Speaking with a ‘select’ students’ membership group and to some newly inducted Fellows and Senior Fellows of the Institute of Economics Ghana at the British Council in Accra at the weekend, Prof. Samuel Lartey – who is a Financial and Educational Consultant – exhorted the newly inducted membership, other economic professionals, national economic managers, teams and scholars in the country to be very open minded and quick to suggest inputs into the “Go-or-No Go” decisions on the introduction of economic technologies and technological products and services into the economy before products and services are rolled out.
According to Prof. Lartey, economic technology plays a pivotal role in the development of any economy with – its numerous changes contributing immensely to growth of the economy in various ways. Technology promotes the usage of natural resources, and its effective utilisation results in saving of labour. Technology for economists could be anything that helps us produce things faster, better or cheaper. It must be emphasised that when economists talk about technology, they’re thinking more broadly about new ways of doing things. Communication is thus enhanced, and companies can communicate more easily with all stakeholders through technology.
Professor Lartey related his admonition to the conflicting perceptions in the financial services sector in Ghana. He referred to the claim(s) of banks in Ghana that the high cost of technologies and software being used in their operations (which they claim is a major input to their cost production, interest rates and to the cost of loans) is still keeping their cost of operations very high.
Juxtaposing this with the Ghana central bank’s intention to introduce electronic currency so as to reduce paper currency in circulation, Prof. Lartey suggested that economists need to suggest quick inputs before such innovations and initiatives are rolled out. Indeed, there are loads of benefits that an economy could derive by going technological. Competing in a global economy, regions must have an economic base composed of firms that constantly innovate and maximise the use of technology in the workplace. Technology-based economic development is the approach used to help create a climate where this economic base can thrive.
In spite of the maximum gains that the introduction of technology and technological investments present, there are also negative ingredients of technological change. One significant influence is its impact on income distribution. Workers who are displaced by technological advances may find it difficult to become re-employed, as new jobs require advanced skills they do not possess. Technology impacts the number of jobs needed to produce goods and services. It is for these reasons that economists must act quickly before, during and after technological decisions are rolled out.
In his advice to the economy-managers, Professor Lartey said: “Humans learn before birth and continue until death, as a consequence of ongoing interactions between people and their environment”. He said some learning experiences have severe impacts on the economy and society at large, so economic managers must be quick in reacting to issues that have economic impacts.
In today’s economies, technological disruptions are exacerbating social inequalities – and we need to talk seriously about the virtues of a social wage. We need to fund people to work, without necessarily being employed, in a manner that allows them to help others or practice their skills in ways they find meaningful and rewarding. To this end, economic education and management needs to change from readying people for a job (probably non-existent) to preparing them to create self-defined work.
The joy is we have greater opportunities to “live wisely”, and to create a culture that makes life worth living.