laptops and modems doesn’t mean they will use a centralised system to send emails. Indeed, they could send emails using a centralised system which could be institutional. What is happening now isn’t institutional, it is personal property. This also means Ghanaians cannot demand ANYTHING as you say (even the information bill hasn’t been passed).
    3. Motions and bills could be stored without the MPs having free personal laptops. Come on. Parliament has clerks and administrators who could do this. This isn’t MP job.
    4. They have access to ICT in their offices, parliament (including the ministers). They didn’t need this free facility. Again, keeping track of MP work (they themselves say they aren’t development agents) can be an initiative of the state, parliament as an institution not an MP with a laptop which only means they could upload info or not.
    5. I bet the decision to even read my blog has nothing to do with having a free laptop or modem.

    And the last point about things given as personal property (of which this laptop and modem is) defeats the reasons for which they have received the free laptops.
    I must say, if an MP doesn’t have his or her own laptop already is such a shame. This is a misplaced priority. Students need the laptops – or better still, a loan scheme for laptops because they don’t have the financial capacity of the MPs. I wouldn’ have a problem if this facility went to the institution. Since it didn’t, it becomes not a ‘waste of money’ as you put it, but a conscious effort to enrich the privileged who continue to rip off the country. Have you read the government website on culture? Do you think it would improve because an MP who has a problem configuring his phone now has a laptop and internet?
    This is my preliminary response
    I don’t know how many of them are damn good at it.

  7. A lawmaker needs a a computer with internet. I agree. Doesn’t mean he/she should get it for free from the state when he could purchase it for himself.

  8. I don’t think the argument that MPs “should buy their own laptops” holds much water. As a matter of efficiency, transparency, and national security all members of government should be doing all their communications on government owned and monitored devices via SECURE government servers. I’d like to think that these laptops are a step towards that. I don’t think it should be seen as “either/or”, every infrastructural improvement matters. People can celebrate the laptops and STILL insist upon getting bore holes. In fact having good online government portals to monitor public works AND communicate with your local MP, will make the job of lobbying ever easier. I know that not every Ghanaian has access to the internet, but getting one member of an organization to jog over to the internet cafe to keep track of these matters shouldnt be too tough. Should it? Sometimes I worry that many Ghanaians complain just as sport and really DON’T want to see things change for the better. I do hope that I am wrong!

    Thanks for this post, Kajsa. I do hope you will continue to cover ICT issues in the Ghanaian government.

  9. I’m an trader by profession (Equity/Options/Fx+). I work btwn home and platform at work in lower Manhattan. I use a two of everything at home, with each spare as a backup into high speed providers. At work, I can’t begin to imagine the cost of the platform I’m allowed to use (including the trading softwares). But all this is for a single purpose: access to timely information.

    My niece wants an iPad for christmas. That thing is sweet, but costly. I can see the many ways it can be beneficial to her life (mobility, school work, learning apps, etc), but I’ve yet to be fully convinced of it’s necessity for a 12-yr old.

    My preacher uncle in Accra and another wanted laptops. They didn’t really have any reason for it, but it seemed they simply wanted one because it’ll be nice to have. They don’t have any internet at home or work. Even if they did, I know of non exceeding 4mbps (on a bad day, my cablevison line gives me a paltry 12mps which is only good for casual browsing), which is rather costly judging from vodafone’s website.

    I just went to Ghana’s government official website. I’m sorry, but I could’ve written that thing in 2 days! I also don’t imagine there’s any dynamic network built behind it, which one would imagine government NEEDS to run. So, all this leaves me not asking whether the purchase of laptops is warranted. My question is what real need is there for laptops for these people? Do they want notebooks just so they can email each other? How much less inefficient would they be if they had notebooks? Is this yet another of a long line of ‘wants’ these spoiled men and women feel the need to add to the state’s cost expenditure? What good is a sporty, F1-like steering wheel if one has broken engine, faulty transmission, and oh… a car’s that’s resting on cement blocks? I don’t imagine they have the same need I have. So where between my niece and uncles do these people lie?

    And lastly, where does it end, or what’s next? I’m already picturing “we need these modems, and routers… oh, and a server farm… and a costly data center would be nice, too!” Don’t forget to throw in the ones for staffers, wives, children, and the few ghost units that’ll be sold under the table. Let’s also not forget this is going to become an annual thing- after all, laptops depreciate, and MP’s can’t work on outdated equipment forever. Who is paying for all this? And with what money? Water, energy and sanitation problems be damned… we want laptops!!!

    …all this to probably just check on EPL news and watch porn.

  10. Kajsa,
    I have no problem with MPs getting laptops to gain access to timely information if we were living in Sweden! This is Ghana we are talking about. We are a nation where the majority of our citizens don’t have access to clean, reliable water and electricity.The majority of the stiudents in our country go to schools where they don’t have chairs or desks or even walls to keep out the elements. We have MPS who seem to think that we are a First World country when nothing could be farther from the truth. Our leaders have their heads buried in the sand. Do they not see what is aroiund them?
    All I want is for my country’s leaders to have a vision and a plan to get our country of the mess we are in. The laptop program is meant for a First World country, which sadly Ghana is not (yet). Love your posts and I will keep reading.

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