Showing posts with label Culture. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Culture. Show all posts

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Celebrating the Late President Atta Mills of Ghana

News of President John Evans Atta Mills' death shocked many including myself. Atta Mills won political power "against the run of play" in 2009 and died a few months to completing his term of office. He will be remembered in Ghanaian history for his peaceful nature and his democratic and anti-corruption credentials.

In my first ever vlog (video blog), I reflect on the life of the late president, drawing our lessons that might be useful for all Ghanaians:

A book of condolence, in memory of President Mills, was opened yesterday at the Keta Municipal Assembly amidst great ceremony. Preceding the actual opening was a public procession from Busco Junction area all the way to the municipal assembly. All marchers were clad in some combination of red an/or black to signify their grief. A lively mix of brassband music and traditional sounds dared to reduce the "sorrowfulness" of the ocassion.

#RIPMills: Street procession in honour of the late Prsident Mills
In attendance were the Municipal Chief Executive, the Municipal Director of education, other public officers, chiefs and people of Keta. Tributes were read by representatives of various stakeholders such as the government and political parties. The speeches hailed the lifestyle and good works of the departed leader.  The book of condolence was then signed by MCE the leaders of various departments in the municipality the chiefs, reps of various political parties and some renowned citizens.

#RIPMills: An NPP rep at the function

#RIPMills: Municipal Dirctor of Education signing the book of condolence

 Find more pictures on the Ghana Decides Facebook page.
Similar ceremonies have been held in Accra, Ho, Cape Coast and all over Ghana, attracting heavy coverage in the mass media. Today, one minute of silence was observed all over the country at 2:15 pm, on the instruction of the government. For the first time, social media coverage has not been left out, with Ghana Decides taking lead role. There's a collection of great videos in the RIP President Mills YouTube playlist. Also, the #RIPMills hashtag has been the focal point of spreading the latest news on Twitter, while Facebook is awash with creative photos and posts, all celebrating the third president of the fourth republic.

President Mills' erstwhile Vice-President, John Dramani Mahama has since been sworn in as President of Ghana. We wish him well!

Thursday, 8 March 2012

How Many African Women are Online?

African women given the impetus can put technolpgy to good use. Source: ris.lib.unc.edu
I pose this simple question to ICT4D researchers on International Women's Day 2012. My orignal intention for this post was to highlight the limited access that African women, and those in other parts of the developing world, have to the Internet and other vital information sources. But where could I find comprehensive statistics to back my claim?

Tweeting at BarCamp Takoradi, Ghana: Men dominate the show
 Or, perhaps am I just tasking myself to bring a non-issue into the limelight? I don't think so. Cursory observation and scanty data available show just how grave the situation is:
  • Women’s participation in Internet usage in Africa ranged from 12% (Senegal) to 38% (Zambia), according to this 2003 study. This is notwithstanding the fact that women constitute the majority in most African countries.
  • According to socialbakers.com, far more men than women use the social networking site, Facebook in Ghana.
Male/Female ratio of Ghana's Facebook Users

Studies showthat women naturally tend to use the Internet and mobiles for personal and intimate encounters, like what persists on social networks, more than men. So why the huge disparities?
  • In Uganda, women's awareness and usage of ICTs is nearly three times less that that of men (ResearctICTAfrica, 2006). There, women tend to acquire basic ICT skills in order to be able to get employment in gender-stereotyped roles, it was noted.
These sad developments defeat the objectives of women empowerment as captured by the World Summit on Information Society (WSIS) in 2003:

We are committed to ensuring that the Information Society enables women’s empowerment and their full participation on the basis of equality in all spheres of society and in all decision-making processes. To this end, we should mainstream a gender equality perspective and use ICTs as a tool to that end.

Team Azma coming out of the Kuyu Project Digital Camp in Kenya show the way forward for African girls and women
Not only that. Granted that ICTs have been identified as development tools and women are at the heart of development in our communities, the situation is worrying. Knowledge is power. The inability of women to drink from the knowledge well of the world-wide web is disempowering; this is the inimical to the advancement of development in Africa and elsewhere. Their lack of avenues to express themselves through the emerging digital frontiers choke their voices in the arena of public discourse. This cannot be!

Firstly, we need to be able to place a figure on the actual number of active female Internet users. Next, we should figure out the factors that inhibit women's use of the web and finally put in measures to reverse this trend. Many women are leading the way when it comes to technology in Africa, but we must support many more to bring change to our communities. Bring the women online!

Friday, 27 January 2012

African Spring Not the Best Way Forward

Picture Credit: Project Syndicate
The Arab Spring: pro-democracy uprisings currently sweeping the Middle East and North Africa. 
This wave of "revolutions" was said to be sparked by the self-immolation of now famed Mohammed Bouazizi,  who was crashed by the seizure of his fruit cart and ill-treatment by a municipal official in his native Sidi Bouzid, after his computer science degree could not bring his many dreams to life in Tunisia. According to experts, his sad story angered many, fuelling protests on the streets of Sidi Bouzid, Tunis and elsewhere in the North African country. Almost suddenly, Tunisians' eyes were opened to the prevailing ambiance of corruption, social stagnation and dictatorship, which pushed Mohammed to end his young life. The protests boiled on and persisted, against hardline measures by security officials, until the erstwhile president, Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, a man who has been at the summit of power for 23 years, stepped down. The heroics of the Tunisian people were told, replayed and propagated by the powerful Western media, Al-Jazeera and social media. Soon citizens of countries in the region: Egypt, Libya, Jordan, Syria, Morrocco, among others started their own protests, giving birth to what academics and journalist called the Arab Spring.
Granted that conditions similar to what precipitated the Arab spring persist in Africa, south of the Sahara, the question has been posed by the BBC in its Africa Debate "is an African spring necessary?" Is an "African spring" looming on the 2012 horizon?
My honest answer is no. The violence, deaths and destructions resulting from protests are not what Africa needs at this moment. In fact, Africa has had its fair share of coups and realignments in its social order, some of which it has not recovered from yet. Malawian academic Jimmy Kainja expresses this thought better:

African Spring in the exact fashion of the Arab Spring would signify a step backwards - not a step forward.
In fact, it would make a mockery of all that the majority of African countries achieved in the late 1980s and the early 1990s - when they did away with dictators and presidents-for-life in favour of multiparty democracies.
It is commonly held that "a problem, once identified is half solved." What needs to be done in Africa is refinement of our democratic systems so as to get them to work in the way we want. In many African countries, goverment goes and goverment comes but still, the people see no change. Protests and wars, resulting in deaths, injuries and destruction of valuable national assets will not bring immediate solutions to our socio-economic problems. I don't see the change whatever government any uprising raises will bring. However, if we continue setting up governance structures, going after corrupt officials, voting out incompetent governments, cutting down on discrimination in its many forms, building patriotic consciousness and collaborating meaningfully with the larger world, we stand a better chance at progress.

And while angry citizens are calming down, looking for alternate paths towards socio-economic development and fulfillment, those in authority should be reminded that whatever offices they occupy should be in the service of the people. It will take only time for pent-up feelings and frustrations of deprived souls to reach that critical mass to explode Arab spring style. Institutional renewal should be catalysed immediately through governance reforms that would bring efficiency and results to the people. 

Youth development, starting with our educational systems, should be at the centre of any strategy to pave the way forward. The youth themselves are taking many initiatives to bring change to their communities and beyond. Their efforts must be supported through the creation of jobs, scholarship opporunities, skills training, funding among others. They youth are our future, they hold the key to the Africa we want to see. The blood of the likes of Mohammed should not be on our heads.

Thursday, 15 December 2011

BarCamp Ghana 2011: Getting Ahead Through Partnerships and Collaboration

The "mother" of all BarCamps in Ghana will be taking place live at the Ghana-India Kofi Annan Centre of Excellence in ICT this Saturday. Join us in person or via Twitter and Facebook!

After Barcamps in Kumasi, Cape Coast, Tamale and Ho, the movement is in Accra this Saturday for Barcamp Ghana. Barcamp Ghana 2011 will take place on December 17, 2011 at the Ghana-India Kofi Annan Centre of Excellence in ICT. The theme is “Establishing Partnerships to transform dreams into action-based projects: Lessons from Mentors”. This Barcamp will concentrate on sharing, inspiring and creating stories about building partnership with attendant mentorship to create successful Ghanaian projects and businesses. This will be the 11th Barcamp in Ghana, back to the venue where it all started in December 2008.
BarCamp Ghana 2011 will feature a speed mentoring session with mentors like Bernard Avle, Kofi Akpabli, Albert Ocran, Sheila Bartels-Sam, Lionel Dosoo, Leila Djansi, Carl Ashie, Kofi Dadzie, Maximus Ametorgoh, Alex Adjei-Bram, Nana Awere Damoah, Sefakor Gbewonyo, Alfred Cran-Mensah, amongst others.
As always, there will be many breakout sessions organized by you, valuable networking and a celebration of Ghanaian ingenuity and innovation. Register/RSVP today at the BarCamp Ghana eventbrite website. If you are interested in organizing a breakout session, email us at info@barcampghana.org, especially if you have special needs. 

BarCamp Ghana 2011 is sponsored by the Ghana-India Kofi Annan Centre of Excellence in ICT, Mobile Web Ghana, GhanaThink Foundation, Fienipa Group, Spot One Global, and Nandimobile. Our media partners are ModernGhana.com, Citi 97.3 FM, and Radio Univers. BarCamp Ghana -www.barcampghana.org – info at barcampghana.org

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!

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 diplomacy.edu 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?

Sunday, 4 July 2010

Ghana Social Media Day Celebration

There is no doubt that social media has truly changed the way in which people communicate in their everyday lives all over the world. For example, through a medium like this blog, I'm able to communicate my thoughts on diverse issues to people wherever they may be. A more general example is the tremendous rise in the number of Facebook users in Ghana over the past few years. 

 It is little wonder that leading social media blog, Mashable decided to take the initiative to spark global conversations around effective social media usage, leading to the celebration of social media days in various countries. Ghana was not left out as a social media day celebration meetup was held at smoothies bar in Osu, Accra, last Thursday 30th June, 2010. The meet up was put together by TEDxYouthInspire speaker Yawa-Hansen Quao and Daisy Baffoe of ghtech. Also present were Nii Ayeterh Aryeh, Seyram Ahiabor and a few other social media enthusiasts. During the meeting we shared our experiences of social media and reflected on ways through which we think these media can be more effectively utilised. Here are some highlights of our interaction.

Social media helps to expand your network and get your message across

I shared how Keta-based Sandlanders FC is effectively using platforms like blogs, facebook and twitter to attract international interest in the club, in a way that more established football clubs in Ghana are not doing. Yawa also shared how her activity on twitter got her into contact with organisations that are interested in collaborating with Leading Ladies Network. The discussion got so interesting when many people recounted how they first interacted with some close associates through facebook or twitter before meeting in real life. Seyram had this great tip on delivering relevant information through social media: "to benefit from social media, focus on others. Get them talking, or rally for a cause."

Collaboration helps to make social media usage more effective

Collaboration is an integral theme of the web and social media. Consequently we agreed that it is important that we coordinate some of our activities in order to gain more visibility internationally. Collaboration will allow us to tap into each others networks, allowing us to get our messages across more effectively, The idea for a social media award for Ghana was mooted and identified as a project that we can work on in the near future. Personally, I think such an award would be great as it will  identify and reward people and groups who are making positive impacts through social media.

How to get Ghanaian businesses take social media seriously

We observed that majority of corporate Ghana is missing on the social media landscape and identified this gap as a tremendous opportunity for the growing number of local web marketers and social media strategists. With the growing number of Ghanaian Internet users, it is instructive that companies, especially those who target people in the 18-34 age bracket, deploy social media as part of their communication strategy. Some people present also spoke about blogging for busy CEOs or small companies that cannot afford in-house social media strategists. When properly done local companies can indeed benefit from social media. We also identified great examples of social media usage from companies like Zain and MTN.

To conclude, social media is not only a great way of reaching out to our family and friends but also to potential business associates. Let us take full advantage of this tool that the web has bestowed us with. If you have any thoughts to how social media can be used more effectively in Ghana, or any project you have in mind, don't hesitate to share. Also feel free to ask any questions on any point that you don't understand. Cheers.

Monday, 10 May 2010

Is Fufu a Suitable Topic for the Internet?

Imagine you're on a trip to Koforidua, Ghana, and you want to visit the best local fufu bar. How would you find out the best bar without asking someone? How would you get there?

Just as the above scenario is difficult to resolve, so is the business of finding relevant Ghanaian content on the Internet. I've had the experience of sifting through scores and scores of websites on occasion without finding the desired information that I sought. Dorothy Gordon, Director -General of Kofi Annan Centre of Excellence in ICT, addressed this issue during the recently held Citi FM-Google Ghana conference on Internet bandwidth.

Dorothy's submission sparked three lingering questions on my mind:

1. What importance do Ghanaians place on playing the lead role in developing, uploading and accurately representing local information online?

2. How can Ghanaian culture and languages be effectively expressed within the context of 21st century web culture?

3. In what ways are Ghanaian businesses exploiting the web as a powerful communication channel to reach their customers?

These questions apply to the rest of Africa as they do to Ghana. If you have some answers or an opinion on any of the issues, please don't hesitate to let us know. Over to you!