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Feature Article of Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Columnist: Sakyi, Kwesi Atta

Ghanaweb Hobos, Addicts, and Commentators-Do they Observe Netiquette?

By Kwesi Atta Sakyi

14th May 2012

We must thank the British inventor of the internet, Tim Berners Lee, the Syrian-born American, late Steve Jobs of Apple, Bill Gates of Microsoft, Mark Zuckerberg of Google, Von Newman’s pioneering work after the Second World War, the ancient abacus inventors, the work of Nigerian-born Philip Emeagwali ( he posted the fastest computation in history, using interconnected computers), the contribution of our own Professor F.K.A Allotey, and the work of countless scientists around the world for the facility we now call the internet. We can engage in social networking, skype, blog and carry out research online, at minimum cost. ICT holds millions of possibilities for resolving the issue of youth unemployment, through creation of technopreneurs or online entrepreneurs. The process of deindustrialisation includes the quantum shift from the declining heavy polluting sunset industries to the emerging sunrise and knowledge industries, leading to footloose industries in the Silicon Valleys of this world, and the rise of a new generation of workers in the quaternary sector, called knowledge workers. These can work from anywhere as they do their work online, using ICT facilities.


The new technology has led to concepts such as telecommuting/teleworking, or home working, freelancing, hot desking, hotelling, call centres, offshoring, ousourcing, subcontracting or contracting out. ICT has liberated the worker to enjoy some freedom and has empowered consumers to engage in doing business from the convenience of their homes, as they engage in ordering goods online, or booking air tickets online, thus saving travelling costs and reducing negative externalities, such as adding to pollution from their car exhaust fumes. Many businesses, which engage in e-commerce or e-tailing, have considerably reduced their labour and rental costs, by adopting e-commerce. Now we have many virtual firms such as Amazon.com, e-Bay, Lastminute.com, among others. These are interconnected in the supply chain, with credit card companies, producers, courier services, airlines, pre-inspection and shipment agents, regulatory bodies, financial institutions, among others. Small scale farmers are using their cell phones to receive agricultural extension services, as well as marketing of their produce to earn fair prices, among other applications. ICT facilities are being used in e-education in virtual classrooms, e-government, e-medicine, and the security services are using ICT to track criminals worldwide. However, the downside of e-business is that it creates structural and technological unemployment in the traditional sectors of the economy, as many workers are made redundant with the introduction of new technology. These displaced workers need deskilling and retraining. To survive in this current labour market paradigm shift, one should become self-employed, multi-talented and multi-skilled. People have to start thinking in n-dimensions, or being innovative and creative, by exploiting untapped market gaps and niches, as well as exploring ways to add value to existing products and processes.



Since 1992, Ghanaweb, a website solely dedicated to Ghanaians at home and abroad, has grown exponentially in popularity and clientele. Ghanaweb predates Google and Youtube. It is not only Ghanaians who visit this website, as I have found people from all over the world visiting the website, to contribute to discussions in the forum, and some media houses do take articles from there to place on their websites,
and rebroadcast for their reading public. I have noted that many of my articles have been distributed in many websites online, among foreign owned media. Since Ghanaweb was launched in Finland, and later rehoused in the Netherlands, it has become a major force to reckon with, among the Ghanaian reading public. The website is interactive, user-friendly and has a variety of products to satisfy different interests. It even has an email forwarding service, where you can send an article to a friend’s email address without logging out of the Ghanaweb site. There are links for Opinions, Diaspora News, Archives, Sports, Entertainment, Business, Features, Member Area, among others. However, my only beef with Ghanaweb is that they do not censor the articles nor edit them. I think that to maintain professional standards, there should be some regulatory framework. Also, Ghanaweb should devise a means of rewarding their regular contributors as they get many hits on their site when articles are read or visited, and I am sure they derive some substantial income from businesses which advertise on their site. However, I discovered Ghanaweb late, only about five years ago. Since then, I have been addicted to it. This is despite the fact that, I have a heavy work schedule as a secondary school teacher in an international school in Lusaka, Zambia. I must tell you that if you have not worked in an international world -class school , which offers the International Baccalaureate programme, then you do not know what is meant by deadlines, heavy work schedule and pressure of work in a multicultural environment of about 64 nationalities. Managing diversity is not an easy task, as you need to be sensitive to the sensibilities and nuances of different nationalities, doing a balancing act, and being on the right side of the law always to avoid being sued by rich parents. What with stressful demands in chaperoning late evening extra-curricular activities, such as music, drama, art and other presentations and exhibitions, plus going on educational tours, evaluating extended essays, internal assessments, satisfying accreditation criteria such as standards and benchmarks, serving on many school Board of Governors Committees, among a whole raft of responsibilities. My remit is teaching Economics and Business and Management to IB1s and IB2s, as well as teaching Year 11 IGCSE Business Studies, and Social Studies to Year 8s. Of course, there is quality control regarding class size and teaching load per teacher, which must be strictly adhered to.



Hobos are layabouts, unemployed and homeless tramps and vagrants, who migrate from one place to another in search of menial jobs on farms. This is the definition given by both the Collins and Webster’s New World dictionaries. The term became popular during the Great Depression in the USA, beginning in 1929, following the Wall Street Stock Exchange Crash. For the purpose of this article, a hobo is a regular on Ghanaweb, who seems not to have any serious thought to offer, but to engage in disparaging comments and insults. These are those who hide under a pseudonym, sobriquet, moniker, nomenclature or nickname to write nasty comments on the web. The Collins dictionary defines an addict as ‘one who spends much time doing an activity which they like very much.’ These are the die-hard, dyed-in-the-wool, Ghanaweb enthusiasts. Addicts include drug addicts, gamblers, football fanatics, party cadres or foot soldiers, TV couch potatoes, video game lovers, music connoisseurs, among many others. Netiquette is defined by the Collins dictionary as ‘the set of rules and customs that it is considered polite to follow when you are communicating by means of e-mail or the internet.’ This also means being prudent and courteous, and not being prurient with one’s choice of words on the internet. There is a high incidence of abuse of internet protocol on Ghanaweb, which is very nettlesome and disgraceful to us as a country. The internet offers a limitless resource, for social networking, research, communication, business and entertainment. Music lovers can download their favourite i-tunes from Youtube, free of charge, and photo lovers can also do the same online. However, this is considered by some as piracy or lack of respect for intellectual property rights. It is important to state the sources of such downloaded material, whenever they are used or applied in the public domain, to avoid plagiarism. Many academics have created websites for knowledge sharing and dissemination of their research findings. Despite unlimited possibilities of applications provided by the internet, it also poses many hazards and unlimited challenges such as negative misapplications. In Ghana, Nigeria, Burkina Faso, Liberia, Benin and other West African countries, there is upsurge in cyber crime, called 419 advance money fraud. These crimes are committed by hobos and hackers, who are mostly youthful adults who dropped out of school, and are looking for shortcuts to instant wealth and fame. These youth in their twenties and early thirties, are unemployed, yet they find money to
book internet cafes the whole day, to carry out their nefarious activities, ad infinitum. However, many governments have set up special squads to monitor and apprehend these internet abusers. Some of the cyber crimes are identity theft, money laundering, hacking, paedophiles, internet dating scams, advance cash payment scams, among others. In Ghana, we have the notorious Sakawa, who are young kids who visit voodoo sites and they make lots of money through some strange means.


Personally, my hobby is writing articles and sharing them on Ghanaweb and other websites, such as Myjoyfmonline, Spyghana.com, VibeGhana, Ghanamma, Ghanavillage, among others. My experience has been one of mixed feelings. I have established contact with old and new friends on Ghanaweb. Through Ghanaweb, I have been exposed well to the character of Ghanaians, including the good and the bad. I have enjoyed reading articles on Ghanaweb, thus keeping myself informed about events in Ghana. However, some articles are not worth their salt as they have been shallow, badly written, sensational and emotional, full of misinformation and propagandist. I wonder whether political articles, some of which are misleading, are the only articles Ghanaians can write or read. There are many other issues of importance which need addressing, yet it is only political articles which sell and attract the most hits. As such, some specious and unprincipled contributors to Ghanaweb, have made it their daily business to concoct political lies and propaganda to obfuscate the gullible reader. However, credit goes to other contributors who try to be objective. I have noted quality articles emanating from writers such as Michael Bokor, Kofi Ata at Cambridge, Clement Sangaparee, Kwesi Tawiah Benjamin, Royal Enoch, The Emperor, Daniel Pryce, Kofi Amenyo, and sometimes from Kwame Okoampa Ahoofe, Otchere Darko, Nana Akyea Mensah, among others. I have found articles by some writers to be taking political stances. These include articles by Margaret Jackson, Kwame Anane Afrifa, among others. Of the commentators who never write articles but choose to sit on the fence, and to take writers on with their caustic, acerbic and sarcastic remarks, we have my own townsman in the USA calling himself, Paa Kwesi Minta. This guy can really be sarcastic and off putting, but he is well read and extremely intelligent. There is Princewilly who always comes off with lurid, prurient and obscene jokes, which tells a lot about his state of mind and his lifestyle. Decent critics whose comments offer food for thought, include people like Sam Danso ( the lory driver), Marcus Ampadu, Gersis, Nana Akyea Mensah, Akadu Mensima, Pelicles, Omanba Pa, Nana Akyea Mensah, Kweku Babone, Bula Ntulu, Joe Annan, Kojo T, among many others. Notorious commentators who sometimes paint Ghanaweb red with a series of their clueless comments, include characters like Sgt AnanI Fiadjoe, KOLA LONDON PROPER, OLD SOLDIER, ERIC, Kwesi Adu, Agbeli Kumordji, TROUBLEMAKER, OMANGHANA, Ghafuor, among others. The latter group use upper case for their monikers and pseudonyms. Many people do not take them serious on Ghanaweb. Indeed, I have come to realise that there are many lunatics, psychopaths, morons, imbeciles, sadists, misanthropists, deranged and eccentric anarchists, tribalists, egocentrics, xenophobes and socially challenged deviants or maladjusted attention deficit disorderly individuals, who are lurking out there on Ghanaweb. I am not a psychologist but I can tell from some of the comments made on Ghanaweb that we have a long way to go to revamp our educational system in Ghana because Ghanaweb is a representative sample of the Ghanaian society. The quality of education to me has sunk to its nadir and doldrums. Judge for yourself, by sampling some insipid and lowbrow writing on Ghanaweb. However, all is not lost as we still have some Victorian flourish writers, like Kwame Okoampa Ahoofe Jnr. If you want to entangle your brain by reading undecipherable Chaucerian or Johnson’s or Victorian era style of literature, then fasten your seatbelt for take-off into the clouds by taking on some of the daunting treatises churned out from the writing mill of Kwame Okoampa Ahoofe Jnr. This guy’s writings are convoluted and not easy to understand. He will take you through a labyrinth of writing, where a whole page could go without a full stop or comma. He is indeed superfluous with words, idioms and figures of speech, which are indeed outlandish, to say the least. His communication style and diction is stilted and high falutin, perhaps meant for the professorial class of people. His garnishing and embellishment of the Queen’s language beggar belief. Only a handful of Ghanaweb surfers are on the same wavelength with him. His serial writings revolve around Busia-Danquah-Akyem Abuakwa microcosm, as well as regular denigration and bashing of the first republican president, Kwame Nkrumah, which most often woefully fail to wash or cut ice with Ghanaweb enthusiasts. He is often told by many commentators to back off, as he is seen as a retrograde and renegade, a man stuck in the past, in the 50s. Okoampa seems to be haunted by the past, as he looks like someone with a complex, as he is not ready to move on in life and forget the albeit his self-inflicted sordid past. Marie Corelli in her novel, Wormwood averred, “ No wise man stops to brood over the past, for the past is full of gloom and a dismal prospect”. Okoampa writes his name always with the appendage of Phd, as if he was afraid that if he did not market himself, his Phd would desert him. He states that he lectures at Nassau Community College in New York. Okoampa sometimes does not fail to intrigue me with his bombastic, sententious and pedantic writing, which is also didactic, ostensibly to teach Ghanaians a bit of his historical scoops concerning injustices meted out to his uncle, J.B.Danquah, or some deeds of Busia which went unnoticed. I am wondering why for some time now, some of the regular contributors to Ghanaweb have retired and stopped writing. Perhaps, they are taking a gap year to reflect and research. Or are they put off by the crude comments and flak from the rude and uncouth commentators?



It is a source of worry to notice on Ghanaweb that Ghanaians are getting angry and angry by the day, as inferred from their comments. It seems as though many Ghanaians are angry with themselves for not meeting their numerous expectations in life, or angry at perceived mammoth corruption in government circles, or inability to access quality education and healthcare for themselves and their families, among a host of concerns. But so are other people angry in other parts of the world, such as Greece, Nigeria, Spain, France, Egypt, Syria, Germany, Italy and others. Happiness cannot be found outside but within. I am sure we need to offer courses in Ghana in anger management, happiness attainment, use of refined language, and netiquette. What is instructive though and reassuring is that those who are vociferous and vocal on Ghanaweb, may not be enfranchised as most are diasporeans who live outside the shores of Ghana like me. Besides, those engaged in political hullaballoo, tussle and altercation in the towns and cities may not be in the majority in Ghana. I think we have say 56% of our population living in rural Ghana. Come 7th December 2012, Ghanaians will suppress their anger and vote peacefully but wisely, to bring about the changes they hope and wish for in a happy and prosperous Ghana, where tribes tolerate and respect each other, where sane and patriotic leaders are put in charge of affairs. We want to see reforms in our now moribund 1992 Constitution, we want to derive maximum benefit from export of our natural resources of gold, bauxite, oil, manganese, timber, diamonds, and cocoa. We demand equitable distribution of the national wealth, through transparently managed transfer payments, subsidies,and social welfare stipends, especially for senior citizens and the vulnerable. We want to see macroeconomic stability by reining in inflation and being on top of food security. We want to see accelerated development of our transport infrastructure and vibrant reforms in education and health services delivery. We want electricity and water supply blues to subside, we want action against Fulani marauders who terrorise our rural farmers with impunity, we want traffic congestion blues in Accra to disappear through proper planning, we want our irresponsible media practitioners to be shown the exit door, we want ......,we want........


Next time you contribute your comments on Ghanaweb, make sure you hold your firepower by making warm and constructive comments. Do not fly off the handle. Please, ensure you read the entirety of an article before making your comment, and do not jump the gun. You are at liberty to read and not to comment. But if you do comment, make your comments focused on the article and the points raised therein. Make comments which add value and build. Contact me at:
Email: kwesiattasakyi449@gmail.com
Or website: poetry4life.hpage.com





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