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Opinions of Sunday, 10 February 2008

Columnist: Adu-Gyamfi, Kwaku

Virtual Personal Assistant, Can Ghana Own Part Of This Gold Mine?

This is one of the solutions to our soaring unemployment and underemployment rates.

Globalization has increased the demand for offshore outsourcing services such as bank credit cards, health insurance processing and other back-room administrative chores. The beneficiaries are the third world countries like India, South Africa and Eastern Europe.

Now a new business phenomenon has been added to the list of the offshore outsourcing services called ?CUSTOMER PERSONAL ASSISTANT? (CPA). This is an untapped global market niche which is opened to almost any country which has access to the internet. The system requests freer access to the computer, specialized labor force with skills in IT, uninterrupted electricity supply, good communication skills and some amount of entrepreneurial spirit to begin with.

Unfortunately, poor internet infrastructure, unreliable electricity supply and failure to prioritize our needs made Ghana missed out on the global outsourcing boom in the 1990?s, which made many lower and middle class Indians very rich. Are we going to miss out on this one too? I hope not.

With the stress and hectic lifestyle, people in the developed world are seriously finding ways and means to have more time for themselves and their loved ones. As a result, they have decided to outsource personal chores like?travel arrangements, hair appointments, apologizing and sending flowers and cards to spouses, collecting home work information from teachers, getting an authenticated weather forecast and weather report for a particular place, arrange parties, researched summer courses, clean up accounting books and theater reservations ?to personal assistant services companies in India-thousands of miles away via internet hook ?up. People out source their work load to increase their productivity and also gain free time for more important commitment.

According to the (Brickwork and YMII) Indian outsourcing service companies, the new Personal Assistant service industry is growing faster from personal chores to one-on-one tailor-made services such as Legal service, teaching service such as how to play a musical instrument, fixing and repairing household items, arranging weddings and parties, martial advice, providing information on modern day etiquettes, counseling services, provision of herbal medical advice, cooking and nutrition advice just to mention these few.

A personal assistant in Tweapease in Ghana can conduct a research, monitor the web, give a wake-up call and tell a client to get an exercise all for as little as $15.00 an hour via internet hook ?up. Amazing, isn?t it? A top-notch assistant could earn as much as $30.00 per hour.

The point is, the potential of this phenomenon is unlimited, provided the savvy service provider can hook up with the clients who see time as an essential commodity. The benefit of this market is also very huge. It could create employment, control migration and brain drain. We could also recycle our retired citizens, especially those with skills and ability to learn computer skills. This would allow us to contribute to the growth of the world?s economy and also feel good about contributing to make life worth living for someone who lives thousands of miles away.

Presently, Ghana is grappling with large number of unemployed college graduates because there are not enough jobs for them. We also have a huge amount of ?unemployables ??people who cannot work even when there is work because the school system fails to prepare them for world of work. At the junior secondary school level for example, only about 50% of the candidates who wrote the recent national examination are likely to progress to second level of education. The other half will obviously vanish into the joked -unemployment womb of mother Ghana. The fate of these dropouts-- most of them sons and daughters of our rural dwellers-- is anyone?s guess. It is possible that service industry of this kind will significantly solve our unemployment problems faster than expected, provided we pursue it vigorously.

It seems Ghana is a natural location for such businesses because of its great human capital. The country produces much grammar - type graduates who speak English fluently. This is a reservoir of human capital that can be turned around for the better.

All that we need to do is to translate our much talked move to develop Ghana?s ICT into concrete action so that we can have a share in this fast developing industry. But any ICT development will be meaningless if we do not have a sustained and reliable power supply - 24/7. Wide spread ICT development concept will enable so many Ghanaians ?live local and act global.? I will advise that getting wired and provision of affordable and reliable electricity should go and in hand if we really want to part take of this global gold mine. This is the time to take advantage of this ?global revolution.?

Kwaku Adu-Gyamfi
NJ, USA
*The writer is a social commentator and a founder of Adu-Gyamfi Youth Empowerment Educational and Apprecticeship Foundation to help the youth of Asuom in the Kwaebibrim district, E/R


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