The US Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, Linda Thomas – Greenfield is among a list of high profile officials who have paid working visits to Penplusbytes’ Social Media Tracking Centre (SMTC) since its official deployment to monitor online activities related to the 2016 Ghana Elections.
The visit was to familiarize with the operations of the widely acclaimed centre established at Penplusbytes’ New Media Hub in Accra ahead of and during the December polls.
Mrs. Greenfield, who was accompanied by a team of aides from the US Embassy congratulated Penplusbytes for its role in leveraging technology for civic participation, transparency and the deepening of Ghana’s democracy. “Technology is a game changer and it’s superb that you are using it the way you are,” she said.
The SMTC monitors and respond in real-time to reports emanating from social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, etc. The technology at the centre of this system is the AGGIE social media tracking software, developed by a team from Georgia Tech and the United Nations University Computing and Society. Aggie allows the presentation of trends grouped around voting logistics, violence, political parties among others. Through rapid citizen feedback, gathered through social media, problems identified or tracked that may trigger security incidents are then shared with the National Elections Security Taskforce, Ghana Police Service and the Electoral Commission for quick resolution, contributing to a peaceful election.
Also at the centre was the Elections observer Mission of the National Democratic Institute (NDI) led by Senior Associate for Africa Christopher Fomunyoh, PhD. In solidarity with Ghana ahead of the polls, a member of the team, Ambassador Jonnie Carlson said “Ghana needs to know that they’re not alone. All of us who believe in the ideals of democracy stand with you.”
Other key organizations that paid working visits to the center include DW-Akademie led by the Country Representative Media Development Africa, Dr. Daniel Blank, the African Union Election Observation Mission, the EU Election Observation Mission, as well as a team from CODEO and the Voice of America (VOA).
Executive Director of Penplusbytes, Kwami Ahiabenu, II, said Social media provides insight and up to the minute information which proves critical in ensuring a successful Ghana Elections 2016. “Although there is a lot of activity when it comes to monitoring mainstream media, there isn’t much of an efficient manual tracking of trends in social media here in Ghana. Our interest has therefore been to fill the gap in efficient data monitoring of elections issues before, during and after the December 7 polls.”
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.