We have become so increasingly dependent on modern technology
We have become so increasingly dependent on modern technology

Our delicate, modern Internet society

One of the most interesting features of going upscale in literally every facet of human endeavour is wondering how civilisation appeared to exist in one’s life prior.


On the few occasions when I have lost my swanky, modern mobile phone and have had to make do with a ‘yam’ version temporarily, I have felt absolutely frustrated and pained by the thought of not being able to go on social media for the latest gossip, take photographs or access the coins in my bank account, even though truth be told, the ‘yam’ perfectly serves the basic functions of making and receiving call, which is what telephones are all about – well, until recently.

Of course, like many, I have on such occasions wondered how life was during the ‘yam season’, despite being old enough to recall that before they became relics, these handsets (which in their early days looked like bricks) reigned supreme in social circles and were a must-have accessory for any self-respecting person, being a giant leap from fixed land phones.

From glitz to ‘yam’

The recent disruption of internet services to West Africa, occasioned by damage to submarine cables, has perhaps exposed the soft underbelly of systems that we had probably cosily taken for granted, perhaps akin to what COVID-19 did to many health systems across the world.

With an almost total dependency on the internet by many institutions for work, this paralysis has been quite significant.

But beyond institutional impotence, the truncation of the near-total dependency on social media, in particular, for many to enable them to function effectively left them almost traumatised.

After the problem struck, but before the situation had become widely known, many switched off their phones, restarted them several times and rechecked their data balance in their desperate bid to access the internet. Urgent messages, assignments and other documents to be delivered by email stood frozen.

Online business transactions, including banking, mobile money services and online cab-hailing services, among others, got stymied in the process.

Suddenly, glitzy, expensive mobile handsets, complete with all manner of fancy applications, were reduced to the status of ‘yam’ phones.

For those who had suffered power outages, it was a double whammy because they could not access social media to while away the time as they simmered in the heat. Fortunately, voice calls appear to have largely survived the onslaught.

According to the National Communications Authority (NCA), we are looking at about five (5) weeks for full restoration from the time the vessels are dispatched to the various locations for physical assessment and restoration.

Five weeks may seem like an eternity to get full restoration, but I suppose it is what it is.

I am sure that until this incident and the explanation as well as timelines provided by the NCA, many had absolutely no clue of anything such as undersea cables to make internet access possible in the first place.

 After all, why should they? Ignorance is bliss.

All they need to know is that when they need internet service, they can purchase data and access same.

The nitty-gritty of the systems and processes therein, as with the supply of power to our homes, getting an aircraft off the ground into the air, or how microwave ovens are made, is a matter entirely for the technical people to grapple with.

For them, the global sportswear giant’s tagline ‘Just do it!’ literally sums up their perspective. 

Overly dependent?

Of course, in many ways, the internet has changed our lives dramatically for the better in literally every sphere of human endeavour, and being able to access it from mobile devices has been even more revolutionary.

It has been nothing short of magical, even though in many developing countries such as Ghana, it is still growing in its pervasiveness, unlike advanced western countries where the whole society reeks of technology at every turn and a glitch can have particularly dire consequences for its basic functions. 

The irony of it all is that we have become so increasingly dependent on modern technology.


Rather than being liberated by its wonders, we have effectively become welded to it and are left floundering like fish out of water when we lose it, even if temporarily.

Maybe such occasional glitches, which also happen in the West, are a grim reminder of our modern slavery.

Already, some have nervously wondered what the security and social consequences would be if this meltdown happened on Election Day.

For our rather fragile democracy with its inherent, deep mistrust between the two main political parties in particular, one can only shudder at the thought and hope against it ever happening. 


Thankfully, there has been some limited, sporadic service.

But perhaps it is time to explore solutions proffered by experts that do not rely on cables at the bottom of the sea, at least for critical infrastructure and services.

That is how you build resilient systems to ensure business continuity, among others. 

The writer is Head, Communications & Public Affairs Unit
Ministry of Energy                                                                                                                                     
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