Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Penplusbytes, NRGI hold Intermediate Open Data Training for Journalists and CSOs

From 15th to 18th December 2015, Penplusbytes, in partnership with Natural Resource Governance Institute (NRGI), will hold an intermediate data training workshop for 25 journalists and Civil Society Organisations working on extractive data in Ghana and beyond at the New Media Hub in Accra.
The training, which comes off of NRGI’s “Catalyzing Open Data for Extractives (CODEX)” programme, is expected to advance the skill set of participants’ in data cleaning, data organization, data visualization (online and offline) and infographics, story design and presentation.
NRGI’s introductory CODEX training, held for some selected journalists in Ghana in the first and second quarters of 2015, focused on data journalism training which helped build the capacity of participants with new set of data analysis skills, introducing them to new datasets, potential data points, and data presentation in extractives. As an outcome, participants gained basic data analysis skills such as data scraping, data organization, and graphical presentation using excel.
The intermediate Open Data training for Journalists and CSO’s is however aimed at further equipping participants with enhanced skills and tools useful for publishing data driven stories that spark informed debates as well as contribute to better reforms in the extractive sector.
Kwami Ahiabenu, II, Executive Director of Penplusbytes, said the programme is necessitated by the recognition that good management of extractive resources and revenues requires informed, responsive, and dynamic media to provide necessary oversight and inform the public about critical oil and gas issues. He added that, “the lack of data and the requisite skills for analyzing them impacts negatively on key industry players – media and Civil society – and their ability to play an effective oversight role of the industry with their inability to tell the right story behind data.
The training participants are drawn from media organisations such as the Multimedia group, Daily Graphic, Daily Guide and the Ghana News Agency. There will also be the participation from CSOs such as the Africa Centre for Energy Policy (ACEP) and the Ghana Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (GHEITI) whose membership include the Ministry of Finance and the Ghana Chamber of Mines.
On his part, Samuel Bekoe, Regional Associate at NRGI, said participants at the training’s end, will gain advanced skill set appropriate for organising different extractive data, analyse, and use visualizations and infographics to communicate complex information to the understanding of citizens. “The workshops priority is in particularly strengthening participants’ skills and help leverage their extensive knowledge and experience for improved extractive sector governance,” he said.

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. It consists of a network of media organizations and journalists interested in using ICTs to effectively advance high quality journalism.
The Natural Resource Governance Institute is a non-profit policy institute and grant-making 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.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

News drones risks and rewards

News organizations – particularly newspapers – are eager to embrace drones as a relatively cost-effective alternative to helicopter aerial coverage. But for all of their advantages, Mary Collins weighs the known and unknown risks in using them, including the high insurance costs, not to mention the regulation uncertainties that have yet to fully coalesce.  

Over the weekend I read that actors in the latest Star Wars movie had to completely cover themselves with cloaks before walking to their trailers. When Mark Hamill asked why, the one word answer was, "Drones."

If your organization isn't already using a drone, chances are it's on your wish list for 2016. According to a study conducted by the National Press Photographers Association (NPPA), 15% of respondents said they are already using drones, and more than 70% of those surveyed agreed that drones would be a useful journalistic tool.

But while news organizations can see the potential of using drones for newsgathering, both known and unknown factors would significantly diminish that value.

Leveling the Video News Field

Significantly, newspaper journalists outnumbered all other categories of NPPA survey participants and cited the use of drones as a cost-effective means of competing with TV news helicopters. As one survey respondent explained, the cost of using a helicopter can range from $400 to $1,800 per hour compared to $23.00 per hour for a drone.

To make drones even more affordable, 77% of respondents said they would consider using them under a pooling arrangement. This approach would also shift responsibility for meeting FAA rules governing commercial use of drones to a third party.

Weighing Known Costs

While the expense of leasing and operating a drone is considerably cheaper than a helicopter, costly requirements on the use of drones would seem to be taken from the helicopter rules handbook. They include such restrictions as registering the UAV with the FAA and obtaining an exemption approving its use. In addition, the drone must be operated by an FAA-authorized pilot; a second person is needed for maintaining visual contact.

Under current rules, authorized drones cannot fly more than 200 feet above the ground and are limited to daylight hours. In addition, drones can't fly over crowds, specific densely populated areas or near airports and other restricted airspace. Perhaps someone should have mentioned that to the young man whose drone was tying up Friday morning traffic on Sunset Blvd. when I was heading to LAX a couple of weeks ago.

The High Cost of Insuring Against Risks

Liability insurance cost will be another variable in the drone equation. In an article prepared for MFM's TFM –The Financial Manager magazine, Joe Lewis, corporate fleet and risk manager for Raycom Media, summarizes five main risks identified by insurers Lloyd's of London and Marsh:

1. Invasion of privacy – Your company's professional media liability policy will need to include this type of exposure.

2. Reckless piloting/operation – Lewis recommends addressing this concern by having a formal training and accreditation program.

3. Fuzzy, inconsistent regulations – "As long as there is regulatory indecision, insurance companies are likely to charge steep premiums for coverage."

4. Cyber-attack exposure – "If a car's operating system can be hacked, it's likely that the same thing can happen to a drone."

5. Airspace control – With more than a million mini-drones already occupying airspace, there's a high likelihood that an air-traffic monitoring system will be created.

In addition to examining their own liability policies, Lewis says media organizations that hire the services of drone providers will need to ensure the provider has insurance policies in place for addressing these risks.

The Importance of Trust

When it comes to public concerns and drones, the two top issues are safety and privacy. Lewis encourages media organizations to demonstrate their commitment to responsible use of drones through adopting a high standard of conduct. Two excellent resources to get you started are the ethical codes established by NPPA and The Professional Society of Drone Journalists.

The Looming Burden of Unknowns

Current and potential laws limiting the use of drones represent the greatest area of concern for media organizations. Significant among these is the outcome of a proposed rule-making currently under consideration by the FAA.

Some parts of the new rules may benefit media organizations. As reported in NetNewsCheck, the Newspaper Association of America (NAA) expressed support for the agency's proposed creation of a new, less-regulated classification for small drones.

Another positive outcome would be the chance for federal legislation to replace the patchwork of rules emanating from state legislatures. According to the NPPA, as many as 44 states have either passed or are currently considering rules affecting the media's use of drones.

However, NPPA and other media organizations participating in the News Media Coalition voiced their concerned over a new rule proposed by the FAA. If enacted, the provision would require media organizations to furnish a copy of their drone registrations to law enforcement officials whenever requested.

As Raycom's Lewis observed, "It's important for media operations to not only know the limitations of how they can use drones today, but how those limitations might change tomorrow." You can learn more about those limitation's in Lewis's article, "Up in the Air," which appears in the November-December edition of TFM; it's also available digitally on MFM's website for several more weeks.

Technology is clearly changing the way news is reported. While the use of drones may be limited, they have the potential to pay off when managed properly.

By Mary M. Collins is president and CEO of MFM, the Media Financial Management Association and can be reached at mary.collins@mediafiance.org.

source :


Leading institution for promoting effective governance using technology in Africa.

Monday, December 07, 2015

6th Accra Tech Salon to discuss the impact of Mobile Money and Technology in Ghana

Accra - On Thursday December 10, Penplusbytes will host the 6th Accra Technology Salon at the New Media Hub, Osu, on the topic: "Mobile Money and Technology". It is aimed at widening awareness about the mobile money innovation and encouraging debate and dialogue on the best ways to use such digital innovations to extend financial services to all, especially, the "unbanked" or "underbanked" in mostly rural communities.

Leading the discussion is the head of MTN's Mobile Money Commercial Division, Mr. Eli Hini, who will join companies, social enterprises, entrepreneurs and individuals from across Ghana and within the payments industry to interact and share perspectives on the state of the mobile payment industry in Africa and Ghana - the dynamics of this system, key questions and issues surrounding its operation and prospects and challenges.

The most recent World Bank Report shows that approximately two billion people are globally “unbanked”, with the majority of this number located in developing countries and emerging markets. Two billion people lacking formal financial services affords the mobile money industry an opportunity to provide these individuals with these services, along with converting the informal economy into a formal contributor of GDP in numerous countries.

The advent of technology as well as the widespread use of mobile phones have led to an increase in the use of Mobile Money Services. Today, Mobile Money Service is provided by all the leading mobile networks in Ghana.

The Executive Director of Penplusbytes, Kwami Ahiabenu, II, said the use of new technologies such as mobile money are laying the foundation for a cashless future for the Ghanaian market. "However, a huge untapped potential exists in the sector hence our excitement to be hosting this session. We want to create an environment where key stakeholders can discuss practical ideas and innovations on how to improve the mobile money services currently on offer," he added.

A number of key issues to be explored at the Tech Salon include: how technology can help in cash recycling and liquidity; what makes mobile money a unique service; and challenges in delivering mobile money services. Participants would also examine the main features of mobile money platforms including safety, functionality and other technical aspects.

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. It consists of a network of media organizations and journalists interested in using ICTs to effectively advance high quality journalism.

Technology Salon™ is an intimate, informal, and in person, discussion between information and communication technology experts and international development professionals, with a focus on both: Technology's impact on donor-sponsored technical assistance delivery, and Private enterprise driven economic development, facilitated by technology.

Thursday, December 03, 2015

Penplusbytes' Featured Member for the Month of December: Pascal Kwesiga

Pascal Kwesiga is a professional Ugandan journalist currently working with the country’s leading daily, New Vision Newspaper, in Kampala reporting on the extractive industry and other areas as assigned to him.
Pascal holds a bachelor's degree in Journalism and Communication from Makerere University in Kampala.
Having started broadcasting work right after completing a National Diploma in Journalism in 2008, Pascal has gained an outstanding all-round experience in journalism which has led to him being offered a platform to write about a wide range of issues on public affairs and other areas such as Oil and Gas, Agriculture, Business, Courts, Crime, Local Government, Technology, Education and Health among others. This opportunity, he says, has sharpened him and enabled him obtain more relevant skills in journalism, communication and media relations.

He has a long standing objective to work with a team that can enable him to put his potential to maximum use and an interest that spans several fields including Public relations, Research and Multimedia.

With about 5 years of work experience to count on, Pascal Kwesiga is the overall winner of the Uganda National Journalism Awards for the multimedia and national news reporting categories for 2015.
A determined, self-driven and enthusiastic person, and an effective communicator with capacity to establish good working relationships, good will and getting along with people from all walks of life is how Pascal describes himself after five years of working experience in electronic and print media in reputable media organizations in Uganda.

CALL FOR PARTICIPANTS - Shelter City Initiative

The Shelter City Initiative offers human rights defenders the possibility for rest and respite by letting them escape from a temporarily threatening situation. Shelter City is a last resort when shelter in the region is not possible and the safety of the human rights defender in question cannot be guaranteed. An important principle of the Shelter City Initiative is that human rights defenders continue their work, even if they are temporarily relocated.

In the first half of 2016, six cities in The Netherlands will receive Human Rights Defenders for a period of three months. We are looking for Human Rights Defenders who are being threatened because of their work and who might be helped with this programme. Please circulate this message to all interested candidates who you may know.

Applicants must fulfil the following parameters:
1.       The HRD is a human rights defender in the broad sense of the word (lawyers, members of NGOs, poets or artists can all apply, as long as their work promotes human rights or he/she fights against human rights violations)
2.       The HRD faces threats due to his/her work and is in need of a shelter and/or rest and respite
3.       The HRD should be able to return to the country of origin after 3 months.
4.       The HRD has to be willing to come to the Netherlands around the middle of February 2015.
5.       The HRD should speak fluently English, French or Spanish (4 of the 6 positions request some level of English)
6.       The HRD should be willing to come alone.

The period in the Netherlands can also be used to strengthen the capacities of human rights defenders. This could be done by computer courses, language courses, safety training, media training or other courses that could benefit the work of the human rights defender. Furthermore, during his/her time in The Hague, the human rights defender can extend his/her international network.

The application form must be submitted before the 12th of January 2016.

Note that the Human Rights Defender who applies will not be automatically allowed into the shelter programme as Justice and Peace is not in control of issuing the required visa's to enter The Netherlands.

To apply or submit the application of a human rights defender, please e-mail info@sheltercity.org. You will then receive an application form. Application forms must be returned before 12 January 2016.

For more information please contact Alexia Falisse, alexia.falisse@justiceandpeace.nl +31 070 763 1493.