Sunday, December 21, 2014

How journalists used social media to cover the biggest news events of 2014

With more than 2 billion people actively using social media each month, its stake in journalism is a no-brainer.

Though Facebook makes up more than half of these users, every instant messaging, micro-video or networking app that pops up represents a new platform for telling a story, and newsrooms are taking advantage of that. 

Here are some of the most interesting ways social media was used (and misused) to cover a few of the biggest news events of 2014.

The World Cup

Journalists covering the biggest social media event ever were active on Twitter, using it to report on both the sports and stats as well as the surrounding social commentary and goings-on in Brazil.

As part of their coverage, AP photojournalists throughout Brazil used Instagram to highlight "offbeat, behind the scenes views of soccer's premier event."

Fusion, a news and entertainment cable network focused on millennials, used live-blogging as well as the "honeycomb," a social aggregator built on Fusion's soccer site that allowed them to surface social media content based on location and influence. For this coverage, two to three Fusion editors at a time mined and tracked all 12 stadiums where the tournament took place based on certain key elements like hashtags and the influence of people in the stadium, IJNet reported back in October.

Some journalists also used social media data to inspire and inform stories. For instance, during the United States-Germany game, journalist Reuben Fischer-Baum wrote about how "Nazi" was used over 30,000 times on Twitter, especially in the minutes surrounding a goal from Germany. This proved that "stereotypes are common crutches when it comes to trash talk," CJR wrote, adding: "It will be interesting to see how social media data develops as a real-time source to explain people's behavior with regard to sports and beyond."

Ebola

In July, journalists around the world began scrambling to cover the deadliest Ebola outbreak in history. This has been a challenge not just for the deluge of misinformation that has circulated on social media, but also because of a slow and minimal social media presence in locations where the outbreak is strongest.

In addition to public health sites like WHO, BBC Africa was a strong Twitter influencer on Ebola, according to data from health care social media analyzer Symplur. The BBC also launched an Ebola public health information service on WhatsApp, aimed at users of the service in West Africa. The service provided "audio, text message alerts and images to help people get the latest public health information to combat the spread of Ebola in the region," according to the BBC.

From Sierra Leone, The Guardian's Channel 4 News Chief Correspondent Alex Thomson made news after his Vines showed snapshots of the situation, which packed an emotional punch despite their short length. 

"Just as the tweet is the boiled-down version of the blog post, which is the boiled-down version of the essay, a Vine is the boiled-down version of a TV package, which is a boiled-down version of a documentary," Marc Blank-Settle, a mobile journalism and social media trainer at the BBC College of Journalism, told The Guardian. "The tool itself is brilliantly easy to use. It's really leveraging the power of Twitter to share news and information very quickly."

Ferguson Protests

Fusion's Director of Media Innovation Tim Pool is the epitome of social storyteller. Pool, a college dropout, first became known in journalism for using drones and wearables to live-stream breaking news events, from the Occupy Wall Street protests in 2011 to demonstrations in the Middle East. His unique style exists at the intersection of social and mainstream media.

After protests erupted following a grand jury's decision not to indict the police officer who shot Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri in the U.S., Pool was on the scene for Fusion, as well as publishing content on every major social channel, including Twitter, Instagram, LiveStream, Vine and YouTube. He used these channels to bring stories on the ground to his tens of thousands of followers.

While he was covering the protests, Pool even managed to conduct a Reddit AMA ("Ask me Anything") which garnered almost 600 comments.

Pool is open about his dislike of the way the mainstream media, or "MSM," often covers stories, saying "It's the small stories within the larger story that MSM misses … They offer this blanket coverage and you miss the most important moments."

"I think the future is for the individual," Pool wrote. "Newsrooms will have to adapt to having their channels be a collective and not a single channel."

Conflict in Gaza

Opinions and information flooded social media platforms as Israel's offensive in Gaza began in July. But social media was also full of an unprecedented amount of misinformation and bias, creating an "information war," and a challenging environment for journalists covering the story.

Analysis by Abdirahim Saeed of BBC Arabic found that some of the pictures circulated on the popular #gazaunderattack hashtag were recycled images from as long ago as 2007. Some were not even from Gaza. So media organizations had to use reverse image search tools — that show if a photo has previously been published online  — to determine the source of pictures, according to Chris Hamilton, social media editor at the BBC. "Social media is kind of a misinformation accelerant, and at the same time, it is potentially the best rumor-smashing tool," Craig Silverman, one of the authors of the Verification Handbook, told the Global Editors Network in an interview.

In a conflict in which it is especially difficult for journalists to be unbiased, a few journalists stood out (and were congratulated) for their fair coverage via social media. Ayman Mohyeldin, a foreign correspondent for NBC News, was pulled out of Gaza and then sent back a few days later after a social media backlash. His coverage of the conflict earned him the respect of fellow journalists. And the New York Times' Jerusalem correspondent Jodi Rudoren used her Facebook page to spur discussion and debate throughout the conflict.

Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17

In the immediate aftermath of the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 on July 17 by a Buk missile system, journalists and social media experts took to the Internet to "sleuth" the event themselves in the absence of official information. 

Using images and videos, Storyful's Open Newsroom project confirmed members of the Donetsk People's Republic separatist militia "at the very least" appeared to have access to an anti-aircraft missile system capable of an attack like the one carried out on the plane. 

And Eliot Higgins, the British founder of online journalism site Bellingcat, with the help of some of his Twitter followers and open source tools, used a YouTube video to pinpoint the location of a Buk launcher while it was being transported through a pro-Russian rebel-held town in Ukraine near the Russian border. In November, less than four months after the crash, Bellingcat published a 35-page report outlining "solid information" that the Buk missile system that downed Malaysian Airlines flight 17 came from Russia and was sent back there after the disaster. As Mashable wrote, Bellingcat was able to unearth "MH17 intel quicker than U.S. spies."


http://ijnet.org/en/blog/how-journalists-used-social-media-cover-biggest-news-events-2014
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International Institute for ICT Journalism
www.penplusbytes.org

Thursday, December 18, 2014

PENPLUSBYTES DONATE TO TESHIE ORPHANAGE

Penplusbytes, on Wednesday, December 17, 2014, paid a visit to the Teshie Orphanage in Accra where they donated assorted items including food and drinks, bags of rice, toiletries and more.

The gesture which forms part of the Institute's corporate social responsibilities comes in response to the need to contribute to making the life of the less privileged children, numbering about 35, living under the care of the home a bit more comfortable.

Speaking at the short presentation ceremony, Jerry Sam, Director of Projects at Penplusbytes, reiterated the importance of the donation saying; “the purpose of our visit sits perfectly in our overall aim of making a change in society through various initiatives and projects, and what better way to usher the Christmas festivities than sharing with these little ones” 

A visibly elated, Mrs Janet Parker, could not hide her joy at the gesture. She expressed her profound gratitude to Penplusbytes for what she termed as the orgainization’s ability to identify the unique challenges of catering for these children whose dreams should still be kept alive by those who have the means. She asked for continuous support from both individuals and corporate entities to also look their way.

ABOUT

Penplusbytes established in 2001 is a leader in the use of new digital technologies to enable good governance and transparency, supporting good governance of oil, gas and mining in the extractives sector resources, and revenues and driving innovations in quality journalism through the use of new media.


Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Penplusbytes seasons greetings










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International Institute for ICT Journalism
www.penplusbytes.org

Penplusbytes Elects a New Board Chair

At its recently held meeting, Penplusbytes Board of Directors, has elected Mr.Bryan Pearson, an international publisher to steer the affairs of the organisation as board chair for a period of 4 years, he will be ably assisted by Mrs. Charity Binka as vice board chair.

Elated by his election, Mr. Pearson thanked Dr. Kwabena Riverson, his predecessor, the  inaugural chair of the board for 4 years, for the leadership and strategic direction he provided for the organisation during its fledging growth. Mr. Pearson said “Penplusbytes is at a critical stage in its organisational life. My vision is to drive its Pan-Africa growth by establishing offices and partnerships in key African countries to ensure Penplusbytes can provide more services to its growing international network of members”

Penplusbytes’ new chair, Mr. Bryan Pearson is also the MD of FSG Communications Ltd, publisher of Africa Health Journal (www.africa-health.com) since 1978; and MD of Asempa Limited, publisher of the 55 year-old Africa Confidential Newsletter (www.africa- confidential.com). He is also the MD of the Afrocet group of companies in Ghana, Nigeria and Kenya, which has become a leading deliverer of conferences, exhibitions and management training within the region. He is a leading observer on Nigeria, where he has spent a considerable part of his life.

Charity Binka the newly elected Vice Chair of Penplusbytes,  is a top journalist and a gender studies lecturer at Ghana Institute of Management and Public Administration (GIMPA),  where she doubled as the Manager of the GIMPA Gender Development and Resource Centre between 2009 to 2012. She is the Executive Director of Women, Media and Change (WOMEC) and African Media and Malaria Research Network (AMMREN) where she serves as the Executive Secretary.

Charity rose to the rank of Editor-in-Chief at the Ghana Broadcasting Corporation in Accra where she worked for 18 years. Charity has done several presentations on gender and media issues and has covered several international conferences.

All the other Board Members reiterated their commitment to support the new board leadership to ensure Penplusbytes mission and vision is achieved. They are Ethan Zuckerman (Director - MIT Center for Civic Media);  Kwami Ahiabenu (President of Penplusbytes); Dan Gillmor (Director of the Knight Center for Digital Media Entrepreneurship at Arizona State University); Kofi Mangesi (Director and Co-Founder Penplusbytes); Nnenna Nwakanma, (Africa Regional Coordinator for Alliance for Affordable Internet project), Dr. Joseph Siegle, (Director of Research at the Africa Center for Strategic Studies) and Andrew Kwesi Kafe, (Board Secretary)

Established on 18th July 2001, Penplusbytes is a leader in driving the use of new digital technologies to enable good governance and transparency, supporting good governance of oil, gas and mining (extractives sector) resources and revenues and driving innovations in quality journalism through the use of new media. Over its thirteen years of existence, Penplusbytes has grown into a large network of over 1,000 members in 40 countries across the globe. The African Elections Project (covered 13 elections in Africa), the Oil and Gas project ran in Ghana, Uganda, Liberia and Tanzania. The Citizens’ Budget for Ghana, which connects citizens to Parliament and supporting the Civil Society Platform on IMF bailout are some of the key initiatives the organisation is providing leadership in.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Data Journalism Awards 2015

Submissions are now open for the Data Journalism Awards 2015! We received 520 submissions in 2014 and we hope to beat our record this year.

What's new this season?

  • We have introduced new categories to recognise the development and innovation in data journalism. A Public's Choice prize will also be awarded. 
  • Submissions will be reviewed monthly by a pre-jury. Five to ten projects per month will be shortlisted and submitted to the jury in April 2015.
  • The fourth annual Data Journalism Awards will culminate with the DJA Ceremony to showcase the best of data journalism worldwide. Don't miss this event to be held on 18 June 2015 during the GEN Summit in Barcelona. 

The deadline for submissions is Friday 10 April 2015, but don't wait until the last minute: the best projects will be shortlisted each month, giving you a better chance to be selected!

Submission Instructions

You will submit your project on our new platform, the GEN Community. This recently launched community already has over 1,000 media innovators and over 350 projects to discover. To submit your project you will need 10-15 minutes.

If you have not yet signed up for the GEN Community, please create a profile, go to 'Submit a Project', select the 'DJA 2015' category and fill in the project form. The GEN community is free to join.

If you already have a profile, please log in, go to 'Submit a Project', select the 'DJA 2015' category and fill in the project form.

Please provide as much information as you can about your project. Include anything that you feel is relevant and can help our jury with their decision.


http://www.globaleditorsnetwork.org/programmes/data-journalism-awards/?utm_source=Company+Newsletter&utm_campaign=a56b20f741-4_Dec_2014&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_68e99b1866-a56b20f741-149224037


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International Institute for ICT Journalism
www.penplusbytes.org

Monday, December 08, 2014

Citizens must monitor budget implementation

The Executive Director of the  Financial Accountability and Transparency-Africa (FAT-Africa), Mr Albert Kan Dapaah, has stated that it is important for Ghanaians to monitor the implementation of national budgets.

That, he said, will allow people at the grassroot to fully participate in the budget’s implementation and not make them  mere listeners during budget readings on the floor of Parliament.

He was speaking at a public budget reading forum in Kumasi as part of activities of a project embarked upon by FAT-Africa in partnership with the International Institute of Information Communication Technology (ICT) Journalism, also known as Penplusbytes.

The “Budget Tracking Project” seeks to produce a simplified, easily comprehensible and reader-friendly citizens’ copy of the budget statement.

Mr Dapaah, who is a former Member of Parliament for Afigya Kwabre North and former Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), said it was important for Ghanaians to pursue their own welfare by making information on the national budget readily available through the publication of what he calls “Citizens’ Budget”.

The budget, in his view, must be presented in a language that avoids jargons and has a format that the ordinary Ghanaian can understand.

He also advised citizens to be involved in monitoring the implementation of the budget after it had been read by the Minister of Finance and Economic Planning.

FAT-Africa is a civil society organisation and think tank that advocates and promotes good financial governance with the aim of creating an enabling climate to nurture a culture of efficient public sector and financial management principles in Africa.

Penplusbytes is a non-profit organisation that seeks to empower the media in the coverage of governance, innovations and mining, oil and gas, through the use of Information and Communications Technology (ICT). 

The joint project, with funding and technical support from STAR-Ghana, taps into the widely acclaimed core competence of Penplusbytes in applying and delivering cutting-edge news to enhance civil and government interaction. It also utilises FAT-Africa’s extensive expertise in promoting financial transparency and budget monitoring to implement the project successfully, and also ensure that the project’s outcomes are fully achieved.

The Project Director, Jerry Sam, said the programme was in recognition of the need to track government expenditure, how well policies are being implemented, and to what extent governments were fulfilling their commitment to citizens.

He also said it aimed at courting the participation of citizens in the governance process by producing and disseminating a simplified version of the budget information to help demystify government budgeting and financial governance so that the public can demand accountability from the government.

Source: Graphic - http://graphic.com.gh/news/general-news/34801-citizens-must-monitor-budget-implementation.html

Sunday, December 07, 2014

World Press Institute Fellowship open for Journalists


The World Press Institute (WPI) is offering three-month fellowships for experienced journalists hoping to improve their understanding of American journalism.

The program aims to expose fellows to working conditions in the U.S. media. They are required to report on a variety of social issues to see how U.S. institutions respond to different social concerns.

The 2015 fellowship will begin in mid-August 2015 and end in mid-October. The fellows will spend three weeks in Minnesota, and then travel to several U.S. cities, including New York and Washington, for briefings, interviews and visits. They will return to Minnesota for the final week of the program.

Applicants must have demonstrated leadership potential, five years of full-time news experience and fluency in English. Freelancers are eligible. Fluency in English is required.

The deadline is Feb. 15, 2015.

For more information, click here.



http://ijnet.org/en/opportunities/world-press-institute-fellowship-open-worldwide



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International Institute for ICT Journalism
www.penplusbytes.org

Monday, November 24, 2014

#HackAgainstEbola ends in Accra

On November 19 and 20th, the Global Editors Network and Penplusbytes invited 7 teams from the Ghanaian media to participate in a competition on media innovation called #HackAgainstEbola, supported by OSIWA and Google, and two local sponsors Dalex and Internet Solutions. Each team was composed of a journalist, a designer and a developer, and they had two days to build a prototype on a specific theme: ‘How to better cover and prevent Ebola’. It is part of a global programme called Editors Lab, a series of international hackdays.

The competition was won by the team from Citi FM, with a prototype called Citi Ebola Updates, a mobile platform that enables people, both educated and uneducated to receive education, information and updates on the status of Ebola in their country in their preferred local language. You send a letter, corresponding to a language, to a short code, and you get 2 updates a day by phone call.

Two special mentions were given to the teams for Ebola Tracker (Graphic) and Ebola Sniper (GBC). The other teams participating were: Daily Guide, Multimedia, BFT/NAFTI and Ringier.
You can see all the projects here: http://community.globaleditorsnetwork.org/content/citi-ebola-updates-0

Pictures of the event are available on our Flickr account.

The winning team will be invited to participate in the Editors Lab Final, held in Barcelona during the GEN Summit 2015, next June. They will compete against the other winners from the Editors Lab.

The Jury was composed by:
-    Teemu Ropponen, iLab Liberia Country Director
-    Nathaniel Ashiagbor is a web programmer
-    Kwami Ahiabenu II, Penplusbytes
-    Evangeline de Bourgoing, Programme Manager at GEN

The next #HackAgainstEbola will be held in Lagos, November 24-25th, and the third one in Dakar mid-January.

About GEN: The Global Editors Network is a cross-platform community committed to sustainable, high-quality journalism, empowering newsrooms through a variety of programmes designed to inspire, connect and share. Our online community allows media innovators from around the world to interact and collaborate on projects created through our programmes.



Contact:
Laure Nouraout, Social Media Manager GEN, lnouraout@globaleditorsnetwork.org.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Ghanaian Journalists for #HackAgainstEbola

According to a recent World Health Organisation statement, the West African sub region could record 10,000 new cases of Ebola a week by Christmas if the epidemic is not handled properly.
To ensure journalists are well equipped to effectively cover the epidemic, the Global Editors Network (GEN) in collaboration with Penplusbytes is organizing a two-day competition on the 19 to 20 November 2014 at the Penplusbytes' New Media Hub for journalists, web developers and designers.

This Editors Lab is being organised in partnership with OSIWA and supported by Google and BBC. It is part of a series of international hackdays hosted by world-renowned media organizations, in New York (The New York Times), London (The Guardian), Madrid (El Pais), Buenos Aires (Clarin), Paris (Le Parisien), and many more.

This edition of the Editors Lab will be very specific, as it is focused on Ebola and renamed #HackAgainstEbola. This is a first of three Editors Lab focused on that theme. The next one will be in Lagos, and the last one in Dakar.

According to GEN's programme manager Evangeline de Bourgoing, "Epidemics create panic, irrational information, dangerous rumors and uncertified facts, which can all generate chaos. Ebola has not yet been neutralized and could continue to spread throughout Western Africa as well as other continents. Journalists must be prepared to fight all collateral damage associated with Ebola. Unfortunately journalists on the ground don't have the necessary resources and tools that match the responsibility they have to inform local communities."

The Editors Lab is trying to foster an environment to create those needed tools. The teams, composed of one journalist, one designer, and one developer, will work to build a prototype in 48 hours. The participating teams are: Citi, Graphic Communications, Times, Daily Guide, GNA, MultiMedia, BFT, NAFTI, STARR, GBC.

According to Jerry Sam, Projects Director at Penplusbytes, "The participants will benefit from two workshops, given by: - The UN Mission for Ebola Emergency Response (UNMEER) and Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research. This workshop will provide the participants with background info about Ebola (infection and transmission, signs and symptoms, diagnosis and treatment and preventive measures). It will help the participants better cover Ebola and debunk the rumors.

Meltwater Entrepreneurial School of Technology (MEST) will take  the teams through tools to enable them hack faster and better.

The team with the best project, will be chosen by our Jury:
-    Edward Tagoe (nandimobile.com)
-    Joe Jackson (Dalex Finance and Leasing Limited)
-    EvangĂ©line de Bourgoing (Global Editors Network)
The winning team will compete against the other winning Editors Lab teams during the Editors Lab Final, the World Cup of Newsroom Innovation. This final stage of the Editors Lab international tournament will occur during the GEN Summit in Barcelona next June.



http://graphic.com.gh/news/general-news/33990-ghanaian-journalists-for-hackagainstebola.html#sthash.CtSm76v1.dpuf

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International Institute for ICT Journalism
www.penplusbytes.org

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Ghanaian journalist wins first African Fact-Checking Awards

Video journalist Edem Srem and his team from MultiTvWorld in Ghana on Friday won the first-ever African Fact-Checking Awards, honouring journalism in Africa that exposes misleading claims by public figures.

The awards, launched this year by the AFP Foundation and its African fact-checking project, Africa Check, are the first of their kind and aimed at promoting a new and important form of journalism on the continent.

More than 40 journalists from 10 countries across Africa -- Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Madagascar, Nigeria, South Africa, Tunisia, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe –- submitted entries for the award.

Winning journalists of the first Agence France-Presse sponsored African fact-checking awards Ghanaian Edem Srem (C), runner-up Paul Shalala (R) of Zimbabwe a...
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Winning journalists of the first Agence France-Presse sponsored African fact-checking awards Ghanaian Edem Srem (C), runner-up Paul Shalala (R) of Zimbabwe and 1st runner up Kenyan Victor Amadala pose on November 14, 2014 in Nairobi ©Tony Karumba (AFP)

The winning entry, "Trading Ghana's water for gold", is a hard-hitting video report that exposed misleading claims by the government in Ghana to have eradicated the risky practice of alluvial gold mining in the west African country.

The two joint runners up were Paul Shalala of the Zambia National Broadcasting Corporation, for a report on false claims made about the impact of multi-national mining investment on food security in his country, and Victor Amadala of the website kenyakidz.com for a report debunking a superstition that leads parents to have the teeth of newborn babies removed.

The winning team will receive a total of 2,000 euros ($2,500) in prize money while each runner up will receive 1,000 euros.

"I think there is nothing more important in journalism than holding people to account for the promises and the claims they make," Srem said.

"I am very honoured, on behalf of myself and my team to win this award for that work."

The chairman of the AFP Foundation, Emmanuel Hoog, said in a statement: "By taking claims made by public figures, and by checking them rigorously and impartially, these African reporters and editors are defending the best values of journalism. They are also helping to promote openness and transparency in public affairs."

The winners were selected by a jury of prominent media figures chaired by Eric Chinje, the chief executive of African Media Initiative, a body bringing together leaders of hundreds of African media organisations.

"I hope this award serves as a call to excellence and integrity in journalism everywhere in Africa. The jury readily identified entries that demonstrated a high level of professionalism and balance in reporting," Chinje said.

The AFP Foundation, the non-profit media training arm of AFP news agency, in October 2012 launched the continent's first independent fact-checking project, the website africacheck.org, based in Johannesburg, South Africa, in a partnership with the Journalism Department of the University of the Witwatersrand.

It has since published hundreds of reports on topics from fake claims of health cures, to exposes of misleading statements about water quality on the continent and the effect of gun control legislation on murder rates.

For more information on the outcome of the awards, follow @AFP_Foundation or @AfricaCheck.

Winning journalist of the first Agence France-Presse-sponsored African fact-checking award Ghanaian Edem Srem (L) receives on November 14, 2014 the overall p...
Winning journalist of the first Agence France-Presse-sponsored African fact-checking award Ghanaian Edem Srem (L) receives on November 14, 2014 the overall prize from foundation director Robert Holloway in Nairobi, Kenya ©Tony Karumba (AFP)




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International Institute for ICT Journalism
www.penplusbytes.org

Friday, November 14, 2014

Scrap fuel subsidies -- Kan-Dapaah

Albert Kan-Dapaah, immediate past-Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee of parliament, says subsidising petroleum products in any form by government has a tendency to ruin the country’s fiscal stability management, and must therefore not be tolerated anymore.

He said it has become economically prudent for Ghana to totally scrap costly fuel subsidies to help restore fiscal stability after the country has been burdened with overshooting budget deficit targets over the years.

Ghana’s budget deficit continues to swell due to excess public sector wages, a shortfall in projected tax revenue, and rising costs for fuel subsidies. The cost of subsidies last year reached one billion Ghana cedi, and was expected to rise to 2.4 billion Ghana cedi this year.

According to the former Energy Minister, fuel-cost subsidy is a desperate and ill economic policy that must not be encouraged. Ghana has always been pressured by the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank to cut off the subsidies, which they describe as wasteful and inefficient.

Mr. Kan-Dapaah was speaking at a sensitisation workshop in Sunyani. The workshop saw in attendance media practitioners, civil society activists and a section of the general public, and was part of the Citizen’s budget road-show organized by Financial Accountability and Transparency Africa (FAT-Africa), a Think Tank, and Penplusbytes, an NGO.

The concept behind the roadshow is to make national budget information readily accessible to citizens through the publication of a “Citizen Friendly Budget” version, presented in a language devoid of technical economic jargon and in a format that the ordinary people can understand.

He stressed the need for the general public to get an understanding of the budget as government’s economic policy document. This, he noted, will bequeath the citizenry first-hand information about the country’s expenditure and fiscal management direction.

He advocated a stringent and effective public financial management system at Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) to check misappropriation of funds and corruption, saying: “Lack of financial management discipline in the public sector is taking a huge toll of the public purse”.

He therefore urged the public to demand accountability from the government to help ensure judicious utilisation of public funds.

Source: | B&FT Online | http://thebftonline.com/content/scrap-fuel-subsidies-kan-dapaah

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Hack4Oil Drives Tech Innovations for Oil Sector Transparency

Ghana's oil production is in full swing, and measures must be put in place at every stage of the process to maximize the benefits. Can new digital technologies play a role?
Penplusbytes recently hosted a 48-hour hackathon, dubbed "Hack4Oil," to stimulate ideas, technologies and innovative solutions to enhance government-citizen engagement and improve governance of Ghana's nascent oil and gas industry. The Accra event focused on three thematic areas—accountability and transparency, policy and regulation, and environment and health.

Participants of Ghana's first hackathon for oil and gas governance included developers from the countries' top universities and schools of technology. Photo by PenPlusBytes

Dr. Frimpong, an advisor at Petroleum Commission-Ghana, led participants through the Petroleum and Local Content Regulation of 2013, inviting developers to learn about the sector and find creative solutions to its challenges. He and other presenters kicked off the event with speed talks on a variety of topics. Speakers included Kwami Ahiabenu II of Penplusbytes, Jim Cust of the Natural Resources Governance Institute (NRGI), Benjamin Boakye of the Africa Centre for Energy Policy (ACEP), Edwin Ametsikor of the Ghana Wildlife Society, Edem Agbe of STAR-Ghana, Barnabas Owusu of the West Africa AIDS Foundation, and Nana Ama Yirrah of the Community Land and Development Foundation.

With instruction from global experts, including NRGI's Jim Cust via Skype from London, Hack4Oil participants tackled extractive sector governance challenges using innovative technology. Photo by PenPlusBytes

Next, a crop of young and talented programmers, analysts and developers from Meltwater Entrepreneurial School of Technology, CODERYTE, ISTECH Ghana, the University of Cape Coast and Ashesi University interacted with extractive sector stakeholders to identify challenges.
Ibrahim Abubakar, a developer from the University of Cape Coast, said that technology could help Ghana avoid the missteps that Nigeria and other oil-rich countries have made. "I see a lot of problems in the oil industry, and I think the public needs a lot of information. Technology will help us get the information to the public more efficiently and effectively," he said.
Priscilla Hazel, a developer from MEST and a newcomer to extractive sector issues, called the hackathon "an interesting and welcome challenge."
"I signed up for Hack4oil because I wanted to be part of something that helps find solutions to revenue management challenges in the oil and gas sector," she said.

Eight teams worked with mentors to develop "relevant, context-specific solutions" during the two-day competition in Accra. Photo by PenPlusBytes

Let the hack begin
The stage was set for hacking to begin with eight teams—Infoil, Mekasa, IWitness, Oil Journey, IDDL, Greenlight, Planeteers, and Global. Five groups of mentors helped participants build what said David Salassie Opoku, a mentor, called "relevant, context-specific solutions."

MEST developer David Mumini, with teammates Alfred Ayi-Bontey and Abideen Adelu, designed a winning submission that uses SMS technology to track oil and gas revenues and expenditures. Photo by PenPlusBytes

After hours of hacking, the panel of judges made up of Ekua Odoom, Teemu Ropponen, Edward Tagoe, William Sam and Rayborn Bulley declared Oil Journey's David Alhassan Mumuni, Alfred Ayitey Ayi-Bontey and Abideen Adelu the winning team. Their prototype not only lets citizens monitor and review the application of oil revenues by subscribing to and receiving information by SMS and voice system, but it also lets them have a say in which development projects the oil money should fund. The voice system is developed in local languages to give citizens access to information, regardless of their literacy levels. [See Oil Journey's website for more information on the winning project.]
Teams Infoil and Planeteers took the 2nd and 3rd prizes respectively. Infoil developed a prototype to aid monitoring and accessing the use of oil revenue, while the Planeteers focused on a prototype that gives local communities and advocacy groups a channel to identify and report the impact of oil and gas activities on marine ecology.

Ekua Odoom, Teemu Ropponen and other judges looked for specificity as they identified winning solutions. Photo by PenPlusBytes

Hack4Oil, the first hackathon to focus on Ghana's oil and gas sector, created needed buzz to drive ideas, technologies and innovations. Teemu Ropponen, director of iLab Liberia and a judge called the event "brilliant, with a very high turnout and very high quality of people."
"The emerging substance was amazing," she said. "The judges asked the teams to focus and think about [specific] problems and not try to solve everything—so narrow and deep, rather than broad and shallow…. My expectations were definitely met."

The top team, Oil Journey, will receive seed funding and mentoring to develop their winning concept.

Kwami Ahiabenu II is the president of the International Institute for ICT Journalism, also known as PenPlusBytes, based in Accra. The organization works in partnership with NRGI and ACEP, with support from STAR-Ghana.


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International Institute for ICT Journalism
www.penplusbytes.org



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International Institute for ICT Journalism
www.penplusbytes.org

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

PENPLUSBYTES AND FAT AFRICA CITIZENS’ BUDGET ROADSHOW KICK OFF

In order to stimulate citizens’ interest to meaningfully participate in contributing to a national budget that seeks their own welfare, Financial Accountability and Transparency Africa (FAT Africa) and Penplusbytes is undertaking a roadshow to make national budget information readily accessible to citizens through the publication of Citizen Friendly Budget version presented in a language devoid of technical jargons and in a format that ordinary people can understand.

This roadshow taking place  on Wednesday, 12th November in Sunyani at Eusbett Hotel and  Thursday 13th November in Kumasi at Royal Lamerta Hotel forms part of “Producing a Citizens’ Budget for Ghana” with support from Star Ghana. This project seeks to simplify key aspects of the budget and will be disseminated as printed copies, online version http://myghanabudget.org/, SMS and Mobile App.

The Government Budget is a Program-Based Budget crafted along various programs to be executed by the various Ministries, Departments and Agencies. The essence of the Citizen’s Budget is to disaggregate the structure of the national budget onto the local platform where the citizenry see themselves as the final beneficiaries of these programs. ‘Producing a Citizens’ budget for Ghana’ project’s overall outcome is to ensure public participation, provoke debate and help shape public policy.

Focusing on an objective to disseminate the budget information to help demystify government budgeting and financial governance as a whole, the roadshow which will have, in attendance, members of the media, civil society and members of the general public, will also see the distribution of simplified national Budget booklet, online web platform and mobile app to citizens; empowering them to be involved in the monitoring and tracking of the status of budget implementation thereby holding Government accountable.

Jeremiah Sam, Projects Director at Penplusbytes, speaking at Sunyani during the roadshow said “Producing a Citizens’ Budget for Ghana” roadshow forms an essential part of broadening the opportunities of citizens to actively engage in national dialogue through active engagement throughout the life cycle of national budgets and it is our believe that this roadshow citizens participate objectively, more effectively and express their needs and priorities to influence decision making and resource allocation in Ghana.


ABOUT

Penplusbytes is a not-for-profit organization that seeks to empower the media through the use of Information and Communications Technology to advance journalism in the coverage of governance and accountability, new media and innovations, and mining, oil and gas.

FAT-Africa is a Civil Society Organization and a Think Tank that advocates and promotes Good Financial Governance with the aim of creating an enabling climate to nurture a culture of efficient public sector and financial management principles in Africa.

Monday, November 03, 2014

Penplusbytes join Civil Society Organisations to Launch Platform on IMF Bailout

Civil Society Organisation (CSO) Platform on the International Monetary Fund (IMF) Bailout to Ghana was launched in Accra on Tuesday.
It was meant to engage citizens on issues concerning the bailout negotiations and areas that government must be keenly interested in, to the benefit of all.

Mr. Joe Winful, Chairman of the CSO Platform, said the ultimate agreement would be for the citizens of Ghana and there is the need for broad consultation with citizens during the course of the negotiations.

He said in the past, when such programmes have been worked out with the IMF, there were virtually no discussions with CSOs and therefore no input from them and other non-state actors and that lack of transparency must be avoided this time round.

The platform made up of several institutions including Penplusbytes, Ghana anti-corruption Coalition, Centre for democratic Development, Send, Ghana, Ghana Institute for Public Policy, Occupy Ghana, African Centre for parliamentary Affairs, Institute for Chartered Accountants, IMANI Ghana, Oxfam Ghana, Financial Accountability and Transparency- Africa, and Ghana Integrity Initiative.

Mr. Winful said although the programme was negotiated by Government, it is essentially a programme between the IMF and the people of Ghana and the success would be influenced by the extent to which the citizens of the country buy into the programme.

“A transparent process and the ability for Civil Society and non-State Actors to conclude the negotiations will facilitate the process to sell the programme to Ghanaians,” he added.

He said it is a grave concern to Ghanaians that the current negotiations are on-going without any prior conversation with the people represented by civil society and other non-state actors, including Members of Parliament.

The Chairman said in view of these lapses the platform was formed to advocate the views of citizens to be taken into account in the agreement with the Fund so that they would buy into the accord and work towards a successful execution of conditionalities that would be imposed on the country.

He said the CSO Platform on IMF Bailout is not established to bash the Government or criticise the IMF but to ensure that citizen’s voices and key stakeholders inputs are harness constructively.

This, he said would improve the final IMF deal that is beneficial to Ghana and minimise the possibility of Ghana going back to IMF in the near future.

He said the platform expects that through their actions they would be able to increase public interest and discourse on a major issues on the IMF bailout; promote public awareness and inclusiveness in the bailout discussions and the fiscal programme; give needed guidance and advice to Government’s negotiating team, and obtain a programme that would meet the best interest of the people.

This, he said, could be achieved through reaching as many citizens as possible to deploy relevant ICT tools and interventions, such as bulk SMS, Social Media and on-line Platform to make informed contributions and to moderate discussions via email.

Mr Winful explained that the Platform is non-partisan, non-religious and it is not a new organisation, however, it is a movement of committed Ghanaians who believe they could leverage the IMF bailout to the greater benefit of the country.

“At the CSO Platform, we believe our role is not to serve as a marketing department or the mouthpiece for the Government of Ghana nor the IMF during this negotiations and subsequent negotiations of the bailout and its subsequent implications.

“We will serve as a catalyst for a sustained citizen-based participatory national dialogue of each step of the IMF bailout for Ghana,” he added.

He announced that the platform would be working with key pillars to initiate a national conversation and hold a forum to discuss and agree on common positions on the key issues by civil society to inform both Government and IMF.

It would also engage the media, academia, faith-based organisations, among others to embark on a sustained campaign to educate Ghanaians on the bailout, agree on mechanisms to monitor the implementation of the final agreement that comes out of the negotiations.

“We recognise that on the major issues that would constitute the Agreement with the Fund, Civil Society and other non-state actors have divergent views. For this reason, we are negotiating to hire a renounced Economist to prepare a discussion pare to be discussed by Civil Society and other non-State Actor at a National Forum in Accra to agree on a common positions to be adopted by civil society” he said.

In August, the Government requested a three-year IMF support package to deal with the country’s financial challenges. Negotiations have already commenced with Dr Kwesi Botchway, a former Finance Minister leading the Ghana team.

The IMF programme is expected to begin from January 2015.


Source: Ghana News Agency (GNA)



STATEMENT : PRESS LAUNCH OF THE GHANA CIVIL SOCIETY PLATFORM ON THE IMF BAILOUT

STATEMENT READ BY MR JOE WINFUL AT THE PRESS LAUNCH OF THE GHANA CIVIL
SOCIETY PLATFORM ON THE IMF BAILOUT AT THE PRESS CENTRE IN ACCRA



Distinguished Members of the Media,
Colleague Members of the Platform
Invited Guests,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I must thank all of you Ladies and Gentlemen of the Press and our
Distinguished Guests for responding to our invitation. My name is Joe
Winful. I am the Executive Chairman of the Financial Accountability &
Transparency-Africa and the Chairman of the Platform that we are launching
today.

Rationale

In August 2014 the government of Ghana (GOG) requested IMF's support to
deal with the country's financial crisis which will culminate in a three
year IMF package. Ghana will be going for a full blown three year IMF
programme and a GOG Team led by the former Minister of Finance, Dr. Kwesi
Botchway has commenced negotiations with the IMF to agree on the details
of the IMF bailout. This is in order and appropriate.

However, while conceding that the negotiations must necessarily be between
government and the IMF, we will want to stress that the ultimate Agreement
will be for the citizens of Ghana and hence the need for broad
consultation with citizens during the course of the negotiations.

In the past, when such programmes have been worked out with the IMF, there
have been virtually no discussions with Civil Society and therefore no
input from Civil Society and other non-state actors. We take the view that
this lack of transparency must be avoided this time round.

Although the programme is negotiated by Government, it is essentially a
programme between the IMF and the people of Ghana. The success of the
programme will be influenced by the extent to which the citizens of Ghana
buy into the programme. A transparent process and the ability for Civil
Society and Non- State Actors to contribute to the negotiations will
facilitate the process to sell the programme to Ghanaians.

This is important because, in the past, Ghanaians have been most
apprehensive about and suspicious of IMF programmes. This apparent
distrust stems from inadequate information dissemination resulting from a
general lack of participation. Citizens must be active participants in
such Public Financial Management issues. Transparency and a perceived
sense of inclusiveness in such an important programme will benefit both
the Government and IMF.

It must be a matter of grave concern to all Ghanaians that the current
negotiations are going on without any prior conversation with the people
of Ghana represented by civil society and other non-state actors. Not even
our representatives in Parliament have been consulted prior to the
negotiations to share with the government and the negotiators their views
on the key issues to be negotiated. And yet there would be no chance for
Parliament to debate and make any changes to the agreement once it is
agreed between GOG and the Fund. Clearly the inclusion of 2 or 4 members
of the Finance Committee from both sides of the divide on the negotiating
team would have been useful.

The Platform has been formed to advocate for the views of citizens to be
taken into account in this important agreement with the Fund so that the
citizens of Ghana will buy into the Agreement and work towards a
successful execution of whatever conditionalities the Agreement imposes on
us. In our opinion, it is the only way to make this bailout the last
bailout that we will seek as a country.


A National Forum on the IMF

We recognize that on the major issues that will constitute the Agreement
with the Fund, Civil Society and other non-state actors have divergent
views. For this reason we are negotiating to hire a renowned economist to
prepare a Discussion Paper to be discussed by Civil Society and other
non-state actors at a National Forum in Accra to agree on common positions
to be adopted by Civil Society. This Forum which we have dubbed the
National Conversation will take place at the Best Western Hotel in Accra
on November 18th.


We further believe that Civil Society should help to monitor the
implementation of the Agreement that will be signed by the government.
The Platform will therefore put in place a monitoring mechanism to
oversight the implementation.

Ladies and Gentlemen the Platform will be known as the Civil Society
Platform on the IMF Bailout. The initiative to advocate for civil society
inclusiveness in major public financial management issues and in
particular the IMF negotiation was mooted by the Financial Accountability
& Transparency-Africa, IMANI Center for Policy & Education and Africa
Centre for Energy Policy.

We have now been joined by several institutions to form the Platform.
These institutions include, Penplusbytes, Ghana Integrity Initiative,
Ghana Anti Corruption Coalition, CDD, SEND Ghana, Ghana Institute for
Public Policy, OccupyGhana, African Centre for Parliamentary Affairs,
Institute of Chartered Accountants, African Centre of Parliamentary
Affairs among others.

Expanded Expected Outcomes and Benefits

Our expectations are that through our efforts, we will be able to:

· Increase public interest and discourse on a major issue in the
country's public financial management, namely, the IMF bailout.

· Promote public awareness and inclusiveness in the bailout
discussions and the fiscal programme. Engage the media, academia, faith
based organisations to embark on a sustained campaign to educate Ghanaians
on the bailout
· Give needed guidance and advice to Government's negotiating
team, and

· Obtain a Programme the details of which meet the best interests
of the people of Ghana.


Use of ICT Tools and Interventions

To reach as many citizens as possible we intend to deploy relevant ICT
tools and interventions:
1. Bulk SMS: -All the necessary information about the IMF bailout
will be reduced to easy to comprehend messages that will seek to inform
citizens about the conditions of the bail out and how that will shape the
country's financial future. This SMS will be interactive such that
citizens, based on the information received, can send back their views and
opinions with regards to the bailout.

2. Social Media: - We shall also engage citizens particularly on
Facebook and Twitter where vibrant discussions will be undertaken and
relevant citizens' comments will be collated to inform the final
recommendations that will be sent to the Ministry of Finance. The forum
will also be carried on line through Google+ hangout where as many
citizens can participate in an online forum to raise their awareness about
the pertinent issues surrounding the IMF bailout and their views collated.
3. On-line Platform: -There will be an online platform to serve as a
one-stop-shop knowledge and resource centre where all information about
the bailout will be made available. It will also serve as a citizen based
advocacy platform where citizens can send all information pertaining to
the bailout via web-forms. It will be incorporated with emailing alerts
systems that will enable easy sharing of contents among citizens and CSOs
for a collective effort in getting citizens voices heard on the bailout
and for a greater impact of the recommendations made by these identified
groups and also for citizens and CSOs to make informed contributions to
moderated discussions via email.

Ladies and gentlemen of the press at this juncture I would like to share
with you our key public message which is premised on increasing the
likelihood that this current IMF bailout under negotiations becomes "the
bailout that ends all future bailouts," by focusing on three key
principles:

1. Make broad consultation with Ghanaian citizens an integral part of
the process. A 3-year package under discussion in the context of elections
coming up in 2016 should compel GOG and IMF to build broad consensus on
the measures being negotiated, and on how to fairly distribute their
economic and social impacts. Such process should allow for inputs and
discussions with citizens representatives, including: civil society
organizations, trade unions, faith based groups, academia, media and
parliament.

2. Set transparency and accountability measures that address
underlying causes fueling undisciplined public spending. Off-budget and
over-budget spending (e.g. for political patronage during election times),
corruption and lack of transparency in the management of public finances
are the root causes of Ghana having to go for an IMF bailout once more.
Nevertheless, the bailout should be seen as an opportunity to strengthen
accountability systems of both horizontal (e.g. public finance
institutions such as the auditor general and parliament) as well as
vertical (e.g. through media and ordinary citizens as watchdogs)
institutions involved in public finance oversight.

3. Protect strategic pro-poor and pro-development spending. The
burden of a fiscal adjustment should not be placed over the shoulders of
the most vulnerable, and already underserved; nor should it be done at the
cost of strategic investments on long term development. Measures should
avoid further weakening Ghana's health sector (especially in the wake of
an Ebola crisis in West Africa); avoid reducing agriculture spending that
strengthens the food security and resiliency of rural populations; and
avoid diminishing investments in the education of their children, as a
pathway out of poverty.
Independence

Ladies and gentlemen of the press, it is important to note that the CSO
platform on IMF bailout is not established to bash the GOG or to criticize
the IMF. Our contribution is to ensure citizens voices and key
stakeholders inputs are harness constructively to improve the final IMF
deal that is beneficial to Ghana and will minimize the possibility of
Ghana going back to IMF in the near future.

The platform is nonpartisan, non-religious and it not a new organisation,
however, it is a movement of committed Ghanaians who believe we can
leverage the IMF bailout to greater benefit of the country as a whole. At
the CSO platform we believe our role is not to serve as marketing
department or the mouth piece for the government of Ghana nor the IMF
during this negotiation and subsequent negotiation of the bailout and its
subsequent implementation. We will serve as a catalyst for a sustained
citizen based participatory national dialogue of each step of the IMF
bailout for Ghana.

Working together these partners will co-ordinate activities and jointly
harness our collective strength to ensure project success. Let me take
advantage of this opportunity to call on other interested concerned
citizens, CSOs, media, professional bodies to sign up and join the
platform to ensure greater and deeper engagement.
The platform craves for your maximum support, especially the media, to
achieve its objectives and finally improve the living standard of the poor
at the end of the bailout programme.
I thank you for the opportunity and I thank you all for your attention.


Mr. Joseph Winful is the Executive Chairman of the Financial
Accountability & Transparency-Africa and the Chairman of the CSO Platform
on IMF. He is a Chartered Management Accountant by profession and recently
retired as Senior Partner/CEO of the Ghana Office and an Exco Member and
also Board Member of KPMG Africa. Joe was elected Senior Partner of the
Ghana firm in 2000 and has oversight responsibilities for Sierra Leone and
Liberia.


--
International Institute for ICT Journalism
www.penplusbytes.org

Friday, October 31, 2014

MEST Entrepreneurs Win Top Prizes at Hack4Oil Hackathon

Entrepreneurs-in-Training from the Meltwater Entrepreneurial School of Technology swept up all three top prizes at the recently concluded Hack4Oil Hackathon organized by Penplusbytes.

The two day event was held at the New Media Hub in central Accra, where talented programmers, entrepreneurs, and civil society organizations worked together to figure out ways to use technology to bring transparency and accountability to Ghana’s nascent oil and gas sector. The hackathon participants were challenged to come up with a solution, build a functioning prototype of the technology, and pitch it to panel of judges.

The eager participants quickly divided into nine teams and were paired with industry experts from both the public and the private sector who provided important insights into the Ghanaian oil and gas industry. The teams also had access to experienced mentors who gave advice on product development, strategy, and how to effectively communicate their solution during the final pitch.

Two days with little sleep and many lines of code later, it was time for the final pitch. The judges evaluated the solutions based on criteria such as the quality of the prototype, the idea’s ability to be self-sustaining, and the quality of the pitch.

1st Place: Oil Journey

Team Oil Journey emerged as the winner, with their website that allows users to follow the money from oil revenues as it is spent by the government on various social and civil projects in the users’ community. The website also allows users to report on the progress of projects. The Oil Journey team consisted of MESTers David Mumuni, Alfred Ayi-Bonte, and Abideen Adelu.

2nd Place: Bale

Team Bale presented a web platform that helps local SMEs take advantage of the business opportunities in the oil and gas sector. The team was MESTers Lady Omega Hammond, Abdul Suleman, Eli Agbenu, and Blessing Onomesino.

3rd Place: Planeteers

In third place was team Planeteers with a service for citizens and NGOs who live and work in areas impacted by oil and gas exploration. Users could submit findings and data in a public format that made it easy for the media to shed light on potential issues arising from oil exploration. Team Planeteers consisted of MESTers Jesse Johnson, Cheryl Tetteh, and Saviour Dzage.

Beyond the hacks and the cash prizes, it was exciting to see the Ghanaian tech community thriving and coming out to contribute their invaluable skills to important social issues. The quality of the solutions was also impressively high given the short time period.

I have strong belief in technology’s ability to bring about positive impact on society, and that belief was reinforced by seeing the talented programmers and entrepreneurs out in force at the Hack4Oil hackathon. Thanks to the organisers and sponsors for a great event.

Source: meltwater.org/mest-entrepreneurs-win-hack4oil-hackathon/

Monday, October 27, 2014

Oil Journey wins top Prize at Hack4oil

Oil Journey wins top Prize at Hack4oil “Oil Journey” hackathon entry on how to enhance transparency in the oil and gas sector through an innovative tool which maps the journey of oil from exploration to production took the first prize at Hack4oil organised by Penplusbytes in partnership with Natural Resources Governance Institute (NGRI), Africa Centre for Energy Policy (ACEP) and supported by STAR GHANA over 48 hours of hack days which ended on Saturday, October 25th, 2014 at the New Media Hub located in Osu Ako – Adjei, Accra.

Identifying the challenge of citizens to effectively keep track of gains accrued from the exploitation of oil and gas, the winning prototype of the team made up of David Alhassan Mumuni, Alfred Ayitey Ayi-Bontey and Abideen Adelu, is a platform with an SMS and voice system where people can subscribe to and receive information on exactly which development projects or activities is funded with money from the oil sector. Our voice mail service is done in local languages to allow all people have access to information. The prototype allows citizens to trace, monitor and review the application of oil money with an opportunity to influence the determination of which areas they will like the money to be used at.

Coming in at 2nd and 3rd out of the total of 8 teams formed were Infoil and Planeteers respectively. Infoil developed a prototype to aid monitoring and accessing the use of oil revenue while the planeteers focused on a prototype that empowers local communities and advocacy groups by providing a channel to identify and report the impact of oil and gas activities on marine ecology.

The rest of the teams were IDDL, Greenlight, IWitness, team Global and team Mekasa; all of which worked and displayed their developed prototypes on the key thematic areas of transparency and accountability (Follow the Money), Environment and Health, and Policy and Regulation.

Present on the opening day of the hackathon were the media, representatives of stakeholder organizations, institutions and industry players such as the Ghana Wildlife Society (GWS), Extractives Africa, West Africa Aids Foundation (WAAF) and the Petroleum Commission, and was mark by a brief ceremony which took the key-note address by Jim Cust, Head of Data and Analysis, and founding staff member of NRGI from his base in London as well as addresses by Kwami Ahiabenu, President of Penplusbytes and Mr. Benjamin Boakye, Project Manager at ACEP.

Hack4oil attracted an enthusiastic pool of programmers from the Meltwater Entrepreneurial School of Technology (MEST), CODERYTE, Future Pip, the University of Cape Coast (UCC), Ghana Telecom University College and Central University College who later formed teams to compete for the top prize of developing the most innovate tool over the period.

Sitting on the Judges panel to help in deciding the quality and efficiency of the various, developed prototypes on display were Mrs. Ekua Odoom, Managing Director at MEST, Mr. Teemu Ropponen, iLab Liberia Country director, Mr. William Sam, CEO at Praescient Software Limited, Mr. Edward Tagoe Director, Partnership and Projects Blogging Ghana and Mr. Raybon Bulley, Institute of Financial and Economic Journalist (IFEJ).

HACK4OIL, first ever hackathon to be held in Ghana on oil and gas sector, saw collaborative participation of various stakeholder bodies and institutions working within Ghana’s oil and gas arena with their ideas and core knowledge in the area on one hand, and the more technologically savvy members of society - developers and designers with their skills on the other hand, to garner innovative means of enhancing citizen engagement, government accountability and resource transparency.

Penplusbytes’ New Media Hub is pleased to announce the hosting of “HackAgainstEbola” https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/hackagainstebola on November 19th and 20th, 2014 to help African journalists to develop prototypes against the Ebola epidemic.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Penplusbytes initiate Innovations in Oil Revenue Management

The Interntional Institute for ICT Journalism (Penplusbytes) on Friday opened a two-day "hackathon" which will focus on developing technological solutions to stimulate better management of Ghana's oil and gas resources.

Dubbed "Hack4Oil", the "hackathon" programme is bringing together stakeholders in the oil and gas sector, made up of Civil Society Organizations (CSO) and public agencies on one hand and software developers and mobile platform developers on the other, who would work to create software and hardware to address issues on oil revenue, health environment, and policy regulation.

A hackathon is an event in which computer programmers and others involved in software development, collaborate intensively on software projects to create usable software that could be accessible to all who need such applications or operating systems and programming for their work.

The event is being organised with the support of STAR-Ghana, and in partnership with the Africa Centre for Energy Policy (ACEP) and the Natural Resource Governance Institute (NGRI).

Mr Kwame Ahiabenu II, President of Penplusbytes explained to the GNA that ideas and technologies of participants will be elicited as part of a drive to garner innovative means of enhancing citizen engagement, government accountability and resource transparency.

He said Hack4oil would contribute significantly to better management of Ghana's oil and gas sector revenue and resources, through new digital technologies, which enable better oversight of the industry.

He indicated that the hackathon was, therefore, in direct response to a more general consensus by government, Civil Society, Journalists and citizens to take critical steps at ensuring widened opportunities for public participation in decision making with regards to the Oil and gas exploitation.

"This has become even more crucial with Africa's not so inspiring history of not making the most gains from extractives as resource – rich Nations have long been known to suffer what has come to be known as the resource curse, with most experiencing increased poverty and conflict", he added.

Mr Ahiabenu said for a country like Ghana, which was producing oil in commercial quantities, it was imperative that measures were put in place at every stage of the exploitation process to maximize the benefit thereof; picking lessons from the successes and failures of other states.

Explaining further, he said there would be a list of tasks to be completed for each problem scope presented, looking for instance at the oil industry and its potential for Ghana; which gaps exist, for which technology could fill, among other industry-specific probes.

The top three teams at hack4oil will receive various prizes as well as benefit from a two-months mentoring programme, where they would be receiving the necessary resources to develop a full-scale product that would be deployed at a future date.

The criteria for winning would be based on delivering solutions, which are context-relevant, easily adaptable and responding adequately to problem scope with innovative solutions, and uses technology that leverages pre-existing infrastructure.

Dr Paul Frempong, Advisor to the Petroleum Commission, Ghana, who took the participants through the local content law, said the Petroleum and Local Content Regulation of 2013 had been well designed to critically benefit, especially the Ghanaian people, in order to ensure that citizens were well placed to work in the industry.


Ghana News Agency (GNA)



--
International Institute for ICT Journalism
www.penplusbytes.org

Monday, October 20, 2014

THE NEW MEDIA WRTING PRIZE 2014 NOW OPEN FOR ENTRIES!

The New Media Writing Prize showcases exciting and inventive stories that integrate a variety of formats, platforms, and digital media. This international prize is now in its 5th year. The prize encourages and promotes the best in new media writing and is leading the way toward the future of the 'written' word and storytelling. In the past four years, the NMWP has attracted entries from the very best and most innovative writers in the field.

What Are The Prizes?
There are three categories/prizes -
Main Prize: £1000 donated
Student Prize: 3 months paid internship at Unicorn Training, Bournemouth, UK, working with Unicorn's writing and design team.
People's Choice Prize: Details TBC.


Main Prize Friday 28th November 2014 by 12 noon GMT;
Student Prize Friday 12th December 2014 12 noon GMT.

Shortlisted entrants will be invited to the Awards Ceremony, Wednesday January 21st 2015 at Bournemouth University. Winners will be announced at the Ceremony.


What Are We Looking For?
We are looking for good storytelling (fiction or non-fiction) written specifically for delivery and reading/viewing on a PC or Mac, the web, or a hand-held device such as an iPad or mobile phone. It could be a short story, novel, poem, documentary or transmedia work using words, images, film or animation with audience interaction. Interactivity is a key element of new-media storytelling.
We are looking for creativity, so try to be imaginative to create an engaging story i.e. combining any number of media elements, such as words on a screen combined with images and video clips. New media writing can be created using a variety of tools i.e. a word processor, DV camera, social networking tools (i.e. Twitter), mobile


APPLY AT http://newmediawritingprize.co.uk
 

--
International Institute for ICT Journalism
www.penplusbytes.org

Penplusbytes Hack4oil to Drive Innovations in Oil Revenue Management

With the support of STAR-Ghana, and in partnership with the Africa Centre for Energy Policy (ACEP) and the Natural Resource Governance Institute (NGRI), Penplusbytes’ New Media Hub (www.penplusbytes.org/location) will be hosting a hackathon from the 24th to 25th October, 2014. The 2 – day hackathon which is themed “Hack4Oil”, will focus on developing solutions to stimulate better management of Ghana’s nascent oil and gas resources as ideas and technologies of participants will be elicited as part of a drive to garner innovative means of enhancing citizen engagement, government accountability and resource transparency. This has become even more crucial with Africa’s not so inspiring history of not making the most gains from extractives as resource – rich Nations have long been known to suffer what has come to be known as the “resource curse” with most experiencing increased poverty and conflict. For a country like Ghana, which is producing oil in commercial quantity, it is imperative that measures are put in place at every stage of the exploitation process to maximize the benefit thereof; picking lessons from the successes and failures of other states. The hackathon is, therefore, in direct response to a more general consensus by government, Civil Society, Journalists and citizens to take critical steps at ensuring widened opportunities for public participation in decision making with regards to the Oil and gas exploitation. There will be a list of tasks to be completed for each problem scope presented looking for instance at “The Oil Industry and its potential for Ghana”, “Which gaps exist for which technology can fill” among other industry-specific probes. According to Kwami Ahiabenu, II, President of Penplusbytes, “Penplusbytes is very excited about Hack4oil since it will contribute significantly to better management of Ghana’s oil and gas sector revenue and resources through new digital technologies which enable better oversight". The top three teams at hack4oil will receive prizes plus 2 months of mentoring; receiving the necessary resources to develop a full-scale product which will be deployed at a future date. The criteria for winning will be based on delivering solutions which are context-relevant, easily adaptable and responsive adequately to problem scope with innovative solutions and uses technology that leverages pre-existing infrastructure. ABOUT Penplusbytes is a leading organization in Africa working in 3 areas: governance and accountability, new media and innovations as well as oil, gas and mining. Africa Centre for Energy Policy- (ACEP) seeks to influence energy sector policies in Africa by providing professional analysis of energy policy, training, advisory services and policy advocacy for the efficient and transparent management of Africa’s energy resources. The Natural Resource Governance Institute (NRGI) is a non-profit policy institute and grantmaking organization that promotes effective, transparent and accountable management of oil, gas and mineral resources for the public good. Through capacity building, technical assistance, research and advocacy, the NRGI help countries to realize the development benefits of their natural resource wealth. 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.

Refresher Workshop for Journalists Covering the Extractive Sector in Ghana

Venue: Coconut Grove Regency Hotel, Accra (Mozambique Link, North Ridge) Date: Tuesday 21 October 2014

Objectives

1. To sustain the interest of the Ghanaian media in covering the extractive sector (oil, gas, and mining). 2. To increase journalists’ awareness and knowledge of current and emerging governance issues in the extractive sector. 3. To provide reporters who cover the extractive sector with a platform to test story concepts, seek the advice of mentors and senior journalists, and exchange ideas.

Background

Since 2010, NRGI in partnership with Penplusbytes has trained Ghanaian reporters and senior journalists/editors in the skills and knowledge needed to effectively cover the extractive sector. The outcome of this training, through the media course and the regional summer school, has been an increase in the quantity, quality, and scope of media coverage of oil, gas, and mining issues. STAR-Ghana is supporting the training program this year to consolidate and sustain its results and gains. Within the context of increasing accountability and responsiveness of government, traditional authorities, and private enterprises to Ghanaian citizens, STAR- Ghana aims to increase the influence of civil society organizations, parliament, and the media in the governance of public goods and service delivery.

Purpose

The goal of NRGI’s capacity development program for journalists in Ghana and other countries is effective and consistent oversight by the media of extractive resources and revenues, contributing to their improved use for the public good. Journalists can fulfill their oversight role only through informed analysis and reporting, high quality and thoughtful comment, and investigative efforts. In turn, this requires solid reporting skills, understanding technical issues, and access to information and experts.

Expected Outcomes

By the end of the workshop and roundtable, the participants will: 1. Be familiar with emerging issues and trends in the extractive sector in Ghana. 2. Have learned about new research, data, tools, and resources relevant to journalists who cover the extractive sector. 3. Have reflected on their role as amplifiers of the citizens’ voice and ways to increase their effectiveness as journalists.

Lead Facilitator

Dr. Juliette Twumasi-Anokye holds a PhD in regulation, competition law, and economics from King’s College, London; LLM from University College, London; LLB from University of Ghana, Legon; and a post-graduate certificate in competition, regulation, and economics from University of Nottingham, UK. As a lawyer, she is qualified to practice law in Ghana and England and Wales. She is a regulatory specialist with over 20 years of experience in public law, anti-trust, regulation, local content, contracts, consumer protection, and policy development in various sectors in the UK, Europe, and Ghana. She is a partner at Anojul, Afriyie & Associates, a specialist regulatory, legal, and policy consultancy firm in Ghana and UK. Her clients include the Petroleum Commission of Ghana, where she is the consultant on local content. She is a member of the board of trustees of the Society of Petroleum Engineers, Ghana Section. She was previously a senior legal counsel at the Ministry of Energy and Petroleum, Ghana, advising on a broad spectrum of legal issues in the energy sector, including power, renewable energy, and oil and gas matters.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

#HackAgainstEbola campaign launched to help African journalists combat the spread of Ebola


Local journalists in Africa will be given funds to develop online and mobile tools to highlight and combat the spread of Ebola under a pioneering new campaign.


The Global Editors Network have launched the #HackAgainstEbola campaign at an event taking place in Accra, the capital city of Ghana.

Working in collaboration with PenPlusBytes, a Pan-African non-profit organisation, the Global Editors Network invited more than 30 journalists from local media and NGOs to develop new life-saving prototypes to fight the epidemic on the ground.

The World Health Organisation has said that we could have 10,000 new cases of Ebola a week by Christmas if the epidemic isn't handled properly.

To donate to this very worthy cause, click here.



http://www.independent.ie/world-news/ebola/hackagainstebola-campaign-launched-to-help-african-journalists-combat-the-spread-of-ebola-30669424.html


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International Institute for ICT Journalism
www.penplusbytes.org