Hello, I am Emefa Apawu, thank you for calling Information Centre 311, how may I help you this afternoon?

The timid young lady said ‘mepa wo kyeo meka Twi’ meaning ‘please can I speak Twi?’

I said yes she may go ahead. I managed to say that in Twi while laughing at myself.

Somehow the line went dead, Adwoa had dropped the call without filing her complain or asking any question. Maybe it was just one of those prank calls this centre receives every day.

Before I answered the next call, I wondered whether the young lady could see through the phone that the person she was speaking to is not cut for the job.

That was my first experience as a call centre attendant at the National Information Communication Centre or what has become known as 311.

So I sat quietly waiting for the next call. But within that few minutes my wondering mind took a quick journey back into time.

I worked as a receptionist at a travel and tour and call centre right after graduating from OLA Girls Senior High School.

Those were the days when there were just a few telephones in some rich and privileged homes in Ghana; the days when the only access to a telephone was at a communication centre or what became known as a ‘Com Centre.’

That was my mind telling me “hey Emefa, you have done this before pick up the next call and let us see how we can make the world a better place for the next person on the line.

The gari and beans call

Within minutes the console started beeping again I quickly picked the call and after a better introduction this time a lady was on the line from Kasoa and she also spoke in Twi.

Akosua wanted to know where she could get her share of the gari, beans and rice that, according to her, are being distributed to homes for free.

Please who told you that the government is distributing these things? I asked.

It sounded surprising and funny at the same time to me but I had to restrain myself from laughing.

She told me she will call me back because her friend who gave her the information is not close to her. She may have called back but that was enough for an amateur like me. Well am I really an amateur, maybe I retired too early.

The lady whose desk I had taken was breathing down my neck. She couldn’t wait to take back her seat and execute what she has been trained to do.

In the large, cosy room are ten ladies and gentlemen each in a cubicle or workstations; each has a headphone, a note pad and a pen, plus a bottle of sanitizer reminding them about the times we are in.

Covid-19 does not care about the input of the call centre personnel. There is also a huge inscription on the wall telling the visitors and workers here about the mission of the centre: keeping the public constantly informed.

In that same room are three supervisors ensuring that the right information is passed on. A smaller room next door houses four health personnel on hand to take Covid-19-specific calls and handle sensitive issues beyond the ten personnel.

It may just look like a simple job of answering calls and being polite to whoever calls from wherever in the country to complain about water supply or a rumour about gari and beans distribution during the lockdown.

But in actual fact, this centre is a bridge – an important bridge – that narrows the gap between knowledge and ignorance and maybe life and death.