Tuesday, December 18, 2012

A Social Media Tracking Centre (STMC) that will monitor the use of social media during Ghana's 2012 elections has been set up.


The centre will provide a real time response mechanism on election irregularities, violence and other concerns by reaching out to key election stakeholders for immediate action.

The aim is to monitor all social media platforms during the elections to afford civil society, state authorities and development partners the opportunity to know in real time public opinions, sentiments and attitudes relayed through different social media platforms in order for relevant actions to be taken.

The African Election Project, in collaboration with the Georgia Institute of Technology, Meltwater Entrepreneurial School of Technology (MEST) and EnoughisEnough (EiE) with support from the United Kindom's Department for International Development (DFID) is Social Media Tracking Centre (STMC).

According to Mr. Michael Ohene-Effah, Governance Advisor at DFID, "Ghana DFID welcomes and supports this ground-breaking social media tracking centre initiative.

Although there are several media monitoring activities in the mainstream media surrounding Ghana's 2012 elections, there is currently only a handful and often inefficient manual tracking of elections trends taking place in the growing social media environment.

Social Media Tracking Centre (SMTC), comes at an opportune time, since there is ample evidence pointing to lack of efficient social media monitoring capability among key actors covering Ghana's 2012 elections.

Mr Jerry Sam, Project Manager of African Elections Project, explained that the real-time data capturing ability of the SMTC will allow for up-to-the moment incidents taking place in different areas around the country, to be collated, analysed and transmitted as alerts and to relevant elections stakeholders such  as the  National Elections Security Task Force (NESTF),  civil society actors, the media and Electoral Commission, among others for necessary action to be taken.

He said it was expected that monitoring social media powered by SMTC will provide valuable feedback and focus on how alerts coming out of the SMTC will serve as early warning mechanism thereby contributing significant  reduction of electoral violence while at the same time ensuring transparent and free elections.

Mr Sam said the African Elections Project was established in 2008, with the vision of enhancing the ability of journalists, citizen journalists and the news media to provide more timely and relevant election information and knowledge while undertaking monitoring of specific and important aspects of governance.

Ghana Elections 2012 : Door- to- door campaigning gains prominence in Ghana's growing democracy


In the run-up to Ghana's 2012 general election, leading political parties have gone fully for the door-to-door model of campaigning.

Unlike in the past when presidential candidates took to holding huge rallies, they are now criss-crossing the country, moving from community to community, and talking to individuals, and small groups in their homes, and community meetings.

This mode of selling campaign messages is a sharp departure from the previous practice of busing supporters to venues for huge rallies.

Since 1992 when the country returned to multi-party democracy, after 11 years of military rule, the major political parties - National Democratic Congress (NDC), New Patriotic Party (NPP), Convention People's Party (CPP), and the People's National Convention (PNC) – have resorted to staging massive rallies.

Former president Jerry John Rawlings is believed to have set the tone for such rallies in the 1992 and 1996 political campaigns for this process.

Rawlings, a charismatic military man who seized power on two previous occasions in a coup d'état, is the only president under the Fourth Republic to have won his first election without a run- off.

Although his critics attributed his electoral fortunes to his incumbency, they could not discount his charisma as playing a major part in his victories.

After his tenure, however, his choice successor, the late president Professor John Evans Atta Mills, failed to win the 2000 elections, losing in a run-off to then candidate John Agyekum Kufuor, in spite of the huge crowds that thronged the rally grounds of the NDC.

In the 2004 elections, Mills lost again to Kufuor whose NPP ran a second four-year term, till January 2009.

Rather than change Mills, the NDC renewed his candidacy in December 2006 to lead them for the third time in the general election.

Determined not to lose a third time, Mills in the run-up to the 2008 general election adopted the door-to-door campaign strategy.

As early as January 2007, Mills started his long journey to the presidency by visiting street corners, homes, communities and markets to sell himself and his campaign message of "I Care For You" to the electorate in all 10 regions of the country.

This tactics drew mockery from his main political opponents - the NPP - who thought it was an impossibility to walk round the country soliciting for votes, more so when it was an open secret that the NDC candidate was not in the best of health conditions.

However, in December 2008, Mills' strategy paid off. He led the NDC to win the elections, securing a slim majority in parliament before winning the presidency in a run-off.

As if to borrow a leaf from Mills in the 2012 elections, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, presidential candidate of the opposition NPP, was the first to hit the road, walking in cities, towns and villages across the country selling his message to them while listening to their concerns.

This has been beefed up by rallies as the days draw near while still holding small group meetings with student groups and other identifiable groups.

The other parties, CPP, Progressive People's Party (PPP) of Dr. Paa Kwesi Nduom, PNC candidate Hassan Ayariga, among others, have been using the same door-to-door method to campaign across the country.

"Politics is a game of numbers and a variety of methods are employed by politicians to woo the electorate. So the door-to-door campaign is important because not everybody leaves home to attend rallies organized by political parties," said Clement Apaak, a political analyst and lecturer at the University of Ghana, Legon.

He believed that since Ghana's 2012 election was expected to be tight, it was important for the parties to adopt the door-to- door campaign to establish a close rapport with people, a situation that is not possible at a big rally.

"It is an old campaign strategy which might even be older than the huge rally strategy and in this you are able to come into close contact with people at home, and speak to parents, children and other relatives," Apaak pointed out.

He believed that since people wanted to associate with others who shared in their values, and also discuss their concerns with them, the door-to-door campaign strategy was very important in political campaigns.

Sitting President John Dramani Hamama has not held a single regional rally, compared with his main opponent, Akufo-Addo, but rather chose smaller group meetings and smaller crowds in cities, towns and villages, where his daily campaigns last till about 4.00 a.m. on Dec 4.

His vigorous campaign style is well focused on the door-to-door strategy, a system he may have learned and adopted from his predecessor, late president Mills.

Project Consultant with the African Election Project (AEP), Kwami Ahiabenu, acknowledged the fact that door- to -door campaign gained prominence in Ghana during the campaigning for the 2008 elections with then candidate Mills.

"He worked to ensure there is a more personal interaction with electorate and this in a way contributed to the success of NDC at the polls," the consultant averred.

More importantly, Ahiabenu believes the parties are turning to door-to-door campaigns because "it is more cost effective, since you do not need big budgets for it," but conceded that it was time- consuming and needed more boots (foot-soldiers) on the ground.

"It is important to indicate that the Ghanaian voters are getting more discerning and therefore reaching out to them via door-to-door campaigns is proving to be a useful strategy," observed Ahaibenu.

According to Ahiabenu, though door-to-door campaign does not provide visibility which comes with big rallies, it is quite effective and efficient.

He cautioned however that this style of campaigning could not replace big rallies, saying: "You still need to hold rallies to galvanize supporters and show images of large followers.

"The door-to-door campaigns are not going to ever replace big rallies, but political parties for some time to come are going to deploy either big rallies or door-to-door for appropriate situations." End


source :


Tuesday, October 16, 2012

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Monday, October 15, 2012

Journalists Trained On Geospatial Technology

About 30 journalists drawn from both print and electronic media in Ghana have participated in a day's workshop on Geospatial Science and Technology in Accra.

The event, which was organized by the Africa Media Forum for Geo-information Systems (AMFGIS) in collaboration with the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) and the International Institute of ICT Journalism (Penplusbytes), was under the theme, "Harnessing Geospatial Science and Technology for Socio-economic Development – The Role of Ghanaian Media."

The workshop was aimed at educating journalists on the use of geospatial information in the newsroom by focusing on topics such as Introduction to Concepts of Geospatial Technologies, Case Studies of Geospatial Information Systems (GIS) Applications in Ghana with special emphasis on how to generate compelling stories.

Kwami Ahiabenu II, Co-Chair of AMFGIS, stated that "Geospatial science and technology have a lot of opportunities to stimulate Ghana's socio-economic development, and journalists have an important role to ensure increased awareness of these opportunities and the workshop is coming at a right time in this direction".

In her address, Aida Opoku-Mensah, Director of ICT and Science & Technology Division (ISTD), UNECA stated that "Africa and Ghana cannot do without the use and exploitation of geospatial technology, whether for its use in elections that ensures the accurate mapping of constituencies, or mapping disease-prone areas for decision-making, as well as assessing the environmental impacts of mining, oil exploration.

She noted that the main challenge is to get decision-makers to understand the strategic importance of surveying, mapping, GIS, Global Positioning System (GPS), earth satellite observation and other forms of geospatial technology for proper and effective development planning.

"It's high time we got politicians, legislators and planners having a holistic approach to the use of technology to countries' advantage," Ms Opoku-Mensah emphasized.

AMFGIS seeks to promote collaboration, information and knowledge sharing on geospatial information, science and technology issues and its impact on the country's socio-economic development.

By Esther Awuah

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

African Media To Promote Geospatial Science

The United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) has established a forum aimed at enhancing the capacity of the media in the promotion, advocacy and awareness-creation of Geospatial Information Science (GIS) on the African continent.

Geospatial Information Science refers to the technology used for the measurement, analysis and visualisation of features or spatial phenomenon occurrences. For instance, in the mining and oil sector, resources on the earth's surface require sophisticated technology to discover, extract and manage and since mining and  drilling of oil require accurate knowledge of the earth's surface and subsurface.

 Geospatial technology is best suited for the exploration and extraction of mineral deposits.

Again, projects such as roads and waterways require geospatial technologies for planning, construction and implementation.

According to the UNECA, GIS and related disciplines are now commonly found as the driving force of many applications and services in socio-economic development, offering a different way in which information required to manage communities and economic activities are produced and used.

But unfortunately, one of the great impediments to the use of the technology in Africa and its contribution to development is the communication gap that exists among major actors and players within and outside the sector.

It said as a tool, the technology was enormously important for decision-makers across a wide range of disciplines, industries and sectors so there was the need for journalists in Africa to understand how geospatial technology supported the management of Africa's development.

It is based on this realisation that the UNECA organised a two-day training at Addis Ababa, Ethiopia for a select group of media professionals from Western, Eastern and Southern Africa, with the aim of improving the quality of geo-information.

The media professionals, after the training, endorsed the establishment of the forum for Geospatial Information Systems aimed at enhancing the capacity of the media to promote Geospatial Information advocacy and awareness on the continent and pledged to promote the creation of National Geospatial Science Journalists Association in their respective countries.

Speaking at the function, Miss Aida Opoku-Mensah, Director of the ICT, Science and Technology Division of the UNECA, noted that the wide usage of the technology in Africa could help influence the management of Africa's development.

Unfortunately, she said, the geo-information sector was not effectively communicating with the general public, leading to low adoption of geospatial science and technology in Africa and thereby its low contribution to development.

She noted that the technology was radically changing the way information was being used for development planning elsewhere in the world so Africa should  embrace it fully.

"Too often, the geospatial sector loses itself in technicalities and language not familiar in management circles. Space is, therefore, insufficiently considered by senior managers as part of the economics," she added.

In the media field, for instance, geospatial data could provide rich information that could be combined with aerial photographs aligned and laid on maps to depict the location of natural resources such as oil and gas or gold, expected disaster-prone areas, the location of an unfolding event on a map, census or rating territories.

Again, data from the technology could be used for a visual analysis to inform readers or viewers of the exact location of an unfolding news item. As such, Ms Opoku-Mensah said the engagement of media professionals and researchers was vital to overcoming the communication gap.

Also, the technology could allow businesses to integrate customer locations with other enterprises or third parties.

Mr Mekonnen Teshome, President of the Ethiopian Association of Science Journalists (EASJ), said the organisation of the workshop "comes at the right time when we African Journalists are well organised and seeking better information on science and technology."

Mr Kwami Ahiabenu, Director of Penplusbytes and chairman of the meeting, said all over Africa, technology was playing an important role in transforming the life, society and economy of its nations.

Mr Sultan Mohammed, Director-General, Ethiopian Mapping Agency (EMA), in his keynote speech, emphasised the point that only societies using information efficiently and wisely would succeed in their development endeavours.

Thursday, October 04, 2012

Harvesting ICTs dividends for Ghana’s Agricultural growth and productivity using knowledge management approach

By Kwami Ahiabenu,II






In simple terms, e-agriculture articulates the application of Information and Communication Technologies ( ICTs) in agriculture not only for its current realized application but also its myriad of untapped potential with the focus on higher yield and better productivity leading to poverty reduction and wealth creation. Ghana ICTs applications in agriculture policy direction is set within the context of Ghana 's ICT for accelerated development policy (ICT4AD) with the vision of promoting the deployment and exploitation of ICTs to support the activities of the agriculture sector including the production, processing, marketing and distribution of agriculture products and services. Currently there are numerous projects, programs, activities leveraging ICTs in agriculture across the country with varying degree of success. Harvesting ICTs dividends for Ghana's Agricultural growth and productivity using knowledge management (KM) approach argue that using people centered style within a vibrant information , knowledge sharing and collaborative approach can guaranteed better success stories in Ghana's agriculture space.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

African Media Get to Grips with Geospatial Science

Addis Ababa, 18 September 2012 (ECA) - Media professionals endorsed today, the establishment of the African Forum for Geospatial Information systems. The conclusion followed two days of training aimed at improving the quality of geoinformation, Geospatial Science and Technology reporting and the impact of this area of work on the livelihood of African citizens, The first of its kind, the two-day training of trainers was organized by the ICT, Science and Technology Division of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA). Participants hailed from western, southern and eastern of Africa. Speaking at the opening session of the training workshop, Aida Opoku-Mensah, Director of the ICT, Science and Technology Division said that geospatial technology, or geomatics used the measurement, analysis and visualization of spatial features or phenomenon. "As a tool, geomatics is enormously important for decision-makers across a wide range of disciplines, industries and sectors," she said and added: "The tool is radically changing the way information is used for development planning." "What Journalists in Africa need to understand is how geospatial technology supports the management of Africa’s development, said Ms Opoku-Mensah. For instance, in the mining sector, resources on the earth’s surface require sophisticated technology to discover, extract, and manage and since mining is inherently spatial, requiring accurate knowledge of areas of the earth’s surface and subsurface, geospatial technology is best suited to oversee all phases of mining operations", she emphasized. Similarly, projects such as roads and waterways require geospatial technologies for planning, construction and implementation", she added and noted that unfortunately, the geo-information sector is not effectively communicating with the general public, leading to low uptake of geospatial science and technology sector in Africa and its contribution to Africa’s development. As such, said Ms. Opoku-Mensah, the engagement of media professionals and researchers become vital to overcome this communication gap. Mr. Mekonnen Teshome, President of the Ethiopian Association of Science Journalists (EASJ) said that the organization of this training workshop "comes at the right time when we African Journalists are well organized and seeking for better information on science and technology." He underlined that the workshop will "greatly add to media professional career development." He also noted that a better understanding of geospatial technologies would assist with effective reporting on the subject. Mr. Kwami Ahiabenu, Director of Penplusbytes and chair of the meeting said that all over Africa, technology is playing an important role in transforming life, society and economy of its nations. He underscored that Geospatial Information Systems (GIS) are becoming important tools for effective and efficient strategic planning and decision-making processes at all levels, ensuring development and growth is a reality for all citizens. He emphasized that awareness creation and advocacy about GIS success stories and its huge potential in the near future becomes very urgent and “we are excited that UNECA is taking a bold step to provide skills and knowledge needed by journalists in Africa in order for them to perform this important function. Mr. Sultan Mohammed, Director-General, Ethiopian Mapping Agency (EMA) in his keynote speech emphasized that only societies using information efficiently and wisely will succeed in their development endeavors. He noted that more than 80% of all the data and information generated and disseminated nowadays is location based information involving geospatial information. He underscored that Location based Geospatial information services, which are a coalescence of fields such as surveying, mapping and remote sensing, have matured and become key contributors to evidenced based policy making processes. They can be used to understand and integrate social, economic, and environmental perspectives at specific locations at local, regional and global scales. He concluded that the workshop is timely and will enhance the capacity of the media in promoting Geospatial Information advocacy and awareness in the Continent. A number of recommendations were adopted to promote Geospatial science journalisms for sustainable development. The African Media Forum for Geospatial Science and Technology was formed and members were required to promote the creation of National Geospatial Science Journalists Association in their respective countries.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

A President passes, a country holds it together. I say amen


By Bernard Tabaire (email the author)

Posted Sunday, July 29 2012 at 01:00

Sometime in the late afternoon of Tuesday last week, a hush swept through the room affecting only Ghanaians. But amongst them were journalists, and the need to spread news, or some version of it, quickly overcame them.
Kwami, seated a table away in a meeting room at the Ghana Institute of Management and Public Administration (GIMPA) in Accra, passed me a note. President Atta Mills was in a bad way. Then I got another note from another Ghanaian.

About an hour later, the Ghanaian journalists in the group had stopped paying attention to their compatriot who was leading a session on how oil is metered. Their BlackBerrys, smart phones, iPads and tablets were aflame inside the room and on the balcony. The President was dead.

Later in the GIMPA dining room, debate revolved around whether the presidential passing had altered the dynamic heading into the December presidential election, already handicapped to be a tight affair. And, by the way, who would in-coming President John Mahama pick for vice-president?

I fled to my room at that point to go make sure, via TV of course, that there would be no power play and that Mr Mahama would actually be President and get to choose his VP. Of course, the Ghanaians had no doubt. They trusted the ability of their state system to work. It worked. And so it was that within hours of his 68-year-old boss' passing, Vice President John Dramani Mahama, 53, took the oath with simple but powerful dignity in the parliamentary chamber.

Ghana has handled itself extremely commendably, and it is great to watch things from out here. The only cacophony anyone is talking about is within Mr Mahama's party, which has already decided it will sit in October to name him flag bearer. The cacophony, though, is that a certain Nana Konadu, former President Jerry Rawlings' wife, may resurrect to challenge for power. No one serious about Ghanaian politics and the country's future gives a damn about her, but the woman will not go away. It is her right to hang around though. In some countries, openly ambitious politicians like her get harassed, jailed and whatnot.

Interestingly, it is Mr Rawlings, having grabbed power using fire and bullets, who helped set Ghana on a firm path to what we are seeing unfold. Of course, Nigeria and Malawi have recently had Presidents dying in office. The difference is that in both cases there were attempts at cynical power play, a scheme to subvert constitutional provisions that mandate the veep to take power when the chief passes.

If Ghana keeps doing its thing quietly and without swagg, it stands a good chance to address the poverty I have seen around a number of gold mines. Last weekend's visit to the Tarkwa area in the western region, my second in as many months, witnessed palpable anger amongst members of one of the communities. Tempers rose so high, right in front of the chief and a mine official that elected local leaders stepped forward to calm down the young men.

And there was a young woman who took the floor toward the end of proceedings and spoke so articulately about the community's problems all of us visitors from more than 10 countries swarmed her for pictures. She needs to learn how to sign autographs, this madam.

As a Ugandan, I wait with bated breath the first peaceful transfer of presidential power in our history, whatever the circumstances. We need this sense of predictability to have the confidence needed to deal seriously with how to organise our society to make everyone wealthier and happier – in that order or not.

The last time I was in Accra, in October 2011, the heavens dumped a flood killing a few, displacing some and taking a shine off this otherwise decently run city. The events of last week have since restored that shine.
As they mourn the death of their polished President, the Ghanaians and the rest of us should take time off to enjoy the Olympics. Life comes, life goes. The Olympics stay on.

Mr Tabaire is a media consultant with the African Centre for Media Excellence.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Workshop for journalists and civil society actors on Election 2012

Accra, June 21, GNA-The International Institute for ICT Journalism (Penplusbytes) would on Thursday June 21, hold a workshop on "Connecting civil society and media for credible 2012 Ghana Elections." in Sunyani in the Brong Ahafo Region.

The workshop forms part of African Elections Project (AEP), "Enabling Peaceful Transparent and Credible Elections in Ghana Using New Media Project" with funding from STAR-Ghana, a release issued and copied to the Ghana News Agency on Wednesday by Mr Kwami Ahiabenu II, Team Leader, Penplusbytes said in Accra.

It would bring together journalists and civil society actors around the upcoming elections from the Ashanti, Brong Ahafo, Northern, Upper East and Upper West Regions.

The next workshop is expected to be held in the southern sector of Ghana.

The Connecting Media And Civil Society for Credible 2012 Ghana Elections workshop aims at facilitating an effective and efficient civil society interaction with the ultimate objective of serving citizens better by providing them with an elections information resource that would enable them make informed choices and sensitise the electorate against electoral violence.

"Based on African Elections Project experience in covering the Ghana 2008 elections, it was noticed that majority of civil society and media interaction was through traditional media press releases, press conferences, Radio, TV and Print interviews.

This workshop is intended to bring the media, civil society organisations and citizens together to deliberate on better ways of exchanging information and knowledge, using integrated ICT platforms to ensure Ghana goes through peaceful, transparent and credible elections in December 2012" Mr Ahiabenu indicated.

Key presentation would be made by the Brong Ahafo Regional Director of Electoral Commission, Mr Samuel Boadu whilst Professor Peter Amponsah, Head of Communications of the Department of the Catholic University would moderate a focus group discussion on "How to effectively facilitate better working relations between the media and Civil society through networking".

AEP established in 2008 is coordinated by Penplusbytes and covers elections using Information and Communication Technologies across the continent.

It has successfully covered elections in Botswana, Namibia, Ghana (2008), Guinea, Cote d'Ivoire, Mauritania, Mozambique, Malawi, Togo, Niger and Liberia.

STAR-Ghana is a multi-donor pooled funding mechanism supported by DFID, DANIDA, USAID and the EU to increase the influence of civil society and parliament in the governance of public goods and service delivery with the ultimate goal of improving the accountability and responsiveness of government, traditional authorities and the private sector.


Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Africa: Improving Governance and Accountability with New Media

Kwami Ahiabenu, II, is a team leader of International Institute for ICT Journalism [1], the co-ordination organisation for African Elections Project [2] (AEP). With over nine years of experience in management, marketing, new media, Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) and development, Kwami was Executive Director of AITEC Ghana and a former board member of Ghana Information Network for Knowledge Sharing (GINKS).

He served as a key committee member for the organization of World Summit on Information Society (WSIS) African Regional Meeting 2005. He has undertaken several training sessions on new media across Africa. He is a Steve Biko and Foster Davies Fellow.

African Elections Project was established in 2008 with the vision of enhancing the ability of journalists, citizen journalists and the news media to provide more timely and relevant elections information and knowledge while undertaking monitoring of specific and important aspects of governance.

AEP has covered elections in Ghana, Cote d‟Ivoire, Guinea, Mauritania, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Botswana, Togo, Niger and Liberia. African Elections Project uses social media tools and ICT platforms such as blogs, interactive maps, Twitter, Flickr, YouTube and Facebook.

L. Abena Annan (LA): What is your affiliation with the African Elections Project?

Kwami Ahiabenu, II (KA): I am part of [the] founders, currently serving as a consultant to the project, providing management support and serving as the training director.

LA: How long have you been involved with the project?

KA: Since the birth of the project in year 2008. We started the project by launching the coverage of Ghana, Cote D'Ivoire and Guinea elections. Ghana elections did take place in 2008 but Cote D'Ivoire and Guinea took place in subsequent years.

LA: How would you describe this project for the average person to understand? What do you intend to accomplish with it?

KA: It is an online, SMS, mobile service which provides authoritative elections information and knowledge specifically news, analysis, elections powered by ICTs and new media. The service is brought to our audience by a team of dedicated journalists supported by civil society actors and citizen journalists

LA: What countries have you worked in? Do you intend to go to other countries as your website states only 10?

KA: We have worked in 11 countries to date, namely Botswana, Namibia, Ghana, Guinea, Cote d'Ivoire, Mauritania, Mozambique, Malawi, Togo, Liberia and Niger working across English, French and Portuguese speaking countries. We currently cover each election happening on the continent on our homepage [2] with Ghana elections 2012 [3] being the current country we are covering. In addition to elections coverage, we have done some work in post-elections focusing on transparency and accountability issues and currently in partnership with Africatti [4] we are monitoring health and education [5] issues in two districts of Ghana under "Enabling Governance and Economic Transparency in Ghana using new media Project," with plans to roll out to other African countries in the near future.

LA: How can people effectively use your website or information provided on it?

KA: Our audiences come to our website because of the high quality content which we generate and they consider it useful for themselves, so we can only improve our services by ensuring we constantly provide timely and relevant content to our audience base.

LA: Do you believe new technologies have improved democracy in Africa? Why?

KA: Democracy is a long journey, in this direction new technologies are assuming important roles in ensuring our people benefit from the fruits of democracy. That said, the journey is a long one; though we are recording some improvements we still have a long way to go to ensure that Africa as a whole nurtures its democracy.

LA: How empowering would you say technology has become to citizens of Africa?

KA: Technology can only play a role when the fundamentals are in place. If there is no true freedom of speech or free press, technology role becomes limited, though one may argue that technology can contribute to empowerment but it is important to stress the fact that technology plays a facilitating role and it works best when empowering environments are in place and protected to ensure technology's role strive.

LA: What do you think the effect of technology on democracy will be 10 years from now?

KA: Technology roles cannot be discussed in isolation. Rapid growth of the tenets of democracy on the continent is a sure guarantee that technology impact on democracy is going to grow and become very important each passing day.

LA: What are your biggest challenges as an organization?

KA: We like to deploy cutting edge technologies in our coverage, but the high cost of ICT tools coupled by expensive bandwidth are always a challenge. Also user content generation is picking albeit slowly and our work will be made more interesting if the grandmother in the village can also contribute to our project.

LA: Any successes so far?

KA: The project has contributed significantly to building the capacity of journalists and citizen journalists in covering elections using new technologies, more importantly providing them with skills set they need to cover elections impartially thereby contributing to better elections which is a cornerstone of any democracy. One key achievement worthy of mention is the successful pilot of Ghana Post elections Project ("Because Accountability Counts"), where we contribute to the promotion of the culture of political accountability by providing a mechanism for citizens to match campaign promises and manifesto versus action and inaction of the ruling government.

The project incorporates citizen journalism mostly driven by mobile phones and has so far covered elections in 11 African countries namely Botswana, Cote d'lvoire, Ghana, Niger, Togo, Guinea, Malawi, Mauritania, Mozambique, Liberia and Namibia. This is one of key result area.

The project has also contributed local content from an African prospective for the global market, thus, presenting the African story using African voices.

We have also contributed to the body of knowledge in African elections and democracy through our country specific countries and recently we contributed "A JOURNEY THROUGH 10 COUNTRIES - Online election coverage in Africa" [6] article in the Journal of Journalism Practice.

At its innovation fair, "Moving beyond Conflict", Cape Town, South Africa 2010, the World Bank ranked African Elections Projects as innovative in the area of improving governance and accountability through communication technologies.

Thumbnail image: An elderly lady being escorted by his son to vote. Photo courtesy of @liberiaelection.

Article printed from Global Voices:

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URLs in this post:

[1] International Institute for ICT Journalism:

[2] African Elections Project:

[3] Ghana elections 2012:

[4] Africatti:

[5] monitoring health and education:

[6] "A JOURNEY THROUGH 10 COUNTRIES - Online election coverage in Africa":

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Geophysicist asks Ghana and Uganda to manage oil revenue well

When the oil sector in Ghana and Uganda are well managed, the revenue generated would be major contributions to both economies, a Senior Geophysicist of the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development in Uganda, has said.
Mr Bernard Ongodia however warned of many dire consequences that might affect the two emerging economics should they ignore to take measures to manage the sector.
Addressing journalists at an ongoing training programme in oil and gas reporting being held in Kampala, Mr Ongodia said Uganda which discovered oil in 2006 had not started producing the product because it had taken time to put the necessary infrastructure and institutions as well as other mechanisms in place before embarking on production.
Ghana which discovered it oil finds in 2007 on the other, started the production before putting in place other major infrastructure and frameworks.
The 10-day training is being organised by Ghana based Penplusbytes, an International Institute of ICT Journalism in collaboration with the Revenue Watch Institute (RWI), also based in Uganda and the Thomson Reuters Foundation, UK.
Dr Peter Mwesige, Executive Director, RWI said the purpose of the training was to develop the capacity of the journalists to report effectively and consistently about the extractive industry, involving oil, gas and mining.
He explained that an active knowledgeable press plays a critical role in helping inform and engage the public, civil society groups as well as parliament and thus help them to hold governments and companies accountable.
He asked the journalists to well research into issues evolving the industry and report more accurately on them, adding, "journalists should pursue truth and serve as independent sources of information with fairness, accuracy and balance as their watchword".
Mr Kwami Ahiabenu II, Executive Director, Penplusbytes said since journalists in emerging oil and gas economies lacked the needed knowledge and skills, it was important to train them so that they could effectively inform and educate their audiences in respective countries as well as help hold stakeholders accountable.
He said as part of the training, journalists would go on field trips to expose them to sources and possible stories they might not have had access to in the past.
Mr Nick Phythian of the Thomson Reuters Foundation stressed on the need for journalists to pay attention to details, data, facts and figures and interpret them more appropriately to their audience. GNA

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Penplusbytes’ 4th global online course in ICT journalism begins

The Fourth International Institute for Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) Journalism (Penplusbytes) innovative global online course is underway with 35 participants drawn from Africa, Asia, North America and Europe. A statement issued in Accra by Mr Jeremiah Sam of Penplusbytes, copied to Ghana News Agency on Monday said the objective of the course was to teach the theory and concept of ICT journalism; the impact of ICT on Journalism and how to increase excellence in journalism using ICT as a tool. The course which began on Friday, April 20, would end on Friday, July 20 and would expose participants to the wider context of ICT assisted journalism including how these technologies are impacting on the world of journalism. Mr Kwami Ahiabenu, the course facilitator stated that, “The course is designed to enable participants harness the power of ICT in producing high quality impactful stories, and how to manage change process in using innovative ICT tools.” He noted that the online global course would provide participants with skills and knowledge within a practical interactive learning environment with the main goal of strengthening capabilities in both multimedia and online news production while increasing understanding of the rapid changing environment in newsroom operations due to opportunities and challenges Information and Communication Technologies revolution brings. “After successfully completing the course, each participant should be able to produce and implement a variety of creative solutions for online news operations.” The online global course which was successfully pioneered in 2006 has so far trained hundreds of journalists in using ICTs to enhance their work. Participants meet online via weekly group discussion, assignment and make use of ICT tools to produce a final project work before the award of a certificate. Penplusbytes is a registered not for profit institution since July 18, 2001 with the vision of driving excellence in ICT journalism. It seeks to empower the media through the use of ICTs to advance the work of journalism. Penplusbytes consists of a network of media organisations and journalists interested in using ICTs effectively to advance the cause of journalism. Source: GNA

Dr. Niyi Alabi is dead, burial on Friday

We were privileged to have Dr. Alabi serve on ICONNECT GHANA editorial board during inaugural editions of this GINKS publication May His Soul rest in perfect peace Kwami Dr. Niyi Alabi is dead, burial on Friday Seasoned journalist and media trainer and consultant, Dr. Niyi Alabi has been reported dead. Family sources say Dr Alabi passed away at 3:20am Thursday at the Korle Bu Teaching Hospital in Accra where he had been on admission for the past two weeks for an ailment. He will buried tomorrow Friday, in keeping with his Muslim calling. Family sources say the body will be conveyed to the Madina Central Mosque at midday for religious rites before interment at the Madina cemetery. Dr. Alabi, who worked with many international organisations around the world, would have turned 60 in September. Dr. Niyi Alabi has a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Education (1st Class Honours) from the University of Cape Coast; a Diplôme Supérieur d’Etudes Françaises from the Université d’Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire; a Masters in Journalism and Mass Communication, a Masters in French from the University of Ghana, Legon and a Diplôme d’Etudes Approfondies & Diplôme de 3ème Cycle (Ph.D) both from University of Paris – Sorbonne.He also has a Diploma from the University of Génèva, Switzerland. He has been an Interpreter and Translator for organizations such as UNESCO, Amnesty International, UNDP, NEPAD, ECOWAS, UNIDO, UNECA, UNHCR, etc. has serviced the UNCTAD XII and was the interpreter for former President J.A Kufour during his tenure of office as President of the Republic of Ghana. Before his death, he was the Chief Executive Officer of the Polyglot Limited.

Thursday, April 05, 2012

A JOURNEY THROUGH 10 COUNTRIES -Online election coverage in Africa

Ben Akoh & Kwami Ahiabenu II

The African Elections Project ( was established with the vision of enhancing the ability of journalists, citizen journalists and the news media to provide more timely and relevant election information and knowledge, while undertaking monitoring of specific and important aspects of elections using social media tools and ICT applications. Elections are the cornerstone of democracy and the media have a key role to play in deepening democracy by providing impartial coverage of elections. In addition to traditional election coverage, online election reporting on the Africa continent has been experiencing growth in recent years. It takes the form of special election websites that incorporate elements of citizen journalism or crowdsourcing and is mostly driven by mobile phones. It is mashed up with blogs, interactive maps and social media tools such as Twitter, Flickr, YouTube and Facebook among others. This article chronicles the African Elections Project's field experiences based on the elections it has covered in 10 countries: Ghana, Côte d'Ivoire, Guinea, Mauritania, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Botswana, Togo and Niger, showing the similarities and importance of online election coverage in these countries. The Internet is gradually providing new sets of tools for journalists which could be relevant and applicable for reporting elections. The paper concludes by showing the difficulties journalists encounter in the practice of reporting elections and offers suggestions for future research.

Published in March 2012 in Journalism Practice

Sunday, February 05, 2012

RWI Accepting Applications for Media Training Program-OIL AND GAS

This May, in Kampala, Uganda, Revenue Watch will begin our third class for African journalists seeking new expertise in reporting on oil, gas and minerals.

Without an informed, responsive media community providing oversight of the money from these industries, governance weakens, corruption rises and citizens lack the knowledge to hold their governments accountable and the opportunity to benefit fully from their country's natural resource wealth.

The application process is open to journalists from Ghana and Uganda. The program is designed for individuals with a demonstrated interest in reporting about the extractive sectors of oil, gas and minerals. To fill out an application now, go

This latest class in our ongoing media training program is conducted in partnership with the African Centre for Media Excellence (ACME) in Uganda, Ghana-based Penplusbytes and the Thomson Reuters Foundation. After the initial Uganda session from 14-23 May, two parallel workshops will be held, one for Ugandan participants in Kampala on 20-29 August, and one for the Ghanaians on 3-12 September in Accra.

RWI and our partners take a holistic approach to our journalist trainings, combining workshops, roundtable discussions and field trips with expert dialogues, mentorships, reporting grants and presentations on topical issues.

The most recent training included a study trip to Cameroon, where Ghanaian journalists met with their counterparts in local media, as well as civil society activists, company executives and government officials in the oil, gas and mining sector in the commercial capital of Douala. In December, three of our Ugandan trainees were recognized for their reporting on extractives with awards from ACME, a leader in journalistic expertise and a partner in the RWI program.

Applications for the upcoming class will be accepted through 29 February, 2012.