Monday, September 28, 2015

Penplusbytes New Publication: Data Journalism in Ghana

The concept of data journalism and the interactions that facilitate this is explained in Penplusbytes’ new publication titled Data Journalism in Ghana. This paper ( asserts that Data Journalism is very much in its infant stages in Ghana particularly and Africa in general, though the practice is gaining significant grounds among practitioners over the last few years.

Having committed to building the capacity of journalists to tell more impactful stories through new digital tools and skills, Penplusbytes, through this paper, aims to explore the character of data journalism practice first within the Africa landscape and then in Ghana’s journalism sphere; advancing the need for Journalists and the media to take up and build these skills for effective news production and dissemination.

Data Journalism in Ghana article focuses on data journalism as an essential field needing critical attention by the Ghanaian media in order to enhance accuracy and professionalism in their field of work, detailing the current stage of this field and its huge prospects for news rooms.

The paper examines the stand-out characteristic of data journalism compared to the rest of journalism and reveals a distinction with traditional (other) journalism. It covers, also, the Relevance of Data Journalism within Ghana’s media landscape and takes a much holistic view of it in Africa.

According to the paper, published in September, 2015 and available online for download, not only is data journalism becoming another way to report a story; in a way, it is becoming the industry standard. It explains further that with data journalism practice comes new possibilities for ‘big news’ to happen; combining the traditional news, information search and the ability to tell compelling stories.
“Unlike Traditional media or journalism, data journalism begins in one of two ways; either you have a question that needs data, or a dataset that needs questioning. Whichever it is, the compilation of data is what defines it as an act of data journalism,” reads a portion of the republication.
Globally, it has indeed become evident that not only is data journalism evolving but as it does, so is journalism too. The Publication seeks to establish what this exciting new status of data journalism means for Ghana and her vibrant and largely “free press.”

Penplusbytes is a not-for-profit organization driving change through innovations in three key areas: using new digital technologies to enable good governance and accountability, new media and innovations, and driving oversight for effective utilisation of mining, oil and gas revenue and resources.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

An Evening Encounter with Mrs. Teki Falconer on Data Protection

On Wednesday 30th September, 2015 Penplusbytes’ New Media Hub will host the Executive Director of the Data Protection Commission (DPC), Teki Akuetteh Falconer on the Evening Encounter on Ghana’s Data Protection Act, 2012 (ACT 843).

This event comes on the heels of the call by the DPC on all institutions and individuals that collect, use, hold or process any kind of personal information on persons living in Ghana to register as Data Controllers or Data Processors and is set to provide an opportunity for the commission to further educate key stakeholders within this space to encourage compliance.

The Data Protection ACT regulates the process(es) by which personal information is acquired, kept, used or disclosed by data controllers and data processors by requiring compliance with certain data protection principles. The DPC ensures that, as required by law, noncompliance with provisions of the Act attracts either civil liability, or criminal sanctions, or both, depending on the nature of the infraction.

According to Kwami Ahiabenu, II,  Executive Director of Penplusbytes, “ As more and more users provide their personal information to third parties as they make use of advantages that come with the information age, it is imperative for users privacy and security to be guaranteed.” Mr. Ahiabenu added that Ghana’s Data Protection Act, 2012 (ACT 843) is coming at a crucial time since it will offer some protection to users and we expect this exciting Evening Encounter to provide a space for key actors to understand how they can implement this law.

Guests will hear what constitutes data under the ACT, which types of data need protection, what different categories of businesses and organisations should do to become compliant and what the ACT means for individual rights. They will also receive answers to questions on whether or not institutions and big Business are allowed to share or cross share information collected at one point with their partners and if individuals can ask for their data to be blocked or ask for access to family members records from an institution?

Mrs. Teki Akuetteh Falconer who has done extensive research and worked on policy issues affecting information technology and telecommunications law in Ghana for over a decade, will use the event to explain, engage and elicit ideas on data collection and usage in Ghana.

About Penplusbytes
Penplusbytes is a not-for-profit organization driving change through innovations in three key areas: using new digital technologies to enable good governance and accountability, new media and innovations, and driving oversight for effective utilisation of mining, oil and gas revenue and resources.

About Penplusbytes Evening Encounter
The Evening Encounter is a series that invites individuals who have made an impact with their work or who have subjects and stories of interest about corporate life to share. It's a platform for interaction with audiences who want to learn and grow in their own life journeys.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Accra Tech Salon: How can ICT facilitate better health care delivery?

Penplusbytes will host the 4th Accra Technology Salon on Tuesday, 29th September, 2015 at the New Media Hub, Osu, Ako-Adjei, on the topic: “How can ICT facilitate better health care delivery?” in order to stimulate dialogue and debate on ensuring health for all through the use of new digital technologies.

Led by our thought leaders; Ernest Gavor, CEO of 233app and developer of Moja app, Samuel Quarshie, head of ICT, Ghana Health Service (GHS) and an expert in eHealth, and lastly, Harriet Nottinson, representative from Ghana Coalition of Ngo’s in health, Accra Tech Salon will explore the extent to which ICTs can be deployed to improve on the standards of health care delivery and will bring together key health and e-health experts, technology experts, Civil Societies working within the health sector, individuals and stakeholders with proven interest in advancing the course of healthcare in Ghana for a thought provoking discussion.

Through the development of databases and other applications, ICTs also provide the capacity to improve health system efficiencies and prevent medical errors. Currently, ICTs are playing a critical role in improving health care for individuals and communities through the provision of new and more efficient ways of accessing, communicating, and storing information.

Telemedicine is an example of an eHealth system where the best healthcare is brought to everybody through the expertise of highly qualified Doctors via the use of telecommunication and information technology to bring clinical health care from a distance. It eliminates distance barriers and improves access to medical services that would often not be consistently available in distant rural communities. It is also used to save lives in critical care and emergency situations.

According to Kwami Ahiabenu, II, Executive Director of Penplusbytes, the use of new digital technologies and its impact on the health sector is not new in Ghana, however there is a lot of untapped new digital technologies opportunities which the country can harness to ensure that affordable quality health care services and facilities are widely available to all Ghanaians especially the venerable in the society” Mr. Ahiabenu added that the upcoming Tech Salon on “How can ICT facilitate better health care delivery” is going to enable key stakeholders discuss practical ideas and innovations which is needed to ensure Information and Communication technologies can serve as a catalyst for improved healthcare delivery in Ghana.”

Among a number of key issues to be deliberated upon are how Ghana can achieve a complete healthcare reform with ICT, prospects for mobile health technology in Ghana’s healthcare system and, challenges in improving access to and management of health information. Participants would also explore how ICT can help reduce maternal and child mortality as well as take a cursory look into what health portals and ICT-based tools can assist in disease prevention, treatment and health monitoring.

Please RSVP now to join your health, technology and development peers for the 4th Technology Salon Accra. Seating is, however, limited to 35 people. RSVP now or risk being on a waiting list!


Penplusbytes is a not-for-profit organization driving change through innovations in three key areas: using new digital technologies to enable good governance and accountability, new media and innovations, and driving oversight for effective utilisation of mining, oil and gas revenue and resources.

RSVP: 4th Accra Tech Salon - How can ICT facilitate better health care delivery?

RSVP now to join the next Technology Salon

September 29th Accra Salon – RSVP

The advancement and availability of new digital technology tools have transformed many aspects of the society including the health sector. These changes are reflected in the way healthcare delivery services are offered around the globe.
In Ghana, the role of new digital technology tools in the health sector are now gaining roots with the emergence of mobile health systems, electronic data management and electronic healthcare medicine in some major hospitals. However, the majority of clinics depend on manual ways for data collection and other healthcare administration. This has made healthcare delivery in Ghana strenuous, expensive and inaccessible to most people especially the poor.
Currently some patients keep their hospital folders at home because the hospitals do not have space to store them. What becomes of their medical records if these folders get missing or destroyed? ICT can transform the health sector by employing the use of a central database or a cloud service that will house all the records of patients.
Please RSVP now to join the next Technology Salon Accra where we will explore questions like
  • How can Ghana achieve a complete healthcare reform with ICT?
  • What are the prospects of mobile health technology in Ghana’s healthcare system?
  • What are the challenges in improving access to and management of health information?
  • How can ICT help reduce maternal and child mortality?
  • What health portals and ICT-based tools can assist in disease prevention, treatment and health monitoring?
RSVP to join us and be part of the experience to explore how healthcare delivery can improve with ICT. Tguide our discussions and lead the way forward are three key thought leaders;
-Ernest Gavor, Moja App Developer
-Samuel Quarshie, head of ICT, Ghana Health Service (GHS) and an expert in eHealth
-Harriet Nottinson, representative from Ghana Coalition of Ngo’s in health

Please RSVP now to join them and your esteemed peers at the next Technology Salon Accra. We’ll have hot coffee and catered breakfast treat for a morning rush. Seating however, is limited. Once we reach our 35-person capacity, there will be a waiting list!
4th Technology Salon - Accra
24th September, 2015
8:00 - 10:30 a.m.
New Media Hub at Penplusbytes
No.1 Ostwe Close, Ako Adjei, Osu,
Accra, Ghana (map)

RSVP is required
About the Technology Salon

The 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.

Our meetings are lively conversations, not boring presentations. Attendance is capped at 35 people - and frank participation with ideas, opinions, and predictions is actively encouraged.

It's also a great opportunity to meet others motivated to employ technology to solve vexing development problems. Join us today!

Journalism Opportunity: HIV Prevention Reporting Fellowship

ICFJ, in conjunction with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, announces the HIV Prevention Reporting Fellowship. This opportunity is aimed at better equipping journalists with the knowledge and skills to report on VMMC and its implementation as an HIV prevention method.
Journalists from Botswana, Ethiopia, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Rwanda, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe are encouraged to apply for this fellowship.

Applicants are asked to submit proposed story ideas/reporting projects related to VMMC, with the understanding that the fellowship will help prepare selected applicants for reporting on the topic. ICFJ will also offer a webinar for potential applicants to ask experts their questions about VMMC and the program. The English webinar took place on September 17, 2015, and the video from the webinar appears here.

Following the webinar and the application deadline, a committee of judges will select 20 contest finalists for further mentorship on the topic. The 20 finalists will take part in an intensive 4-day story lab in Nairobi, Kenya, in February 2016. The lab will include briefings on VMMC and HIV prevention, as well as sessions on journalism skill-building, site visits and one-on-one mentoring sessions.

Upon completion of the boot camp, the fellows will have two months to complete their reporting projects, while working with ICFJ mentors throughout the process. The three best published stories will be selected to take part in a study tour in the United States in late 2016.The study tour will focus more generally on HIV prevention methods, building on the participants’ knowledge of VMMC.

Application webinar: September 17
Application deadline: October 19
Kenya Boot Camp participant selection: November
Story lab in Nairobi, Kenya: February 2016
Mentorship for stories: February-April 2016
Publishing deadline: April 2016
U.S. Study Tour participant selection: May 2016
U.S. study tour: Late 2016

To apply for the program, please click here.

Space, the Final Journalism Frontier: How remote sensors and satellites are changing storytelling.

Image courtesy DigitalGlobe

When Elon Musk’s SpaceX rocket exploded over Cape Canaveral, Florida, June 28, its entire payload of supplies to the International Space Station was destroyed. Also lost were the eight tiny satellites owned by Planet Labs—a self-styled agile space company with ambitions to provide a high-resolution picture of the entire planet every day for at least the next 20 years.

Planet Labs’ founders say they’re part of both a blossoming ecosystem of space industry startups and an ongoing revolution in electronics and sensing. That ecosystem meant that the massive SpaceX failure didn’t spell ruin for Planet Labs. It was able to get 14 new satellites into space less than 60 days after the explosion—a recovery time unthinkable in the previous era.

Planet Labs’ rapid recovery is indicative of a new technological trend in a rather unexpected field. This generation of remote sensors—which can be quickly produced, deployed, and adjusted—will power new opportunities for journalism. Indeed, the most innovative practitioners are already honing their skills to use satellites’ data and imagery. But although the new space-startup ecology gives Planet Labs an astounding resilience and has some newsrooms excited, these developments have also sent policymakers, ethicists, and lawyers scrambling to catch up.

A startling number of sensors now permeate our world, from the accelerometers in Fitbits to the motion sensors in autonomous cars. The powerful instruments on high-flying drones and satellites are called “remote sensors”: high above, rarely noticed, but immensely powerful, particularly when it comes to documenting change. For ProPublica journalists telling a story about the devastating land loss in Louisiana, remote-sensing data opened up particularly important storytelling capabilities. 

Traditional editors and journalism professors say that stories need characters and anecdotes; they’re the color that attracts readers and evokes a passionate response. But some stories spread over decades and miles—individuals and anecdotes alone can’t show that. Al Shaw, from ProPublica’s data team, had read that the Louisiana coast loses a football field’s worth of land every hour. “I wanted people to see the maps and the scope of the problems,” he said.

The team, with considerable help from the U.S. Geological Survey, drew on a remote-sensing data that started with NASA’s first Landsat satellite in 1972 and ended with the current Landsat 8. ProPublica’s work presented an environmental problem that could be uniquely illustrated by images collected with the widest of views—from outer space—over the course of decades. Satellites don’t get bored returning to the same subject year after year. The data they generate allows for excellent visualizations, which online readers enjoy interacting with.

Satellites’ remarkable access makes them particularly valuable for those reporting on hostile regions. Within hours of the Aug. 12 chemical warehouse explosion in Tianjin, China, the New York Times had published before and after satellite imagery of the site of the disaster. Bypassing the monitoring that Chinese authorities place on foreign journalists, the Times could use satellite imagery from one of the private industry leaders, DigitalGlobe, to show detailed images and diagrams of the hazardous materials storage. One of the newsroom’s cartographers and satellite experts, Derek Watkins, says they’ve found that government satellites like Landsat rarely have the spatial resolution to show news events.

News organizations famously lost exclusivity on information distribution years ago, but the increasing availability of satellite imagery might also be eroding big news companies’ other competitive advantage: a far-flung network of foreign correspondents. Satellites can be thought of as reporting tools with great international access and superhuman capabilities, and the private operating companies will provide the content to all comers (as long as they’re able to pay). On Aug. 31, the U.N. satellite analysis unit broke news on Twitter confirming that ISIS had razed to the ground the main temple in the ancient city of Palmyra, Syria. The BBC picked up the story shortly thereafter.

In these examples satellite imagery mostly helped journalists tell stories they were already reporting, but executives at new space companies have also placed bets that combinations of technology trends will be transformative; cheaper crafts and more powerful sensors, coupled with computer vision and algorithmic signal detection, may give researchers wholly fresh leads or new predictive abilities. 

Planet Labs co-founder Robbie Schingler’s goal is to get 150 shoebox-size satellites into a constellation around Earth, taking a 3- to 5-megapixel-resolution image of the whole planet every single day, and, over time, producing a visual archive lasting 20 years or more. The ex-NASA staffer invokes the missions of librarians and scholars: “That longitudinal data of 20 years is history. It’s history that’s actually recorded.” And here, his goals start to sound very similar to those of the fourth estate: “You may be able to classify the decisions that people make earlier; say, a land use policy, where you can say, ‘Probabilistically, if you vote this way, this is going to happen.’ That’s what could happen if we enable the transparent planet.”

The U.S. government only recently started licensing satellite companies to sell very high-resolution images to private customers. So whereas Planet Labs intends to take medium-resolution images of the whole Earth every single day for years, some of its competitors, like DigitalGlobe, took advantage of the U.S. government’s looser restrictions on spatial resolution. They post 12-inch resolution images—around 50 times more precise than the U.S. government’s Landsat images, the resource freely available to journalists and the public. Viewers of DigitalGlobe’s imagery can pick out branches on trees, individual windows, and car panels. (Clients who want fresh imagery can order up a mission, sending the satellite and its giant camera lens to their point of interest.) Amnesty International has used DigitalGlobe’s infrared imagery to analyze Boko Haram’s mass killing and destruction in Nigeria.


Tuesday, September 15, 2015

The Observer / Anthony Burgess Prize for Arts Journalism

The observer competition looking for the best, previously unpublished writing on new work in the arts. If you’re a journalist, critic, blogger or unpublished writer interested in examining the contemporary arts, then read on for your chance to win £2000 and the opportunity to have your work published in print and online versions of the Observer, and on the International Anthony Burgess Foundation website.

Prize details, and how to enter:

  • The prize will be judged by Kate Mosse, Alexandra Harris, Ruth Scurr, Robert McCrum (Associate Editor of the Observer) and Will Carr (Deputy Director of the International Anthony Burgess Foundation)
  • The winning entry will be a 1500 word review of a recently released book, film, concert, exhibition, ballet, play, TV show or performance art piece. The word count includes titles and ‘recently released’ means a new work from within twelve months of the competition deadline
  • There is an entry fee of £10, payable online or via cheque for postal entries
  • The closing date is 5pm on 30 November 2015
  • The shortlist will be announced in January 2016
  • The winner will be announced in February 2016 at a
    ceremony at Kings Place, London (date TBC)
  • To enter, submit your review and entry fee online here or by post to Observer / Anthony Burgess Prize for Arts Journalism, International Anthony Burgess Foundation, Engine House, 3 Cambridge Street, Manchester, M1 5BY
  • Entrants must be over 18 and we accept international entries
  • For inspiration, read more about Burgess’s journalism here and pieces by last year’s winner Shahidha Bari, as well as winners and runners up from previous years here
  • Please read the full terms and conditions prior to submitting your entry and contact with any queries.
  • We look forward to reading your submission, and wish you the best of luck!
Enter here!