Friday, December 21, 2007
Thursday, December 20, 2007
retreat in elmina
central region of
ghana, i seriously
doubt that as i
happily surf the
'net on my
motorola z6, i can
While i allow
me 2 wish all u
regular n non-
regular readers a
full of peace n
Wednesday, November 28, 2007
It has become an article of my quotidian walking diet to stop by the Spintex Road GOIL filling station to either pick a taxi, or walk home. Depending on my mood, I pick a taxi. Last night was no exception.
There was a slight difference in the usual silence that rings through from the filling station to my house some six minutes away from GOIL. Usually, I am so knackered, I allow myself to converse with my thoughts. Yesterday, the difference was in the mini-conversation I had with the taxi-driver after he said that I would be charged GHC1.20--instead of GHC1.00. He told me that yesterday was "the last day" he would be charging me that rate, which I found interesting, considering I have never seen him around that area before.
He went on to say that "they" were "killing us". I knew exactly whom he was talking about. Generally, he was referring to the government; specifically to the National Petroleum Authority that has, yet again, allowed Ghanaians to suffer and experience the vagaries of the fluctuation of oil prices on the market.
Joy Online, in its report put it this way:
This is the second time petroleum products prices have been adjusted in less than a month and the third since October 2007.
The Public Relations Officer of the NPA Steven Larbie tells Joy Business report that the reviews will no more be done monthly but according to price movements of crude oil on the world market.
What it means is that a gallon of petrol now sells at 4 Ghana cedis 68 pesewas or 46,800 cedis; while a gallon of diesel is 4 Ghana cedis 63 pesewas or 46,350 cedis
Putting these prices into context, you can understand why the consumers will have to pay the taxi-drivers. I have had quite a few tales of these over the past few days--and I really cannot blame them.
What I do think is extortionist is when the taxi-drivers decide, consequently, to offer arbitrary prices, knowing fully well that they are providing us with the service, and so without them, we cannot get to our destination!
Whatever the case may be, it's true, this government is killing the average consumer's disposable income.
That, on top of these high prices, one spends around GHC50.00 to buy the equivalent of electricity that would have taken me (before November 1st) almost three weeks for, now, just under two weeks!
Tuesday, November 27, 2007
By E.K.Bensah II
When the American poet and musician Gil Scott-Heron wrote the poem "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised", he perhaps got it right with regard to the development of ICTs in the context of the World Summit on Information Society (WSIS).
Before 2005, WSIS had assumed an unclear UN process that had little practical connection to development. Now, it is virtually impossible to talk about the World Summit on Information Society (WSIS) without talking about the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
When world leaders met at the UN in 2000 to draw up the MDGs, one of the goals was to achieve universal primary education. Given that education is, in essence, a passport to one's future and opening up of possibilities for any child, UNESCO has led the way of hosting seminars on Knowledge Societies in the Context of WSIS. For UNESCO, its vision of knowledge societies is based on four principles: freedom of expression; quality education for all; universal access to information and knowledge; and respect for cultural and linguistic diversity. UNESCO is far from the only UN agency involved in the WSIS process, but its role as one of the pre-cursors of the WSIS is moot.
Despite the critical involvement of UN agencies, such as FAO and UNDP at WSIS, it is clear for many observers that the Second Phase of the World Summit on Information Society (WSIS) that took place from 16-18 November in the Tunisian capital, Tunis, was disappointing. It certainly was for civil society organizations (CSOs) who, after an alleged stabbing of a French journalist, were denied by the Tunisian authorities to hold a Citizens Summit on WSIS. For others, however, one of the more concrete things, to have emerged from the whole summit was the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)-sponsored One Laptop Per Child (OLPC), going for one hundred dollars.
The brainchild of the Professor Nicholas Negroponte of MIT, the lime-green laptop is made of rubber, so that when it closes, it will be sealed to protect it from environments, such as harsh environment in northern Kenya. It can be powered by a retractable crank that can be used to generate 10 minutes of power for every one minute of cranking up the machine.
Negroponte's team turned down Apple's offer to use its operating system, opting instead for a slimmer version that uses a 500MHZ processor and open source software under Linux. It is equipped with a 1GB flash RAM instead of a hard drive, a word processor, email application, and programming system.
Former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan called it "an impressive technical achievement", adding that "it holds the promise of major advances in economic and social development."
Pressed on why laptops in place of "proper" development, MIT argued that laptops are tools to think with. More specifically, their relatively affordable price of hundred dollars is coupled with how they can be used for work and play, drawing, writing, and mathematics.
In October this year, Uruguay bought 100,000 of the machines for schoolchildren aged six to 12, with a view to procuring a further 300,000 for every school-going child in the country by 2009.
Here in Ghana, Finance and Economic Minister Baah-Wiredu announced in the annual reading of the budget that the laptops in question will be introduced to Ghana from next year.
For many observers of the WSIS process, the laptops have constituted not only something concrete coming out of WSIS, but something that can be used to facilitate development. In the long run, WSIS has highlighted the importance of using ICTS to facilitate development, and so rural areas being able to afford to use such ICT tools is moot in getting closer to the Millenium Development Goals of halving poverty by 2015.
The UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has piloted studies, for example, where the use of ICT tools, such as mobile phones, has helped farmers in Senegal to obtain prices of goods.
Yoshio Utsumi, Secretary General of ITU and of the WSIS Summit, said that "the WSIS was not an end but a beginning." What the Tunis phase did was remind one about the much-talked-about Digital Divide; how to govern the internet, and how to use ICTS for development. Whilst the Digital divide—as evidenced by the chasm between those who have ready and steady access to computers and, by extension, the Internet – very much exists even within countries (such as the rate of using the internet cafes in Accra as compared to the rate in the Northern region, which is three or four times the cost), the use of ICTs for development, for example, is being facilitated by non-governmental agencies like the Accra-based GINKS, which aim to " provide information and Knowledge sharing that will facilitate capacity building for ICTs Products and services"
Other developments are also taking place. One notable one is that of a story in the Ghanaian Times of 1 April 2006, in which it was reported that Accra Girl's Secondary School has become the "first school in Africa to have an electronic learning (e-learning) center to facilitate the adoption of [ICTS] into its academic programmes." The issue of internet governance, however, is a murkier—and more technical affair that merits as much consideration and study as those issues that pre-dominate international development.
Internet Governance, concrete outcomes
The issue of internet governance has assumed similar dimensions characteristic of the North-South divide in, say, the international trading system. If at the WTO, it is the so-called QUAD (comprising Canada, the US, UK, and Japan) that have a major say surrounding the decisions made on the multilateral trading system, so it is that when it comes to the internet, the US is right at the heart of controlling how domain names, for example, are assigned.
A communiqué produced by the European Commission in late April 2006 has argued that this system of control by the US is slowly changing—and that is also thanks to the Tunis Agenda on the Information Society that came out of the WSIS Summit last November.
In the Agenda, paragraph 63, for the first time, recognises that "Countries should not be involved in decisions regarding another country's country-code Top-Level Domain (ccTLD). Their legitimate interests, as expressed and defined by each country, in diverse ways, regarding decisions affecting their ccTLDs, need to be respected, upheld and addressed via a flexible and improved framework and mechanisms ".
Put simply, this means that unlike before when countries needed the approval of the US Commerce Department before changing, say, ghanasundayworld.com to ghanasundayworld.gh, countries, exercising their sovereign right, can now go ahead and change it—ensuring that the existing non-profit ICANN (Internet Corporation of Assigned Names and Numbers) oversees the change through regional registries, such as AfriNic, which helps, as its website maintains, to " provide professional and efficient distribution of Internet number resources to the African Internet community, to support Internet technology usage and development across the continent and strengthen self Internet governance in Africa by encouraging a participative policy development" .
Even the decision to create "ghanasundayworld.gh", before Tunis, would have meant seeking assent from the US! What this old way of doing things would have meant is that if Ghana were considered not strategic enough a country, the US Department of Commerce cold turn down that domain name.
Some of these technical issues were discussed at the first-ever forum on Internet governance, which the Greek government played host to in October 2006. This year, the second Internet Governance Forum was held in Brazil, where the issues of content regulation; the duty of states to protect freedom of expression online, including the protection of children online; a set of global public policy principles—including, inter alia, an Internet Bill of Rights were discussed.
The future of WSIS
At the UN level, monitoring what WSIS will do to the access to information is a key concern. Malaysia's Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation, Jamaludin Jarjis, said last year that "access to information should now be regarded as a utility and basic human right." He adds that conventional development means were no longer adequate in today's economic climate, where knowledge capital was the new currency and the new, raw material."
The UN, at a Geneva meeting, in July 2006, maintained the world body should continue to play a leading role in expanding information and communication technologies to promote development. The World Summit requested that a UN group on the Information Society ought to coordinate the work of the UN system.
It bears reminding that although the WSIS process seems rather nebulous to many in the sense that linking ICTs to development seems rather tenuous, in the long run, what remains clear is that as long as the Internet and ICTS are with us, so, too, will WSIS. It is a process that remains critical to the MDGs, and like most revolutions, its legacy for posterity can only be for the betterment of society.
Emmanuel.K.Bensah is Ag. President of Ghanaian Association of Journalists in ICT (GHAJICT) ( http://ghajict.blogspot.com)
Monday, November 19, 2007
It's not that I won't sleep if I don't get an answer, but in the same manner that it is serving as a wake-up call on many fronts, especially road safety, it should also serve as an urgent reminder to get to work earlier--no?
Ofcourse I make light of a serious issue, but let's face it: he's alive, and we must needs move on with pushing our leader on accountability on all fronts--including why Ghanaian citizens were able to get so close to no less than the "first gentleman" as to lift him from the car? Where were the security detail?
Wednesday, November 14, 2007
Traffic on the 37 military road.
A police tow van.
a police officer directing traffic
A crowd is able to congregate round a green light, against the backdrop of what looks like heavy traffic
Something's certainly caught the crowd's attention
This is the perfect scene for comment. Some twenty-five minutes before I arrived here from a work-related press conference to see this scene--and take a picture of it--my Mum called me to ask me whether I had heard the news about no less than the President of Ghana John Kufuor being involved in a near-fatal car crash that involved the car somersaulting THREE times, after a car, travelling at top speed hit it.
Here is how Reuters reported it:
Ghanaian President Kufuor involved in car accident - witnesses
Wed 14 Nov 2007, 13:34 GMT
[-] Text [+]
ACCRA (Reuters) - Ghanaian President John Kufuor, chairman of the African Union, escaped unhurt when a car crashed into his vehicle on Wednesday, rolling it over several times, officials and witnesses said.
Presidential Press Secretary Andy Awuni said Kufuor appeared healthy and composed but was undergoing medical checks in the presidential palace to ensure he was not at risk.
Witnesses said a red car coming from the opposite direction struck the president's vehicle at a major intersection near the Kotoka International Airport in the capital Accra.
"The car finally rested on the sidewalk and the people around helped his security men to pull him out. The president came out holding his head," James Kobinah, an electrician working nearby, told Reuters.
Awuni said police were investigating the cause of the accident and would question the driver of the red car, who was being treated in hospital. Some other people involved in the accident were also receiving medical attention.
"The picture is not very clear about the accident," Awuni said. "It's a bit strange for the car to run into his car directly."
© Reuters 2007. All Rights Reserved
This is how Ghana's Joy FM reported it:
President Kufuor escapes unhurt after his car was rammed late morning Wednesday while on his way to his office.
President Kufuor is reported to be in good health and already back in his seat at the Castle, Osu, after he escaped unhurt in a late morning accident on Wednesday.
A man yet to be identified is said to have driven a Benz saloon car straight into that of the President at the Opeibea Intersection on the Airport – 37 Military Hospital road.
President Kufuor was said to be on his way to his office.
According to Mr. Andrew Awuni, Press Secretary to the President, those who were injured, including the President’s driver, have been moved to the 37 Military Hospital for medical check-up.
“But the President is doing well. He is right in his seat here at the Castle,” Awuni assured.
Awuni, who described the accident as a strange one, said only two cars were involved but added it was not clear how many people may have been involved. He could also not tell the whereabouts of the driver of the other vehicle and suggested he might be at the hospital or with the President’s security detail.
Explaining why the accident appeared strange, he said usually outriders would be fending off all junctions, which they did, “nevertheless this car came and just ran into the President’s car and of course nobody expects to see an accident so sometimes you don’t get to see how it happens.”
News filtering from the rumour mill as I walked round to take pictures was that the driver was a Lebanese man. The taxi driver who brought me to the office speculated about how problematic it would have been if it had been a Ghanaian that crashed into the presidential convoy!!
Tuesday, November 06, 2007
It began yesterday with what would prove to be a discerning afternoon, replete with dramatic and cascading scenes of pockets of crowds congregating in clusters of emotion, awe, surprise and resignation as men fron Accra Metropolitan Assembly, in collaboration with Zoom Lion--all clad in reflective attire--started demolishing structures, kiosks and whatnot.
All this was happening in a messy atmosphere of smoke, emanating from the furious fire of burning wood and metal.
It truly was a sight to behold.
The helplessness of those whose kiosks were being destroyed was palpable. The glimmer of hope in their eyes for a daily income must have died there and then.
But this was to be expected--for in the past few weeks, the AMA has undertaken a clean-up exercise of Accra--to rid the capital of filth before 15 countries descend into the country in January 2008 for the Cup of African Nations, to be hosted in Ghana.
Either way, the taxi driver who brought me back to the office was ambivalent. He felt that Ghanaians are too stubborn for their own good and that, whilst the situation was sad, the "squatters" had been informed as recently as a six months to a year ago.
"We Ghanaians, we are too stubborn!" he added as he fropped me off, taking my fee.
Could't agree more!!
Friday, November 02, 2007
As the Week Draws to a Close in Accra…There’s Something Good on TV Africa; DSTV Has a Run for its Money, Whilst GBS Enters Ghana
Akumba Ben is a typical example of an erudite man who carries a quiet confidence. A man with the ability to ask surprise questions, possibly think on his feet. Akumba Ben is the man interviewing all the Presidential aspirants—a good nineteen of them—from the incumbent NPP administration, as well as from the CPP on the Tuesday programme "I want to be President" on TV Africa.
To each candidate, he brings questions—some general, a few, more specific—that get right to the heart of what type of policy the aspirant wants to bring to being a President of Ghana. After thirty minutes of interviewing, the small audience, comprising usually journalists and the like, ask their prepared questions based on what they know or what they have heard of the aspirant at the studios.
These days, there’s something certainly good on TV Africa. Thankfully, it’s not just on Tuesday nights.
Saturday nights are a to-die-for: the highly-acclaimed "Prison Break" is on. It started some six weeks ago, and is riveting stuff. I sent a txt msg to a Ghanaian friend living in Canada the first Saturday I watched it exclaiming it was hit stuff. She got back to me recently explaining that in Canada, they’re in Season Three! Two years is not too behind if you consider how challenged the station was in terms of programmes.
That last two Thursday’s edition of "Graphic Showbiz" had one comment praising the station, as well as a celebration of where TV Africa is going these days underscores the validity and appeal of this growing popularity towards a station that projects itself as promoting "African values".
There’s a refrain on the station that often precedes programmes of African origin: "They ask. Always they ask. What is the story of Africa?"
Therein, in fact, lies a small paradox.
For with a station that purports to promote African values, the values of 24, and "Prison Break" are seriously inimical to the putative African values!
In the long run, it’s all about balance.
Since you cannot have too much of a good thing, then it stands to reason that you cannot have too much African stuff on TV Africa!
DSTV Here Today, Gone…When?
There's a new satellite service provider in town, and I'm sure DSTV isn't too happy, even if it's enjoying its current monopoly like no-one's business. I heard on the radio yesterday that it's slashed its prices to GHC139 (US150) as start-up for its decoder, satellite and whatnot.
Meanwhile Gateway Broadcasting Services--owned by a Brit, Julian McIntyre, -- has been on the African continent for the past six months, and in Ghana for almost a month. It really has been giving people's TVs a new life!;-)
It has fifteen channels, and is aiming to get a "G-Africa" by the end of the year, where it will show African movies only. I am happy to see that 2006-launched NBC hit HEROES, which started airing on the UK's terrestrial station BBC2 only this year is in its 13th episode on G-Prime, which is the major channel by GBS that features movies--both classics (as in popular 80s and 90s films) and otherwise.
Having been brought up to be awakened to the sensitivities of the underdog--whether putative or not--I am happy to say that though there remain some serious catching up by GBS over DSTV, I for one am not going to run to DSTV any time soon!
Enjoy the weekend!!
Tuesday, October 23, 2007
It's been quite a while since I went to ECG to buy electricity for our pre-paid meter. It was interesting to have gone there, to have demanded a sheet of the rates--only to be told that the list would be, in a few days, "archaic". I guess the ECG worker meant the rates would be obsolete, or redundant--but that's another story!
The real truth about ECG and all is that despite the fact that electricity has "stabilised" to a very large extent, rates have increased a good 35%. At least that's what Kwame Pianim--Chairman of Ghana's Public Utilities Regulatory Commission says.
Fred Sarpong, ICT correspondent and Senior writer for Business Week (who is also Public Relations Officer for the Ghana Association of Journalists in ICT maintains:
The Public Utilities Regulatory Commission (PURC) has passed judgment and, surprisingly, tariffs for both electricity and water usage are going up again, this time by a steep 35%.
To be sure, both the Electricity Company of Ghana and the Ghana Water Company must have presented strong arguments to the PURC; the Commission’s boss, Kwame Pianim had earlier declared that it would not approve increases of more than 20%.
The rising cost of oil must have played a part in the PURC’s change of mind. With the world market price for crude oil now at well over US$80 a barrel, the continuation of an inexorable upward rise started in 2005, the cost of producing and distributing utility services is certainly going up. Electricity generation in particular will be affected, especially as Ghana now relies more on oil-driven thermal power than at any other time in the country’s history.
Indeed, oil has a role to play--as does the "need" to pay "realistic prices". As someone who is not an economist, I still marvel at how government can claim that maintaining subsidies are untenable.
If people do not pay, I guess the utility providers ought to find stringent ways of "revenue mobilisation". Forget the fact that people want to have air-conditioners and use them to full capacity when there is little need, just make sure people pay for what they consume.
And now to prepaid electricity:
Some 25 000 homes in Botswana are using the pre-payment metering system which was introduced by the Botswana Power Corporation (BPC) in 1995
As there is no meter reading, the risk of human error on meter reading and the risk of estimated readings being used for billing are non-existent.
He said that there was no need to wait for an unknown bill from BPC, therefore, uncertainty was written off completely. Moreover, the system was comfortable and gives customers time to budget.
"The system involves the community in the selling of the tokens. It is aimed to be 24 hours facility in villages to enable people to buy the tokens at any time of the day.
The country's largest private sector power utility, Tata Power Company, and the Madhya Pradesh State Electricity Board are thinking of introducing pre-paid cards for buying power modeled on similar cards in the telecom industry.
Says F A Vandrevala, managing director of Tata Power, "We are evaluating the issue internally but have not made any formal presentations to anyone on this. It is something we could look at on a national basis."
Home > Business > Business Headline > Report
Now, pre-paid electricity cards
Sunil Raj & S Ravindran in Mumbai | October 13, 2003 08:53 IST
The next time someone says pre-paid, don't just think of your mobile phone. Incredible as it may sound, the day may not be far off when pre-paid could be the lingua franca of power consumers as well.
The country's largest private sector power utility, Tata Power Company, and the Madhya Pradesh State Electricity Board are thinking of introducing pre-paid cards for buying power modeled on similar cards in the telecom industry.
Says F A Vandrevala, managing director of Tata Power, "We are evaluating the issue internally but have not made any formal presentations to anyone on this. It is something we could look at on a national basis."
The Madhya Pradesh State Electricity Board could, however, be the first utility off the block. The chief engineer of the board, K C Jain, told Business Standard in Indore: "We are looking at introducing a pilot project and the state government is considering the proposal. Once, the clearances come through we will launch the scheme."
The Rs 200-250 crore (Rs 2-2.5 billion) project being contemplated by the MPSEB entails installing a pre-paid card in the consumers' meter board. The consumer will insert the pre-paid card in it like a floppy.
He will then be able to buy pre-paid cards from private power companies in three denominations: Rs 100, Rs 500 and Rs 1,000. This is proposed to be introduced first in Indore, a city that has the maximum domestic consumption of electricity in the state.
And how does the consumer know when his power supply is going to end? Once 95 per cent of the electricity that has been paid for is used up, the meter will begin to emit signals, so that the consumer can buy a new pre-paid card.
The meter will expel the used card immediately after it is fully used. The new card has to be inserted simultaneously if electricity supply is to continue.
But how does the consumer benefit? Instead of his earlier complaints of high electricity bills, he can now keep a tighter reign.
Second, consumers won't have to stand in serpentine queues to pay their bills. The pre-paid cards will be sold by private power companies to consumers. Then, of course, on the introduction of this system, consumers won't have to put down a security deposit.
India has witnessed huge power theft (transmission and distribution losses). A couple of years back state electricity boards recorded transmission and distribution losses of Rs 33,000 crore (Rs 330 billion). This could be one small way of combating the problem.
Pre-paid electricity cards have been around in Europe since the early 1990s
Finally, there is an article from a Philippines website, in which both the Nigerian/South African experiences of pre-paid are referred to--and the virtues thereof extolled.
I think the writer sums it in one when he/she writes:
A financial manager worth his salt will see the advantages of a prepaid system a kilometer away: just imagine the cash flow benefits it brings, where payments for its service will be made up front, instead of being at the mercy of the traditional billings system. And we haven’t even considered the operational savings it will generate: from the manhours spent in printing the individual statements and distributing these to customers, to disconnecting lines when accounts are not paid by due date
To conclude, the evidence is out there--you only need to go and look. Far be it for me to trump Kwami Pianim, whom, in my view, is too neo-liberal a boss for a regulatory agency. This is what I wrote of him in November 2006:
However – and in Ghana, there is always a challenge to grapple with – utility tariffs have gone up.
I cannot for the life of me understand the underpinning logic of the Public Utilities Regulatory Commission (PURC) Chairman, Mr.Pianim, claiming that “tariff adjustments will help ease the intense pressure on the national kitty.”
Check this: Pianim is Chairman of a regulatory utilities commission and he speaks like a free-market man, who believes that competition in the industry is the best way for Ghana’s water and electricity. Just because the government allowed themselves to be hood-winked by the over-balance of perceived "efficiency" of the private sector in water[Rand, water], he believes the same can be applied for electricity?
What type of vision is this by a CHAIRMAN of a utilities regulator?
Besides, the logic is flawed: multinational companies are more interested in the efficiency of service delivery than the raising of tariffs, for the sake of it. You can raise the rates all you want, yet when the capital—not to mention the country—experiences sporadic electricity supply as evidenced by my rant last week, when I opined last week that Accra is "in the dark ages", which company is going to be interested in investing in that sort of shoddy and egregious service?
At least, you've gotta give it to him that he's consistent!
On a more serious note, we know the evidence: there's a lot of pre-paid metred houses in the country, and to that end, ECG is getting a lot of money. Why not make pre-paid metres de rigeur, and avoid having to raise tariffs by a good 35%? I'll end with what I wrote way back in February this year, because I cannot think of any appropriate manner to end this sordid tale:
Finally, it just struck my little brain that there are a number of pre-paid electricity meters in estates all over the country. Now, in order to avoid MDAs taking advantage and wasting precious ECG service, might it not be a good idea to remove them from metred electricity onto pre-paid ones, where they would pay upfront?
Whilst we are ruminating over those questions, might we not think about encouraging ECG to move away from a pitiful page on the Ministry of Energy website to a fully-fledged one like the PURC?!!!
Wednesday, October 17, 2007
ICT And The Future Of Journalism Profession ( I )
Created 2007-10-16 12:06
By Mawutodzi K. Abissath
A renowned Ghanaian Blogger by the name Emmanuel K. BensahII [sic] (a.k.a. Emma), recently made an analogy that: "As behind every married couple there is a partner, so, too, behind every Blog there is a Blogger!" This analogy can be said to be common place. But the most sarcastic and humorous fashion by which Emma went about it is what is pushing me to make a mountain out of an ant hill in this piece. In other words, there can be no Blog without a Blogger. And if you are a journalist who is not yet too familiar with the term Blog or Blogger, do not go and commit suicide at all.
The purpose of this article is to share with you some of the latest terminologies ICT has introduced into our time honoured profession or occupation or vocation or calling or trade; (whichever is applicable). As journalists, we should never pretend that we know everything under the sun. Rather, we must be open-minded and prepared to learn new things every day as we breathe and eat every day. Otherwise, ICT will render us outdated and outmoded, if not antiquated and archaic! This is an unsolicited advice from me to you.
From Wednesday, October 10, to Thursday, October 11, 2007, the Ghana Journalists Association (GJA), the Penplusbyte International Institute of ICT Journalism, the Ghana Information and Knowledge Sharing (GINKS) and the Ghana ICT Journalists Association (GHAJICT), organised a two-day WEB 2.0 Workshop for Editors, Senior Journalists, and media Educators. This eye opener capacity building programme was sponsored by the French Embassy in Accra. The theme for the event was: "Improving the Quality of Journalism using Web 2.0." If you are a journalist reading this article, tell me honestly if you know what WEB 2.0 is. As for me I confess that that I have never heard of that until Wednesday, October 10, 2007 at the Ghana International Press Centre at the GJA Headquarters in Accra, where the workshop was held.
Togbe Kwami Ahiabenu II, President of Penplusbyte and Facilitator of the above- stated workshop was the person from whom I heard the term WEB 2.0 for the first time in my life. Before setting the ball rolling that morning, Kwami posed this question to the class: "Who knows what WEB 2.0 is? And the entire room turned into a grave yard. We were all looking into his face like some innocent children collected from some rural community from some unknown planet. But this was a class that was made up of veteran journalists and media educators.
In fact some of the participants were journalists of repute in Ghana. One particular one from one of the leading media houses in Accra was a dignified and noble man in the true sense of the word. Nature has been very kind to him. He possesses such a huge baobab-like stature with a luminous boar-head to march. In fact his physical structure classifies him more a super-heavy-weight boxing champion than a journalist. For those who know me personally, I can easily go into this man four times. And I suspect he might have been practicing journalism before my mother became a teenager. I could not plug up the courage to ask him why he did not become a General in the Ghana Army. He is one of the outstanding newspaper page planners or design and layout specialists in West Africa. He is a veteran in his own his class and I admire him a great deal. Remember this African proverb that: "If your friend is more handsome than you, it is better to praise him rather than to try to malign or envy him." All right?
There was another participant who is a PhD holder and teaches law at one of the private journalism training schools in Accra. Another grey-haired participant and lecturer at one of the latest modern media training institutions in Accra was among us. He told me he left School of Communication Studies, University of Ghana, Legon as far back as 1974 and has practiced the profession both at home and abroad for many, many years. A very knowledgeable but humble and an unassuming. I enjoyed his companionship at the workshop. When it came to Blogging, I, too, became a lecturer to most of them anyway. I find it enjoyable to share the little I have with others. Now we are in information age and if you hoard information you will be known as an information silo.
One lady participant, too, who works with the mother of all electronic media houses in Ghana, whispered into my ears that she left the Ghana Institute of Journalism about ten years before I found my way there some 20 yeas ago. So you can imagine how long this veteran female journalist and gender fighter has been operating in our domain. And I salute her for what she stands for. There were also some relatively young but talented and well-read journalists among the participants. The point I am trying to hammer home here is that the calibre of participants who attended this particular workshop in terms of education, experience and professionalism, was beyond compare. And yet, there is something that all of us did not know hitherto. That something is what ICT has succeeded in transforming journalism into.
The question now is: "What is it that ICT has brought into journalism which has turned veterans into kindergarten boys and girls at my first day in school?" I will answer my own question by simply saying: It is TECHNOLOGY. It is presumed that every journalist in Ghana today whether veteran or student knows that ICT stands for Information and Communication Technology. From time immemorial journalists have been communicating information through various channels including traditional means such as word of mouth, talking drums and gongong. Then through print and electronic media namely, newspapers or magazines etc, radio and television. You can add telephone, telex, fax machine and others, if you like.
Then, there came into existence an ICT. With the advent of ICT boom, everything mankind has been doing from birth to death has changed. But journalism seems to be the profession that has been most drastically affected by ICT. The result is what is now known as E-journalism or Online-journalism or Cyber-journalism or Web-journalism. And the basic ICT tools that journalists need to perform this online-journalism business effectively include computers, the Internet and to a certain scope the World Wide Web (www) itself which gave birth to the Internet in the first place by making it possible for computers to talk other computers through connectivity and network.
Hardly did journalists go to bed to have a siesta when ICT tools have not only metamorphosed into something else but have actually revolutionised and multiplied in an thousand fold. Some of the new ICT tools which were introduced to Editors, senior journalists and educators at the just-ended WEB 2.0 worship include the Web 2.0 itself, Podcasting, Blogging and Wikis.
WEB 2.0 we were told came into being in 2004 and is the evolution of the Internet over the years. For instance, when Internet boom emerged in the 90s, even though World Wide Web itself has been in existence since the 60s, some of the tools of WEB 2.0 of today were not there in the 90s. Therefore, the Internet of the 90s can now be referred to as WEB 1.0. In simple terms, some of the tools that distinguish WEB 2.0 from WEB 1.0 include Podcasting, Blogging and Wikis stated above. If we break it down the concept further, other ICT tools that Podcasting and Blogging also could employ to achieve their functions include Mobile Blogging, SMS Blogging, GSM/CDMA (sub mobile internet), Skype, Mobile phone, Satellite phone (Thuraya), MMS (picture transfer/sharing), Bluetooth, Infra-red and so on. Other latest ICT tool which must be mentioned in this regard is Vedioblogging.
To be frank with the reader, these are some of the theoretical aspects of the two-day workshop which we were exposed to. Unfortunately for us, however, when it came to the practical aspects of the course which we need to put the teaching into practical application in our work, internet connectivity failed us the Press Centre. The organizers had to quickly arrange for us to go to one of computer laboratories at the near-by Kofi Annan ICT Centre of Advanced Technology, opposite the State House. There, too, we encountered some challenges as far as the Internet speed was concerned. So I will not pretend to say that I can do all that I am writing about in this feature as far as Podcasting and Vedioblogging are concerned. As for Blogging proper, I had had some knowledge in it already so I can modestly hit my chest that if you call on me day or night I can take you through the rudiments of Blog creating. And you can do it in no time at all.
As stated in the opening paragraph of this write-up, when Emma was taking us through the Blogging lesson, he made the subject matter so interesting with his famous analogy that the learning became fun for us all. Before he started, he asked the class that all those who were married should show by hand. Virtually everybody in the class raised up their hands. Initially, nobody knew what he was driving at some of us even raised up both hands. Then he proclaimed (and I am paraphrasing him here): As behind every married person there is a partner - a wife or a husband, so, too, behind every Blog there is a Blogger!
Suddenly the entire computer lab burst into spontaneous and prolonged laughter. He himself could not help it but to laugh infectiously. Then someone asked him whether he himself was married and he said capital NO. So it turned out that all the students in the class were married expect the lecturer rather. When he was asked why he was not yet married, he responded: "I am studying you people and I want to learn from you first." His answer to the question made the class to laugh even the more. Emma could be in his 30s or so and he is a man of impeccable and fantastic sense of humour.
On a more serious note, we learned that if journalists could master the use of some of these latest tools of ICT, they would help them to enhance their work especially in the newsroom. For example, Journalists can create Blogs for research work, or for photographs, or for features. If you are a reporter and you can create a Blog and post all your newstories or your feature articles on it, apart from publishing such a Blog on the Internet and link it to other websites for the world to read, you can use it as a reference book or diary for your journalistic activities. Editors can use Blogs to monitor and assess the work of their reporters in such a way that at the end of every year, they would know which reporter deserves promotion or even salary increments.
A Blog is a kind of website anybody can develop or create without having to be an ICT "techy". When you are able to create your own Blog and post information or photographs or both text and graphics on it and can update it constantly, then can call yourself a Blogger. There are several platforms for Blogging. But the one we were introduced to at the workshop is BLOGGER.COM.
10th to 11th October 2007
Accra International Press Centre
1.Video Blogging Prince Deh
2. Wikis for the newsroom by Kwami Ahiabenu,II
3. POSTING VIDEO ON YOUR BLOG Emmanuel K Bensah II
4. Writing, Editing and Publishing online made easy for journalists using blogs Emmanuel K Bensah II
5. Introduction to ICT Journalism by Kwami Ahiabenu,II
6. Blogs by Kwami Ahiabenu,II
7. Podcasting by Kwami Ahiabenu,II
9. Press Release
Wednesday, October 10, 2007
This is a great passion--and coincidentally my main are of work professionally--which I am thankful to be using to impart to journalists and media practitioners that are more senior than myself the art of...blogging.
It is reputed that I have a quintessential skill in blogging.
I say, for every one, there are many unsung heroes who know more than I do--and I am not just being humble.
It's been a while since I did public speaking, but for some strange reason, this felt great! Regrettably, I am unable to meet great minds here tomorrow, as work beckons, but, for sure, I'll be in touch with them all!
More pictures to follow soon!
(I'm the first guy to the right of the table!)
Thursday, September 27, 2007
Global Stop EPA Day: Welcome to Cresta Atlantic Resort in Bortianor, Old Weija Barrier: A Site for Robust Campaigners!
Not to be confused with what used to be Cresta Royale Hotel, but has been for a few months now FIESTA Royale Hotel, part of the Sterling group of hotels.
This is the place I went to from Saturday 1 September up until Tuesday 7 September. It is the reason for the few-day absence, as we were seriously strategising with partners on stopping some nefarious trade agreements the EU wants Africa to sign by 31st December, 2007.
Today is Global Stop EPA Day. It is exactly 5 years since the European Union went into negotiations with 77 countries of the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of countries to sign a new convention that would become the COTONOU Agreement, from which the Economic Partnership Agreements--a new agreement defining the relationship between the two blocs--would come to life.
Five years on, and after many protestations by civil society and citiszens alike, the EU still does not get the message that Africa does not want it. As such, a Global Day is a stark reminder that this is nothing more than re-colonisation of Africa!
Tuesday, September 04, 2007
Friday, August 31, 2007
As the Week Draws to a Close in Accra…Thoughts on Liberia Dressing; MTN Benin Bites the Dust…by Getting Bitten?
I woke up Monday morning to the news that Liberia was cracking down on “immoral” dressing in the country. None of us could do anything but give a mental thumbs-up to the female president Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf. For a second, I wished that our President John Agyekum Kufuor was a member of the opposite sex, because she would then pay some greater attention to the increasingly scantily-clad manner in which university girls in particular dress. I’m not of the creed of people who believe that women who dress in such a manner ought to have something bad happen to them, because I think we all have free will and choices, and we should be able to decide to look—and look away.
All that said, I think Liberia has done well, and should be a lesson for a country like Ghana that claims to be the putative, or so-called, gateway to West Africa.
Still in West Africa, I’ve been rolling around myself with glee over what has been transpiring in the ECOWAS country of Benin and MTN. You may recall that a few weeks ago, I reported that I was bored by the Y’ellowness associated MTN, and I am not really that impressed. So it’s great news to see that the Beninois phone regulator—Telecommunications Regulation Authority—is giving MTN a biting hard time.
The crux of the story resides in the fact that when MTN changed its name in Benin, it failed to inform the regulator—or so the regulators claim—and has, consequently led the two entities of MTN and the regulator in a stand-off that has endured since 9 July when the regulators indefinitely switched off MTN in Benin!
This means that as I write, it’s been SIX good weeks since MTN has not been given the nod. Okay, with one exception—it pay a sum of -- what was originally $10million, but has been increased to – a vertiginous $620million! This is in effect 620% increase, and let’s face it: it’s not something that the MTN corporation cannot afford, what with its networks all over the Middle East and much of Africa.
Observers are crying foul, blue murder and all that, because they are saying it’s about the principles inherent in international law, and the breach thereof that is problematic. Beyond that, it’s also about the signal that MTN feels other ECOWAS neighbours might get, though MTN group CEO Phuthuma Nhleko, in an article by ITWEB.CO.ZA maintains (in my view, rather complacently) that it’s not going to happen.
Of course it won’t, especially when MTN ensures it has greased the palms of regulators. I’ve no proof, but speculation has been rife in Ghana—for ages—that this is why National Communications Authority (NCA), despite the fine it imposed on what was then AREEBA last year, never managed to break the defiance of AREEBA in paying the sum!
To top it all off, with the South Africa-based MTN’s network switched off, it’s none other than the (much-maligned) country of an ECOWAS giant Nigeria, and its GLOBACOM that has been granted a ten-year licence to operate in the small ECOWAS country of Benin.
What, for me, is significant about this development is that despite the regionalization of power politics world-wide--as exemplified by multinational-extraordinaire Chevron’s involvement with the West African Gas Pipeline--serious tectonic shifts might just be in the offing in the ECOWAS sub-region as a result of this David-versus-Goliath fight.
The CITI Just Gets Better…
I think CITI 97.3FM has gotten smart by capitalizing on the rather heavy traffic times of 5-7.30pm by introducing a few new programmes on the 7pm slot.
On Mondays, you get a new programme, hosted by veteran Observer columnist Francis Ankrah, which is used for a one-hour interview of statesmen, diplomats, public officials on issues of national development. I had the opportunity of listening to the very first edition some three weeks ago. It was rivetting stuff about the drugs trade. The interviewee was one Gary Nicholls, the Public Relations person at the British High Commission.
On Tuesdays, we get a repeat of a “A Question of Law’, which broadcasts originally on Saturdays for two hours. Thursday, we get a programme called “Sister, Sister: What’s on a Woman’s Mind”, which is a rather thought-provoking one-hour discussion programme seeking to dish out, re-heat and revisit age-old discussions of relationships, and the central role that women play in them.
So, latest news in town is that The Black Starlets beat Brazil 1-0! Despite a good SIX minutes added on as extra time by the Polish referee, the youthful Ghanaian team got one over them, possibly signaling a comeback after many years in the wilderness of bad football…
Have a good weekend!
Thursday, August 16, 2007
I thought I'd do something entirely different and walk to the place I buy newspapers from on Thursday. Instead, I took a taxi--such is the fickleness of the human condition!
In front of me, I have P*P newspaper; the Investor;Business Week;Star newspaper/tabloid; and Weekly Fylla.
I like a wide range of papers on Thursdays to get up-to-speed on what's happening in the arts; entertainment; and whatnot. The average person who sees my newspapers buys on Thursdays probably thinks I'm a businessman par excellence. Such is the superficiality of Ghanaians. Many a time, I've heard comments suggesting I must be loaded--for me to be able to afford these types of papers. If only they knew...
Whatever the case may be, very rarely do I get the opportunity to be this whimsical in my writinfg for this blog. A breath of fresh air is always good--and that's why I'm here at Kals Inn, to the tunes of a just-ended "Everything I do, I do it for you", by Brian...oh, I forget his surname...
Either way, I very rarely get the opportunity to write about what makes Ghana interesting, and what makes it rock. Today's my opportunity.
I LOVE my country; it's got more beaches than I could ever find in Belgium; there's always something to complain about without feeling that no-one will understand your complaints. They are real and manifold, but somehow, somewhere, with more people complaining about things--by way of radio and other parts of the media--you get to exorcise the frustration you might feel.
Somehow, somewhere, things do improve--even if the administration continues to lie to us about how they get their results or solutions! The furore over the ADB is one thing: their plans were scuppered by the likes of civil society who complained endlessly about giving in to Stanbic. The bank has no done a volte-face and said it wants to be a "partner".
The government won't tell us the truth, but Ghanaians will keep fighting.
With three minutes left at the cafe, I'd just end that it's glorious to have lights these days more frequently. Power comes from Cote D'Ivoire, and helps mollify the energy situation toa degree it was not last year around this time. The complaints MUST continue to come; that's the only way we can get results...
long live Ghana!!
Friday, August 03, 2007
As the Week Draws to a Close in Accra: Stanbic Must Leave Ghana's ADB Alone; MTN Ghana is Born but What's Changed?
Not to steal his thunder or anything, but his paper will be called "Real News", and there is even a website in the offing. Sounds all exciting!
Even more so was our conversation after he told me he's been using the same Areeba # for five years.
"I prefer ONETOUCH these days" I started. "You can surf the 'Net on it. Did you even know that ONETOUCH is launching Mobile television with a Korean firm?".
As he started to text away a message, he remarked: "what, do you know someone working there--the way you're doing P.R. for them!"
"Not at all" I quipped, "it's because they're almost-all Ghanaian!"
He broke out in a semi-laugh, adding "I see!"
That's what I am talking about--supporting the Ghanaian industry no matter what. Idem with the ADB/Stanbic furore.
I have actually been accused elsewhere of being xenophobic towards South Africans, because of my acerbic post about Stanbic.
If it behooves me to hold strong viewson a so-called strategic foreign investor that is clearly in Ghana to maximize whatever profits it can -- under
the guise of facilitating Ghana to the Promised land of a West African gateway, then I'm all against it!
Stanbic is now providing loans for the re-construction of Flagstaff House; it's also intent on partnering with thw country's state paper Daily Graphic on some projects.
Nice try, Stanbic. Get into the hearts and minds of Ghanaians, and maybe, just maybe, the divestiture-friendly governmentwill give you the nod--and maybe, a wink with good measure.
Again, not so fast, Stanbic.
You can fool some of the people some of the time, but not all of them all of the time!
I don't want Stanbic money in any part of my economy. What I want is autonomy to manage my country's own affairs!
MTN is Born
I'm really bored by the yellow front cover that most newspapers had today regarding the changeover from AREEBA to MTN--yet another South African entity.
I am hoping more that what MTN Ghana brings is quality to the execrable network that AREEBA was offering. With its humongous subscriber-base of circa two million subscribers, eclipsing that of TIGO; ONETOUCH and KASAPA, it better get delivering--fast!
At least I have my AREEBA/MTN number for life. It's an easy number to remember, so I gotta get filling it with credit;-)
Have a good weekend!
Tuesday, July 24, 2007
It is an article of e-faith that as soon as anything hip, trendy and new becomes de rigeur, the old is phased out slowly and surely. No surprises, then, that you will find many outlets dedicated to printing digital cameras, but very few are ready to print film from the old cameras.
This was one particular trial that I was happy to endure today. Happy, because it served to underscore, in so many ways, that technology in a developing country like Ghana is a potentially spurious concept.
Spurious, because Ghanaians, say, are quite happy to see that a lot has changed in the mobile telephony world on account of being able to access GPRS services and live (voicemail) SMS, but if these technologies are leaving behind old technologies, such as the basic ability to make a clear call on your phone, then one begins to question whether something is not rather a-miss!
In this specific context of looking for an outlet to print my "normal" and conventional films, whilst I was amused, I was also irritated, because all the places I knew were either no longer printing such films, or had moved on to other places.
Life is evidently about living and learning, but it takes some experiences like these to make you stop and think whether the technology should not start to complement existing ones, rather than making them obsolete?
Friday, July 13, 2007
Thursday, June 28, 2007
Last week, I ended my first piece wondering whether the so-called middle class that (is perceived to) exist(s) are the “foot soldiers” of a westernization process. This calls into question whether there is a middle class?
If we operate from the assumption that a middle class comprises professionals—either tertiary or secondary-schoool-educated—we can already conceive of a middle class in this country. There’s a good bunch that is regularly in the news for going on strikes! However seeing as their pay is nothing to write home about, it is often easy to consign them to the “working class” whose income is just a bit over a dollar-a-day.
If they are truly the footsoldiers, then it is because they have taken on board certain precepts that are, in my view, unique to the West. Self-discipline is one of them.
How far Accra residents are self-disciplined is a question for the sages; my experience has been, thus far, a rather ambivalent experience.
Take driving. If it is anything to go by, I can whole-heartedly state that Accra residents fall seriously short. Much blame for this indiscipline is usually attributable to a particular class of “Accrarians”—taxi and tro-tro drivers. Interestingly enough, these are often barely-educated people for whom, it can be argued, self-discipline on the roads is a luxury.
That said, there is a huge swathe of Accrarians who are considered middle class by where they live—Spintex Road / Baatsona / Teshie-Nungua / East Legon – and by the jobs they do – banking workers in financial institutions; ICT companies; journalists—yet probably drive just as badly as the former group.
Anecdotal evidence suggests the middle class generally is law-abiding: they renew their driving licenses regularly, drive cautiously; pay off their loans on time. I wouldn’t know how true this is, as I haven’t done research on this, but I can say there’s a general perception that they are mild-mannered and refined.
Contrast that with the commercial drivers whom the police often catch for not renewing driving licenses. Many a time, I have had a taxi-driver leave me rather rudely and crudely at a point away from my intended destination, because the police were checking identification somewhere further up the road. Additionally, these drivers drive badly, with little observation of road signs and regulations.
Take this black-and-white argument further, and you are likely to blow the westernization process to smithereens. This is because the human condition, in my view, is such that you are likely to find as many bad drivers who also delay in renewing their licenses among the middle class as you are to find in the so-called working class.
Generally, Accra residents are law-abiding. They are, however, lawless, because rules and regulations are not implemented in the manner they should be. These include lighting of roads for purposes of safety; drivers of all types using unapproved routes; coaches over-speeding—and over-taking—private cars on high-speed roads, thereby creating unnecessary traffic.
When you look at the latter—important elements for any developing society—you get to wonder why there is this degree of lacuna in the implementation of laws?
As regards the ubiquitous sachet water, the less said, the better!
Few middle class Accrarians use sachet water; the trend, and indeed the fashion, is for those with a bit more disposable income to buy bottled water.
The battle between sachet and bottled has become a perennial one because very often, the environmental ramifications are immense: sachet water is littered all over the metropolis of Accra; bottled water not.
In the first place, this is because it is a bit difficult to litter with bottles: they can be used and re-used; sachet water not.
If I believe there to be a battle, then we can theoretically assume it to be analogous to one between the working and middle classes. The former—ostensibly badly-educated on the importance of maintaining a healthy and clean environment—litter, whilst the better-educated, as expressed through the middle classes—ought to know better.
However, the often do not, for even with regular garbage collection practice in Estates perceived to be populated by a middle class, there are cases where, in an attempt to avoid paying monthly dues, these residents add their garbage to other resident’s or, simply, litter the Estate elsewhere.
With an issue as nettlesome as this, it begs the question whether it is truly a middle class that are the foot soldiers of a process of westernization, which, in my view, includes the implementation of laws.
Then again, what do we say about the crusade-like attempts by Accra mayor Stanley Adjiri-Blankson to clothe taxi-drivers in uniform and emboss their cars with visible security numbers.
Today, even if the uniforms are nowhere near the bodies of taxi-drivers in the metropolis, at least most of the taxis are embossed—and all this was done within three months of an announcement to do so!
Decongestion of the metropolis has revealed parts of Accra (Central Business District) rather free of hawkers, as well as regular monitoring by authorities of AMA.
In my view, this is clearly an indication that laws can be followed through and processed. But surely, this should be the norm in any society—and not the exception? To praise the exercise excessively is to give an impression that Accrarians cannot do rule of law, or regulation—without being considered an “obroni”, or westernized.
Next, I’ll be looking at how far Accra has gone to becoming a rules-based society, and how far regulatory agencies, such as Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Food and Drugs Board (FDB), Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), National Communication Authority(NCA) have been working in creating and enforcing some type of discipline in the mentality of residents of Accra.
Wednesday, June 27, 2007
Well, almost. The Ninth Edition of the African Union Summit Head of States opens in Accra on July 1. In the meantime, in Accra, there will be many scenes like these, where you see a Ghana flag hanging in front of a hotel.
This is Alisa Hotel, in a rather exclusive part of Accra. I was there this afternoon in connection with a launch of papers around the debate of an African Union government by the South Africa-based Institute for Security Studies.