Pages

Sunday, November 26, 2017

What is datafication?

What is datafication?

Data is a key driver in our information society. We are in an era where billions of data are generated by people and machines every second; this gives room for huge opportunities, as well as challenges.

Datafication describes a new trend where many activities we undertake as individuals are systematically collected, converted into computerised data and thereafter transformed through analysis into information with high value.


Datafication connotes the situation where previously dark data which holds a lot of valuable but 'invisible' information is made visible (you see patterns and trend more easily) to advance in data science and analytics capabilities of new digital technologies. You can think of datafication as the use of new digital technologies to liberate knowledge associated with your day-to-day physical activities by analysing data associated with such activities. 

Practically, it means data-intensive logics and methods are now affecting every aspect of human endeavour, ranging from private to public sector where qualitative aspects of our lives are now converted into quantified data for decision making, trend spotting and projections. 

For example, shopping activities of individuals on social media can be mined to provide information on what items are popular within a particular segment of society in a specific geographic area over a period of time. 

Some persons have fitness mobile apps on their phones or other devices which capture physical data such as number of steps they take in a day or how many hours of sleep they have in a night. This data is transformed into useful information on how many calories they burnt over a period of time or what sports gear might be suitable for them.

Implications

Datafication means each day, massive amounts of data are collected and processed about you once you are a user of social media and digital communication tools. Such information in practice ranges from our financial transactions, relationship communication and movements (using your own car when you turn on online maps to assist with your trip, to using services such as Uber) which can be used to profile and categorise individuals and groups. Datafication of our society is driven in part by Internet of Things (IOT), heavy usage of citizens' data by organisations, governments and businesses, advancement in

Artificial Intelligence, smart homes, smart offices and smart cities - meaning it is now becoming part and parcel of our modern society. 

The power of datafication is seen in its so-called promise of delivering high-value neutral information which will enable options for prediction. This can be used in theory to solve some societal problems such as new housing to ensure better resource utilisations by analysing city dwellers' behavioural patterns through their social media posts. Traditional health research and interventions focus on curative mechanisms largely due in part to a lack of real-time data. Availability of real-time data will mean a better understanding of how diseases evolved over time as opposed to getting data when the patient's situation is serious and only snapshot in time when patients visit hospitals. 

With datafication, health practitioners can now focus on preventive medicine and wellness. Previously it was difficult, if not nearly impossible, to capture real-time data such as what food a person eats, where and when they consume their meals, how many hours they sleep and how many cups of coffee they consume. Now it is easy. The data can now be derived by tracking the use of their credit card or mobile money to purchase food at certain restaurants, pictures of food they share on social media before consuming it and any other content they share on social media about their sleeping habits.
In this direction, datafication can create new pathways for early detection of diseases as health professionals gain insights from this real-time data.

Challenges of datafication 

Although datafication comes with a lot of potential and new opportunities, it is not without challenges such as regulatory, personal freedoms and security, ethics, trust, transparency and governance.

Regulation remains one of the biggest problems when it comes to datafication. The key questions are how do we effectively regulate datafication, who is going to be responsible for it, and even to the key issue such as will it be possible to regulate datafication?

In conclusion, datafication of our society is becoming normalised and entrenched; therefore, we need to take steps to understand it in order to promote its benefits while putting in place mechanisms to mitigate any of its risks.

The writer is the Executive Director of Penplusbytes.org - you can reach him at kwami@penplusbytes.org WhatsApp : 0241995737







kwami Ahiabenu, II
www.penplusbytes.org
Tel : +233 (0) 302 922620/1, +233 (0) 302 798995, +233 24 199 5737
Email: kwami@penplusbytes.org, Location: No. 1 Ostwe Close, Ako-Adjei, Osu, Accra-Ghana
follow us on twitter @penplusbytes  and like us on Facebook!!!


Saturday, October 21, 2017

Ghana’s software industry - Take off or take flight

 
Software powers our information society. Each of the billions of people on the surface of the earth today, makes use of the new digital technologies either directly or indirectly on daily basis. From making a phone call, to driving a car or following your favourite sport on television, software is the invisible tool which makes it all possible.

Most computer or information technology systems are made up of essentially four critical components; hardware- which is the most visible aspect-process, people and software. Computer software, or simply software, can be described as a set of instructions, applications, operating systems and documentation that instructs a computer or related equipment on what to do, and how to do it. For example, a banking software is basically a series of instructions and associated documentation which directs a banking system that accounts to credit or debit and under what circumstances. 

There are two major types of software; a systems software which manages the computer and its related devices and an operating system which handles file management and other utilities. 

The process of creating software is known as computer programming. A product (software) is usually built to undertake automatic execution of a task or a clearly defined computing challenge. The person who writes computer codes (programming) is called a programmer. This is distinct from a software engineer who provides specifications for the programmer to code. Software programming and engineering skills are needed to create software and sometimes this role can be played by one person. However, the main skill required to develop a software is the mastering of a programming language. 

A programming language is a set of instructions, commands and other syntax used in the process of creating software programmes. Computers do not understand human language, therefore, to give them instructions, you have to use their type of language, called "machine language" made up of "1s" and "0s". 

Programmers make use of "high-level languages" such as C++, Java, Perl, and PHP to write code, therefore to become a programmer, you must learn how to use and code in a programming language. Most programmers tend to learn and use one major language in developing software.

Software development in Ghana 

Since the late 1980s, Ghana has had a long history of indigenous software development and customisation; SOFT can be described as one of the pioneers in the area of commercialisation of software on the Ghanaian market. Today, there are a thousand and one software companies providing solutions from mobile apps to software applications in all aspects of our society. 

In spite of this, Ghana has not recorded a major break, where a local Ghanaian company has been bought by a major international player for millions of dollars as has happened and continues to happen in other markets. This is one of the most celebrated achievements for any software company. Also, we have not managed to export any groundbreaking software to the global market yet. 

Currently, we can estimate that only five to 10 per cent of computer software consumed in Ghana are developed locally with most multinationals or big corporation not consuming home-grown software products. This means as a country, our Information Technology (IT) industry is not providing software solutions to help drive our development. 

This in itself raises national security concerns. For example, recent news about the multimillion Social Security and National Insurance Trust's (SSNIT) IT application suite software component was not built in Ghana; there are other examples. Should the software programmers decide to be mischievous and build in any kind of malware, our government agencies will grind to a halt. Experts in the industry proffer a myriad of reasons for this situation. 

Among these are lack of skills, lack of sharp and focused policy directed at providing enabling support for software development, low level of financial resources available, inability for the industry to organise and advocate for their interest, poor marketing of Ghanaian software products, no software development enclave, low government support, lack of relevant tools and low standards. 

As a country, there is no gainsaying that we do not have the competitive advantage to compete in the hardware market, therefore, software and its related services is a huge opportunity for us since it is more or less a level playing field needing no great investment. The global software market is valued at billions of US dollars, getting a single digit percentage share of this can earn the country more revenue than what oil and gas is contributing to our gross domestic product (GDP) currently.

The writer is the Executive Director of Penplusbytes.org - you can reach him at kwami@penplusbytes.org WhatsApp : 0241995737





kwami Ahiabenu, II
www.penplusbytes.org
Tel : +233 (0) 302 922620/1, +233 (0) 302 798995, +233 24 199 5737
Email: kwami@penplusbytes.org, Location: No. 1 Ostwe Close, Ako-Adjei, Osu, Accra-Ghana
follow us on twitter @penplusbytes  and like us on Facebook!!!


IT expert exposes ‘amateurish’ technical flaws in Ghana PostGPS

An IT expert has revealed some technical flaws in the recently launched 2.5 million-dollar Ghana PostGPS system that has been touted as the solution to the decades of poor addressing system in the country. Stefan Froelich who works with WITS Ghana, an IT solution company, after reviewing the technical element of the application said the system is fraught with some technical issues, some of which he described as amateurish. 

In his estimation, the system "is poorly designed, ineptly built and has no chance of yielding anything close to the results it has been touted as capable of bringing". He concluded that Ghana may have been ripped off in the deal, saying "right now, this looks like money poorly spent!" adding Ghana has lost an opportunity do demonstrate to the world that it can develop a homegrown solution to its problems.


Wednesday, May 24, 2017

GHANA TO HOST 2ND AFRICA OPEN DATA CONFERENCE IN JULY 2017

Accra, Ghana 24th May, 2017. Ghana has been selected to host the second Africa Open Data Conference (AODC) in July 2017. The four-day conference will be held at the Accra International Conference Centre from 17 – 21 July 2017.

The first edition of the AODC was organized by the Africa Open Data Collaborative in September 2015 in Tanzania hosted by the Government of Tanzania and its people and supported by the World Bank, Code for Africa, Global Open Data for Agriculture & Nutrition initiative, Worldwide Web Foundation, MCC, and numerous other partners.

The 2017 Africa Open Data Conference in Accra, Ghana is set to attract over 600 delegates drawn from all over Africa and the world at large. This auspicious event will push the leadership role of the private sector in supplying, using, and demanding open data, and bring together brilliant innovators and visionaries to grow their networks, hone their success, and connect with sources of support, and introduce investors and donors to an expanding sector that seeks and supplies open data to achieve development goals in Africa and across the globe.


Ghana is part of the Africa open data Community and signed unto the Open Government Partnership in September 2011, which sparked off a quest for Ghana to open-up its government data with some data now available at www.data.gov.gh

For more info and registration about the conference, please visit www.africaopendata.net  or  contact the secretariat via email address: secretariat@aodc-gh.org  or call +233-20-8128851/ 057-7605119

Follow us #AODC 

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Revised Code of Ethics for Ghanaian journalists launched

The Ghana Journalists Association (GJA) has launched its revised Code of Ethics aimed at promoting professionalism in journalism practice in Ghana.


The objective of the revised Code of Ethics is to take cognisance of all the ethical breaches that have been identified in the practice of journalism in the country.


It would be recalled that in 1994, the GJA developed and adopted its Code of Ethics which has served the Association well through the period.

However, with the proliferation of media types, it had become necessary to revise the code to meet new challenges that have emerged in the intervening years.


The challenges include the impact of media pluralism and diversity, the emergence of social media and the sheer numbers of radio and television stations across the country.


The new GJA Code of Ethics is a ready guide that is applicable to all categories of journalists working with newspapers, radio, and television, cross media/multimedia, social media or those working as photo­ journalists, cartoonists, and animation specialists.

The code is meant to ensure that members of the Ghana Journalists Association adhere to the highest ethical standards, professional competence, and good behaviour in carrying out their duties.

It provides a frame of reference to the National Executive, the Ethics and Disciplinary Council, and members of the Association when it becomes necessary to initiate disciplinary action against any member who flouts any article of the code.

The panel, who put together the GJA revised Code of Ethics, were Dr Kweku Rockson, Consultant and Team Leader; Mr Yaw Boadu­Ayeboafoh, an accomplished Ethicist and Columnist; Mrs Gina Blay, a Publisher; Mr Kwami Ahiabenu, a New Media Expert and Teacher; Mr Fortune Alimi, Editor of a leading private newspaper; and Dr Doris Yaa Dartey, a veritable institution of media training and development.

Mr Mustapha Abdul­Hamid, the Minister of Information, who formally launched the revised GJA Code of Ethics, said it must serve as a launching pad to propel the journalism profession in the country into a better phase.

He said any association which had no ethics was not worth joining; saying; "it is our ethics that give us a sense of humanity'.

Mr Abdul­Hamid, himself a trained journalist, described the journalism profession as the best profession in the whole world, adding that journalism was essential for any democracy to succeed.

Mr Affail Monney, the President of the GJA, said the revised code had come at the right time to help cure the skyrocketing disease of ethical travesty across the media spectrum.

He urged journalists to regard the code as their professional Bibles and Qurans, declaring that; "devoid of any campaign drive, the new code is one of the legacies we bequeath to the media fraternity".

Mr Daniel Fennel, the Public Affairs Officer of the United States Embassy, urged journalists to continue to be honest, accurate and fair in their reportage. 

He said Ghana's credentials as the beacon of democracy in Africa would partly be attributed to its free and vibrant media.

Dr Kweku Rockson said the revised Code encompassed all challenges across the traditional, new media, social media and across media as far as newsgathering, processing and dissemination were concern."It is our considered view that this effort will inevitably promote accountability," he said.

Nana Gyan Apenteng, the Chairman of the National Media Commission, who chaired the launch, said over the past decade technological advancement such as the advent of social media had challenged the journalism profession.He said no matter the level of technological advancement, the journalism profession would always abide as a profession.Dr Lawrence Tetteh, an International Evangelist, said: "Anybody who lives without ethics has no future.


source : http://www.graphic.com.gh/news/general-news/revised-code-of-ethics-for-ghanaian-journalists-launched.html




Saturday, January 14, 2017

Ghana¹s Media Comes of Age in Elections Coverage

Media coverage of elections have come a long way since the transition elections of 1992. However, despite improvements, challenges still persist. Some commentators note that election coverage often fails to properly interrogate electoral issues, campaign promises and manifestos in a manner that demands accountability or enables the voters to make well-informed choices  at the polls. Also the ownership or control of media organizations by politicians  manifests in the biased editorial slant in favor of certain political parties, reflecting their allegiance to certain interest; be they private or state media houses. Also, the inability by newsroom staff to speak truth to power tends to undermine the quality of reportage in Ghana.

However, the media coverage of Ghana’s December 2016 elections was characterized by some noteworthy innovations that won the media plaudits from the public.  Some newsrooms, for example, set up a fact-checking service where key election issues and claims were cross-checked and thus ascertained to be true, partly true, or false. Also, some media houses took advantage of data journalism opportunities to tell compelling election stories using data-driven story-telling techniques, especially in the area of visualization. Indeed, many of the leading newsrooms relied heavily on new digital technologies, especially social media, not only to tell and source news stories but also to satisfy Ghanaians’ insatiable appetite for real time news.

On Election Day, the media played a crucial role in keeping citizens abreast of what was going on during and after voting had closed.  The battleground for most newsrooms was in regards to who was able to compile reliable provisional results of the elections ahead of the official announcement of the final results by the Electoral Commission of Ghana.  This service by the media was particularly useful since the Electoral Commission, due to a myriad of reasons, was considerably slow in releasing confirmed results.

Accra-based Joy-FM led the pack of media houses and distinguished itself when in the early hours of Friday, December 9, two days after the elections, and some 18 hours ahead of the EC, it projected Nana Akufo-Addo likely to win with about 53.35% of valid votes cast. Official results showed Akufo-Addo won by 53.85% of the votes. Joy-FM also impressed listeners when it challenged the EC commissioner’s claim of unusually low voter turnout of 49%. The station pointed out that that by its own calculations voter turnout was almost 20 percentage points higher at 68%, the figure eventually confirmed by the EC.

Still, the media in Ghana must continue to improve their performance in order to stay ahead of the curve. Looking into the future, elections in 2020 will prove even more challenging given the growing sophistication of Ghanaian news consumers. Other factors to watch include  the growth in new digital technologies and declining advertising revenue, which are eroding the influence of traditional news media.

Social Media Monitoring Supports Peaceful Elections 2016
Aggie Screenshot

 

New digital technologies, especially mobile phones and social media are playing a key role in enabling greater citizens’ participation in democratic processes as a whole and the electoral process specifically.

Looking back at Ghana’s 2012 elections, the social media evolution was at its infancy and had a low impact on the elections. Fast-forward to 2016, social media fueled by growth in Internet penetration and low-cost access devices, played a highly influential role in the elections.  There are more than 37 million (37,239,720) voice and close to 20 million (19,331,239) mobile data subscribers (National Communication Authority, September 2016,) with over 4 million active social media users in Ghana today.  The sheer volume and popularity of social media amongst the Ghanaian electorate was part of the reason John Kudalor, the Inspector General of Police (IGP) contemplated banning social media on election day. Mr. Kudalor was quoted in the media as arguing that placing a ban on social media was the only way the police could counter the activities of potential “troublemakers" who might deploy various social media tools and platforms to disrupt the electoral process.  The IGP was forced to back down and drop the idea of banning social media as a result of public and media protests. Instead Ghana’s security services sought the help of ICT experts to better monitor social media.

Penplusbytes, a not-for-profit organization promoting citizen participation in governance through the use of ICT, working with its partners Georgia Institute of Technology (George Tech) and the United Nations University Institute on Computing and Society (UNU-CS) rolled out a Social Media Tracking Centre (SMTC) for Ghana’s 2016 Elections, spanning over a 72-hour pre-elections period. The software at the heart of SMTC is Aggie (pictured above) which monitors real-time reports over cross media platforms (in this case Facebook, twitter and WhatsApp), using key words such as Election Irregularity, Misconduct, Fraud, Political Thugs, Polling Logistics, Results and Violence. Once the SMTC picked up a relevant trend, a team of 42 trained SMTC officials verified the report and directed it to Ghana’s Electoral Commission and National Elections Security Task Force for action.
Over its deployment period, SMTC generated 297,660 election-relevant reports, out of which 183 unique incidents were verified and then transferred to the appropriate election-relevant stakeholders. Most of these verified true incidents were related to polling logistics such as missing ballot papers, delayed voting and failures in biometric verification devices. Also, the SMTC picked up 18 incidents of violence, misconduct, and fraud that were verified as false. The fact checking capability of SMTC thus went a long way to dispel a lot of misinformation during the elections.
In conclusion, relying on the ability to listen in on conversations on social media through SMTC, working directly with the National Elections Security Task Force and the Coalition of Domestic Observers  (CODEO), went a long way to close the feedback loop between Ghanaian voters and relevant electoral authorities. It also helped prevent the spread of  misleading information, a key requirement for peaceful, credible, free and fair elections. 

About the Author

Kwami Ahiabenu II is Executive Director of Penplusbytes.