Sunday, 25 September 2011

Kenya Hosts Sixth Internet Governance Forum

Thought leaders in the Internet Governance (IG) community will converge in Nairobi, Kenya from 27th September to 1st October to deliberate on the present and future of the Internet. Dubbed Internet Governance Forum (IGF), the meeting is convened by the United Nations and will be held at their offices in Gigiri.

The Internet Governance Forum (IGF) is an annual event; it is a multi-stakeholder platform for discussions into all aspects of the Internet Governance debate. Internet Governance itself, simply, is the coming together of different interest parties to figure out how the Internet should operate and what laws or principles should be applied in its use. IGF brings together all key actors in the Internet space: governments, the technical community, academics, civil society and corporate organisations, on an equal basis. IGF was birthed through the World Summit for Information Society (WSIS) that was held in Tunis in 2005. Considering that the Internet has become a useful tool in all aspects of human endeavour and that there are over 1.5 billion of us using the global platform, there is no doubt that the IG debate is crucial. IGF has become so important that its organisation has been diffused to regional and national levels. At the first Ghana IGF, I took part in the discussion on Youth and Internet Governance Issues.

The main theme for IGF 2011 is "Internet as a catalyst for change: access, development, freedoms and innovation". It has further been broken down into the following sub-themes:
  • IG4D / Internet governance for development (IG4D) [also a cross cutting theme]
  • Emerging Issues
  • Managing critical Internet resources
  • Security, openness and privacy
  • Access and diversity
  • Taking stock and the way forward 
Various workshops, coordinated by different stakeholders, have been organised to raise discussion points under each sub-theme. For example, under security, openness and privancy, one of the workshops has been titled "Protecting the Most Vulnerable Users in Society: The Roles of Different Actors in Helping the New User Survive in an On-Line World", and under IG4D, we have "Can Digital Citizenship Scale into the Emerging and Developing Countries Effectivly? Should It?".  Also, the dynamic coalitions would be having their own sessions to explore issues pertinent to their causes.

If you want to take part in the IGF but you can't make it to Nairobi, don't worry. You can make your voice heard by participating remotely. You can also share your views on Twitter (#IGF) and Facebook. To learn more about Internet Governance, you can join the Diplo community. See you in Nairobi!

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

What if Kwame Nkrumah Used Social Media?

The story of Ghana's first president, Kwame Nkrumah, continues to draw many passions years after his overthrow and death. Ghana is celebrating a holiday in his honour today and members of the Blogging Ghana community, which I belong to, are writing series of posts in his memory. Last two years, my post was on what Nkrumah's vision would have been if he was still alive, today I'm wondering how Kwame Nkrumah would use social media if he had access to these tools in his time.Would he have used these tools at all?

Kwame Nkrumah, a true African visionary, progressive and political organiser, would have easily identified the networking capabilities of social networks and deployed them in his day-to-day communications. In his day Kwame Nkrumah always found time to meditate and write. Perhaps he would have been glad to share his thoughts with the whole world through blogs. In addition, I think the president would have equally be won over by the 140-character awesomeness of Twitter to send short snippets of his everyday life to the whole world. Twitter might therefore be his social media of choice.

His possible handles might be @KwameNkrumah, @Osagyefo @Nkrumah. I can't imagine a geeky Nkrumah, so he'd probably use one of the foregoing.

Some of Nkrumah's coveted quotes likely could have emerged first as tweets, with some carefully selected hashtags in attendance:

The independence of Ghana is meaningless unless it is linked up with the total liberation of the African continent #Freedom #AfricaMustUnite #Africa
We cannot afford to sit still and be submissive onlookers of technological change #Sci4D #Technology
We face neither east nor west, we face forward #NonAlignment #SelfDeterminism #TotalIndependece
Nkrumah's work was known to have been inspired by the likes of Marcus Garvey, Nnamdi Azikwe, Mahatma Ghandi and W.E.B Du Bois. He'd probably have retweeted them copiously:

RT @Garvey There shall be no solution to this race problem until you, yourselves, strike the blow for liberty.

RT @Zik you talk I listen, you listen I talk>>> Great lesson, sir.  #debate #understanding

RT @Ghandi Non-violence is the greatest force at the disposal of mankind. It is mightier than the mightiest weapon of destruction devised by the ingenuity of man.
RT @WEBDubois: Believe in life! Always human beings will live and progress to greater, broader, and fuller life.
I won't be surprised if he sent out a few thoughts running through his mind, as we often encounter in social media circles. 
On the eve of independence: Feeling a bit nervous. I can't believe what we fought for has been won #GhanaisFree #Indece #6Mar57cc: @Gbedemah @Botsio @Busia

When Akosombo Dam was built: I can't wait to inaugurate this dam. The power generated from this facility will propel our industrialisation and development efforts.

Or when he was overthrown: I can't believe my people have deserted me. Ghana and Africa are in trouble. :(.
And many would have retweeted. Happy holidays!

Friday, 16 September 2011


Advancing Open Source Technologies for Development

Python African Tour (PAT) is an exciting African open source technology initiative aimed at promoting agile programming languages, mainly Python, among Africa's tech communities. Through the efforts of various developers, organizers, activists and volunteers, the programme has successfully trained interested people in Senegal, Nigeria, Morocco and Ghana to develop computer software using Python-based technologies. Similar efforts are currently underway to bring the Python African Tour experience to Kenya.
The first PAT workshop in Ghana was held from 18th to 22nd January 2011 at African University College of Communications (AUCC) and Ghana Telecom University College (GTUC) in Accra. PAT Ghana was sponsored by Google, BECATEC, Ageliaco and the Python Software Foundation (PSF), while Ghana Google Technology User Group (Ghana GTUG), Fedora Linux Project and Hutspace were partners. The Accra event birthed many avid Python programmers, a mailing list and the call to spread Python to other parts of Ghana.

Therefore, the Python African Tour team in Ghana is organizing a follow-up Python training workshop specially targeted at students at Kwame Nkrumah University of Scienceand Technology (KNUST), Kumasi Polytechnic (K-Poly) and other tertiary institutions in the Kumasi area. Other technology enthusiasts in the Ashanti region are also welcome to attend. This makes Ghana the first country to have a second PAT event organized.

Kumasi city centre. Picture credit:
The overall goal is to boost development in Africa through Python and allied technologies; this will be achieved by empowering young Ghanaian students, developers and entrepreneurs with quality skills to tackle local problems. It is also the objective of the Tour to inspire and build conversations among local developers, creating an ecosystem of cooperation, idea-sharing, collaboration and creativity.

Python African Tour takes a different approach from other tech-related conferences that have been held in Ghana due to its focus on hands-on Python training and skills transfer, opportunity local developers have been yearning for. The schedule for the Kumasi event is as follows:
  •  19th September to 25th September, 2011: Online course – “Introduction to Python" at School of Webcraft
  •    29th September to 30th September, 2011: Introduction to Python
  •   1st October, 2011: Introduction to Django web framework/Sprints
The emphasis of the training regimen is on developing a problem-solving and practical approach to programming. The training team consists of volunteers from PAT Ghana team, PAT Ghana participants, KNUST GTUG members and well-established software developers.

British Council, Google Ghana/Africa, BECATEC, Ageliaco, PSF, Ghana GTUG and KNUST GTUG are supporting this event to come to fruition. Sponsorship opportunites are still available for the workshops or hackathon. Contact the PAT team via email and get your organisation to be part of this exciting initiative.

To participate in the Python African Tour (PAT) Kumasi workshop, please fill out the registration form at the PAT website now. If you are interested in sponsoring, supporting the training team or helping out in any way, please send an email to patghana(at)

Connect with Python African Tour:
Twitter: @PATGhana

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Using Social Media in Citizen Engagement in West Africa

It is now common knowledge that ICTs play important roles in the development process. In West Africa, projects such as Esoko, Grameen MoTech and Project ABC are confronting the challenges of development from different angles. Another interesting area with great potential in this sphere is the role of ICTs, social media in particular, in citizen engagement.

Côte dʼIvoire-based Nnenna Nwakanma of Free and Open Source Software Foundation for Africa (FOSSFA) explores the question: "Social media and networks: what potential is there for policy engagement by citizens in West Africa?" Nnenna first gives a vivid account of the cultural diversity of the West African region and then gives key Internet statistics. She then goes on to cite instances of the usage of social media in discussing policy issues in Ghana, Nigeria and Côte dʼIvoire. From Nnenna's study we learn of different instances of social media in policy engagement:

Citizen-to-citizen engagement- During the Ivorian elections, individuals and news outlets used the #Wozonmai and #CIV2010 Twitter hashtags to disseminate information and advance different viewpoints with regards to developments. Another instance is the Enough is Enough (EiE) campaign run by a coalition of youth activists to ensure accountability during the Nigerian elections.

Government-to-citizen engagement- Ghana's Constitution Review Committee put together various channels such as Facebook, Twitter and SMS to collate views from individuals as part of the country's constitutional review process. The Ghana Police Service has equally deployed Twitter and YouTube as digital frontiers for their security and safety activities.

President Goodluck Jonathan says "let my people talk to me"
Perhaps, the leader who has used these tools most extensively is President Goodluck Jonathan of Nigeria. President Jonathan uses both Facebook and Twitter to engage ordinary Nigerians. The latest update on the president's Facebook page is as follows:
"Last Friday I launched a comprehensive database on all Vehicles in Nigeria designed to link every vehicle to its owner/operator such that vehicles can be traced within seconds. This is part of proactive steps we are taking as part of a review of our national security architecture to lay greater emphasis on intelligence and citizens' participation in security surveillance. Terrorism has no conscience and spares no one. We must stand together against terror in its destructive manifestations."
Based on a survey carried out as part of the research, it was found out, among other things that:
  • There is increasing use of Internet and social media among citizens in policy engagement discussions
  • Authorities are becoming increasingly aware of the use of these tools by citizens. Citizens are also of the know that the authorities are aware of their activities and may be monitoring them
  • Access to the Internet and social media is being seen more and more as a human right.
In light of the implication of social media in the recent political events in North Africa and the Middle East, and the London riots, the study provides interesting perspective to the situation on the ground in West Africa and future possibilities. You can freely download this study at website. I'd like to hear your thoughts on the role of social media in citizen engagement in the sub-region. What are the positive windfalls that could be gained? What are the pitfalls?

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

[Press Release]: Celebrating Software Freedom Day 2011 in Ghana!

The Ghana-India Kofi Annan Centre of Excellence in ICT (AITI-KACE) in collaboration with the Linux User Group, Accra(LUGA) will again be hosting a special event on Saturday, September 17th under the theme “Open Source a viable option for achieving MDGs”. The venue for this year's celebrations is the AITI-KACE premises and the time is 9:00 – 16:00. This is the biggest international celebration and outreach event for Software Freedom globally involving 500 volunteer groups all around the world.

In an increasingly digital age, more and more of our everyday experiences depend upon software. Software influences how we interact with each other, enjoy different media, get paid, and even navigate our roads. Software underpins our very way of life, our basic freedoms such as freedom of association, freedom of thought, freedom of choice and much more, yet many people do not realize the importance and influence of software and other technologies on their lives. What is even much more important is that open source is proven to be a viable technology option capable to aid achieving the Millennium Development Goals(MDG's).

Software Freedom Day (SFD) is a worldwide celebration of Free and Open Source Software (FOSS). Over 500 volunteer groups in over 120 countries all around the world are celebrating the sixth SFD this year on September 17. SFD is an annual grass roots effort to educate the public on the virtues of Free/Open Source Software (FOSS) and also to encourage its use. The goal in this celebration is to educate the worldwide public about the benefits of using high quality FOSS in education, in government, at home, and in business - in short, everywhere!

The AITI-KACE and its partners have been celebrating Software Freedom Day for a number of years and with support from the general public and the IT Community. We would like those that have attended or are attending for the first time to bring a friend along. Come and see demonstrations of open source software to suit just about every usage that you might think of. Take home some ideas, and CDs/DVDs full of software that you can use straight away.

People in Ashanti Region of Ghana can also join the Ashanti Linux User Group to celebrate the day at the University of Education, Kumasi Campus, Tanoso.

AITI-KACE is located near Ghana Institute of Journalism (GIJ), adjacent to the Council of State Building on 2nd Avenue, Ridge, Accra. Contacts : Fred Yeboah - Tel 0302 679542-4 or e-mail: fredericky(at)