Monday, December 16, 2013

Penplusbytes launches Providing effective feedback for parliamentary work through new digital technologies and citizen engagement project

The effectiveness and the efficiency of the Parliament can be more enhanced if the gap between members of parliament and the general citizenry is bridged through better information and knowledge sharing exchange, especially in the context of the important oversight role Parliament has to play over the executive. In order to facilitate a better interaction between members of Parliament and citizens, the International Institute of ICT Journalism (Penplusbytes), with funding and technical support from STAR-Ghana, is implementing a ground-breaking project entitled "Providing effective feedback for parliamentary work through new digital technologies and citizen engagement."
The project aims at supporting Parliament, through its Government Assurance Committee, play an effective oversight role over promises made by government on education and health. The key objective is to increase interaction between the Government Assurance Committee and Citizens in the area of public service delivery, especially health and education, using new digital technologies that enable easy and accessible feedback mechanism while leading to better service delivery.
According to Mr. Jerry Sam, Project Director at Penplusbytes, "The project will provide the select committee members with evidence-based information on selected assurances and promises made by government on health and education to effectively hold ministers accountable on promises made on the floor of parliament."
He added that "the cornerstone of 'Providing effective feedback for parliamentary work through new digital technologies and citizen engagement' project are online information and knowledge platform, two way SMS tool and a mobile app that will adequately inform and empower the public to meaningfully engage with their elected members of parliament."
There will also be face-to-face forums and media outreach to sensitize the public on the oversight responsibility of Parliament over government promises thereby stimulating citizen-based advocacy on service delivery.
Penplusbytes is a not-for-profit organization established in 2001 that seeks to empower the media through the use of Information and Communications Technology to advance better journalism in the coverage of governance and accountability, new media and innovations, and mining, oil and gas sectors.
Star-Ghana is a multi-donor pooled funding mechanism (Funded by DFID, DANIDA, EU and USAID) 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 Ghana's government, traditional authorities and the private sector.

Stakeholders Discuss Local Content online and makes Recommendation to Petroleum Commission

An  online discussion on the topic, "Promoting Local (Ghanaian) Content in petroleum activities: Where does Ghana stand?" was held from Monday September 9, to September 20, 2013 with a number of key stakeholders including oil and gas companies, oil and gas experts, media, civil society actors as well as international organisation participating. This unique online discussion forms part of "Empowering the Media to Play Active Watchdog Role over Mining, Oil and Gas Revenue and Resources" currently being implemented by Penplusbytes with funding and technical support from STAR-Ghana.
Key issues such as low awareness about Oil and Gas sector opportunities for skills acquisition and certification, the actualization of Local Content by way of skills transfer as well as measures taken by state to empower local entrepreneurs to exploit opportunities in the Oil and Gas sector were captured at the close of the discussions.
In order to ensure these important recommendations are implemented, Penplusbytes on 3rd December, 2013 presented a report of the discussions to the Petroleum Commission, the petroleum sector regulatory in Ghana.
Receiving the report, the Director of Special Services at the Commission, Mr Kwaku Boateng, welcomed the initiative and praised Penplusbytes for its ingenuity. Present at the meeting was Abdul- Karim Adam of the Local Content office and Linda Kofi from the Communications Department of the Commission.
Mr Boateng pledged that the Commission would study and subsequently factor the suggestions arising from the local content online discussion into its decision-making.
Mr Boateng also pointed out that the Commission was already aware of some of the challenges and was implementing some interventions with regards to some of the online discussion recommendations, especially on the development of local standards and skills transfer to local businesses.
On the issue of standards, for instance, he said a committee had been set up in collaboration with Ghana Standard Authority (GSA) to develop local standards such that local companies will be assisted to meet those standards.
One of the key issues raised during discussions on the platform centred on how government intends to empower the local entrepreneurs to exploit opportunities in the oil and gas sector.  Mr Boateng responded that the Commission has built a database of both local and foreign companies with the aim of connecting local companies with opportunities when they become available.
With regards to awareness creation, he mentioned that a series of workshops were being organised to educate local companies about projects going to be undertaken by the IOCs and subcontract opportunities which would become available.