Monday, April 29, 2013

Maiden “Development through New Media Course” Held

Penplusbytes in partnership with Participatory DevelopmentAssociates (PDA) last week held the first session of the “Development through New Media” course for individuals from government institutions, Civil Society Organisations and private individuals.

The three day programme offered the participants an insight on how to strategically use new media tools to promote one’s institution and also effectively communicate with the organisations audience.  The course involved the use of social media tools such as Facebook, Twitter and the art of “Writing for the Web” for advocacy, research and as a platform for knowledge exchange. In addition, participants were taken through how to maintain their social media sites, create active interactions and also engage their audience on social media.

Participants were drawn from the Judicial Service of Ghana and Civil Society Organisations from both the Northern and Southern Sectors.

Madam Grace Tagoe, Director of Communications of the Judicial Service and a beneficiary of the session said “the program has been very useful and it is a commendable effort from the two institutions. We would be grateful if it could be extended to other staff members of my organization. As a communication expert, I believe adding social media as a means of communication will increase my audience, as it will reach out to the online community as well.”

Mr. Wisdom Vinyo from Toyace in the Volta region expressed his excitement on the course, saying that “with the upsurge of online tools and the rate of growth online, this course couldn’t have come at a better time. Many of our programs at Toyace are targeted at the audience in the community but with what I have learnt during this course, we will be able to reach out to other CSOs online and channel efforts to get our voices heard online."

The “Development through new media” is aimed at providing CSOs, government institutions, Small and Medium-scale Enterprises and individuals with skills on how to plan and deploy a basic social media communications strategy for their organizations to strengthen their capacity to deliver vision and mission.  It was designed to help organisations understand social media and the principles and dynamics that underpin it through a hands-on approach.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Penplusbytes Publishes Report on SMTC Operations in Ghana Elections 2012

The success story of Penplusbytes’ establishment of the Social Media Tracking Center (SMTC) for the 2012 general elections in Ghana has been documented by the organization. The report gives an overview of the activities, findings and recommendations of the SMTC which can be adopted for future elections in Ghana and in other Africa elections.

The SMTC was instituted with support from DFID and ran for a total of 10 days before the Ghana elections and nonstop over the 72-hour period from the day of voting to the eventual announcement of the winner of the elections. It was staffed by volunteers from the Meltwater Entrepreneurial School of Technology (MEST), Georgia Institute of Technology from the USA, EnoughisEnough from Nigeria and technical experts from Penplusbytes.

The technology at the middle of Ghana’s SMTC was the Aggie social media tracking software, developed at Georgia Tech. For Ghana’s election, Penplusbytes identified social media sources from Twitter, Facebook, Ushahidi, and individual blogs, which were streamed in real time to Aggie. Verified incidents of election irregularities, voting fraud, violence, etc. were communicated to embedded SMTC representatives at Police Headquarters, the Electoral Commission, the Coalition of Domestic Election Observers CODEO, and the Media.

In outlining the relevance of the SMTC for the elections, Penplusbytes’ Projects Director, Jeremiah Sam says “the primary reason why the SMTC proved to be a valuable asset in the 2012 elections is that Ghanaians have become quick adopters of Information Communication Technologies (ICTs) and in 2011 mobile-cellular subscriptions per 100 inhabitants stood at 84.78, experiencing a 20 percent increase from 2009 which meant that there was a high potential of electoral incidents to be reported on social media which could be monitored and forwarded to the electoral security taskforce if the need be to help prevent or reduce irregularities and violence during the elections .”

At the end of the project, more than a quarter-million reports were monitored by Aggie and nearly 350 incidents logged. While many of the reports featured large trends, such as problems with some of the biometric voter verification technology, a significant number of the incidents related to singular events that had escaped the attention of the traditional media, police, or electoral commission were also logged by the system. Such SMTC incidents, which ranged from information on closed polling places to occasions of violence, were followed up directly by the relevant Ghanaian authorities.

The report concludes that, the experience of the SMTC in Ghana’s 2012 election demonstrates that social media tracking is a valuable tool for election monitoring, and could be further integrated into the election monitoring process to enhance the legitimacy of election results. 

Monday, April 15, 2013

Penplusbytes to Train Journalists in Oil and Gas Reporting

Beginning next quarter, Penplusbytes will be executing the third phase of its extensive media capacity building programme for suitably qualified journalists interested in oil and gas reporting from Ghana, Uganda and Tanzania with support from the Revenue Watch Institute as part of the “Strengthening media oversight on the extractive sectors” project.

This project comes against the backdrop that in many resource-rich countries, journalists often lack the necessary knowledge and skill in investigating and writing in-depth stories on the extractives, oil and gas sector. 

The training programme will begin in July 2013 and run over a period of 6 – 8 months. There are approximately 10 places available this year for Ghanaian journalists. This year’s training will be delivered together with Penplusbytes’ partners the African Centre for Media Excellence based in Uganda and Journalists’ Environmental Association from Tanzania (JET).

This interactive training will involve a  mixture of seminars, interviews and informal ‘roundtables’, as well as regular mentoring, field trips, workshops and debates with technical experts and journalists from Ghana, Uganda and Tanzania.

The program, which started in 2011, has since trained 22 journalists in three different classes in Ghana. A beneficiary of the program, Madam Lydia Asamoah from the Ghana News Agency said “participating in the project last year broadened my knowledge on how to effectively report on the sector. It has improved my news gathering skills and enhanced my ability to interpret and analyse data related to the oil and gas sector”.

According to Kofi Mangesi Director of Penplusbytes, “the training will also offer a unique opportunity for trainee journalists to do country specific comparisons under the course as it will involve exchange programmes between the three implementing countries of Ghana, Tanzania and Uganda.”

Editor’s note:

The Revenue Watch Institute is a non-profit policy institute and grant-making organization that promotes accountable and effective management of oil, gas and mineral resources for the public good.

Penplusbytes is a registered not for profit organization since 18th July 2001 with the vision of driving excellence in ICT journalism.

Friday, April 12, 2013

AUCC founder wins PR Personality of the Year 2012 Award

The Founder of UNESCO-ranked centre of excellence in media studies in Africa, the African University College of Communications (AUCC) Mr. Kojo Yankah, has won the Public Relations Practitioner of the year 2012 Award at the Excellence Awards and Presidential Ball organized by the Institute of Public Relations (IPR) Ghana.

The programme, organized on 5th April 2013 was held at the State Banquet Hall in Accra on the theme “IPR at 40: Consolidating the image of Ghana as  a peaceful and democratic Nation.”

The historic award was presented by Ghana’s Minister of Information and Media Relations, Mr. Mahama Ayariga and received on Mr. Yankah’s behalf by his son Mr. Kwesi Yankah.

Reading the citation for the award, the Honorary Secretary of IPR, Mr. Henry Nii Dottey noted “In 2001, he quit politics to establish, first, a marketing communications consultancy, Yankah and Associates and second, the first university college of journalism and communications in Africa. He is the author of six books and coeditor of a book on Marketing Communications and one of the few to publish a textbook on Public relations in Ghana”

In an interview, Mr. Kojo Yankah who is out of the country due to earlier commitments said “I dedicate my award to all those who have confidence in the ability of united Ghanaian professionals to turn round the fortunes of our great country.”

This is the second award that AUCC founder, Kojo Yankah has received within the past year. The first one being   an award presented to him by the World Education Congress in India  in June 2012 for  his Outstanding Contribution to World Education. Previous awards won by Mr. Yankah have included the Langston Hughes, the Davidson Nicol, the Afro-Asian Writers literary awards as well as the  Best Journalist in the North-South Educational Campaign.

Before establishing AUCC in 2002, Mr. Kojo Yankah, was  former editor of Ghana’s widest circulation newspaper, the Daily Graphic, former Director of the Ghana Institute of Journalism, former Minister of State, former President of the Institute of Public Relations and former Member of Parliament of the republic of Ghana.

Dean of Communication Studies of AUCC, Dr. Tina Amakye who was also present at the   awards said "we at AUCC are highly inspired by our Founder who embodies what hard work and perseverance one can achieve. We are continually committed towards ensuring that AUCC continues to empower our students to attain excellence in the communication and business industry.  In this regard, we are indeed proud of our students who also recently won an award jointly with students of  Simmons College in Boston, USA for presenting “the most innovative programming” in college radio at the 72nd Annual Intercollegiate Broadcasting Radio & Webcasting Conference in New York, USA.”

Monday, April 08, 2013

Penplusbytes Joins ISOC Ghana Chapter Social Event.

Penplusbytes, on Friday 5th April joined members of the Ghana Chapter of Internet Society (ISOC)for a social evening event at the Social Security and National Insurance Trust (SSNIT) Guest House in Accra with the theme “Maintaining the openness of the internet: WCIT and beyond”.

In December last year, the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) convened the World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT) in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. The purpose of this conference was to review the current International Telecommunications Regulations (ITRs), which serve as the binding global treaty designed to facilitate international interconnection and interoperability of information and communication services, as well as ensuring their efficiency and widespread public usefulness and availability.

Discussions at the event focused around two key questions:
•    Should the Internet continue to remain open or should governments be allowed to regulate its usage including determining what kind of content should be published on the internet?
•    What will a governmental censorship of the Internet mean for the advancement of Internet related innovation and technology?

Karen Mulberry, ISOC Global Advisor who spoke on the topic “WCIT; Lessons Learned and Opportunities Identified”, said “At the WCIT-12 questions were raised on spam, network security and misuse of the internet, and how to ensure consumer protection.” According to her, “three pillars for net development were identified; these were Building Human Capacity, Technical Capacity and Government Infrastructure Development.”

Participants at the event included representatives from the Ghana National Communications Authority, National Information Technology Agency, Ministry of Communications, US Embassy and Civil Society Organisations.

Mr. Thomas Chen, Economic Officer at the US Embassy during a panel discussion on government control of the internet said that the level of government control matters a lot, adding that the US supports a multi-stakeholder approach and recognizes the importance of private expertise. He said that technology changes too fast for threats to be dealt with outside the private sector.

Sandra Mills, Penplusbytes representative   said that “for government to have control over the internet, a lot of capacity building needs to be done to make sure that people will have enough information to take decisions. Governments should not be written off completely since they have a role to play, but should not be given sole control.”

ISOC Ghana is dedicated to ensuring the open development, evolution and use of the Internet for the benefit of people in Ghana and throughout the world.

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

Penplusbytes Commissions a Baseline Study on Oil and Gas Reporting in Ghana

International Institute of ICT Journalism (Penplusbytes) has commissioned a baseline survey to assess the current status of oil and gas reporting in the Ghanaian media, which will serve as a basis for developing a media guide on reporting oil and gas and also a comprehensive training programme for Ghanaian journalists.

The objective of this study is  to establish both the quality and quantity of oil and gas reporting presently, to assess the knowledge base of ten pre-selected journalists and to establish the gaps in knowledge, paucity of content, the nature of reporting that cannot be  impactful, the style of writing and reporting, etc.

The baseline study will pay particular attention to the number of oil and gas stories published in two leading newspapers in Ghana -The Daily Graphic (State-owned) and the Daily Guide (private ownership). The study will look at the angle used in reporting, the quality of stories written and take into consideration the sources used in building the stories. It will also look at the quality of selected journalists who will serve as trainees during the program through one-to-one interviews.

According to Dr. Doris Dartey, a media consultant and researcher, “the objective of the in-depth interviews is to assess the motivation and capacity of the journalists toward their work, the nature of issues they cover, the extent to which they cover or not cover events, and the depth or its lack thereof of their work in reporting oil and gas.”

The baseline study forms part of Penplusbytes’ “Empowering the media to play an active role over oil and gas revenue and resources’’, being funded by STAR-Ghana. The project seeks to provide journalists with an in-depth knowledge on how to effectively and efficiently produce quality stories on Ghana’s oil and gas sector. The project will comprise of workshops, interviews and informal ‘roundtables’, regular mentoring, field trips, and debates with technical experts and journalists from Ghana. There will be an online platform for information and knowledge exchange between the media and civil society for advocacy for impact- driven developmental projects in the oil and gas sector.

Penplusbytes in the past couple of years has provided leadership in training journalists in the use of cutting edge new media technologies to enhance their work on various diverse thematic areas. The organization has successfully trained 22 journalists in oil and gas reporting by improving their news gathering skills on the extractive, improving their data analysis and interpretation skills in the oil and gas sector and also the understanding of how oil companies work.