Social Media for Yale Conference in Ghana: From Success to Significance

Photo: Frederick Sowah
Photo: Frederick Sowah

I am proudly the social media reporter for the conference From Success to Significance: Thought Leaders in the African Renaissance, starting tomorrow afternoon. The conference is organized by alumni of the prestigious Yale university in the Yale Club of Ghana. You can find the program for the conference here.

My expectations for the conference are high as almost all the names of speakers and panelists are “big” men and women here in Ghana and beyond. I am especially looking forward to the education and the technology panels, as well as writer Taiye Selasie, writer of “Ghana Must Go” that I just read. I am tasked to tweeting through out using the hashtag #YaleConfGH and write a summary blog post. Watch this space!

Does it sound interesting? Conference tickets sell for 225 USD with a big discount for students. Buy tickets here.

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One Week at Citi FM: The Report

Last week I wrote about looking forward to my Grown Woman Internship with Citi FM:

I grew curious how they work behind the scenes – how do they prepare? How much time goes into each show? What best practises do they have to share as a successful team? How do they keep their enthusiasm when uncovering so much hardship?

Now (or rather last week, but an unfortunate issue involving ECG stopped me from posting it then), I have spent a week with the Citi Breakfast Show at Citi FM and I have to say I am the wiser for it. I did not get complete answers to all my questions, but I got a start and also many other insights. Before I get to my initial questions, here are my notes from the week:

Monday. Shocked by the chaos and the apparent ad hoc-ness of determining what happens on air. People who are coming on seem to be called the same morning or, more often, call in themselves. Learned the word “plotting”, that is planning the show by the producer of the show, Sanda. The morning was dominated by an accident blocking morning traffic into Accra and was it the man selling his girlfriend for ritual murder-story? I talked to Deputy News Editor Boakye about the news and his work schedule in the newsroom. I had a high pulse the whole morning. Talked to journalist/host Godfred over lunch. I was asked to do some research on “The real cost of Ghana’s brain-drain”.

Tuesday. Was going to be a show on values, but due to the Transparency International corruption perception index coming out, it became a show about corruption. Started to realize how much current affairs sway the content of the show. Production assistant Fred commented on my frequent tweeting.  After the show, TV program “Who’s behind” from ViaSat came to interview Bernard. That is after him spending 4 hours on air. He was still smiling. Had a talk with co-host Nhyira and production assistant/journalist Pearl.

Wednesday. Many of the institutions mentioned as corrupt had gotten in touch and the show was supposed to be a follow up of that, but a discussion on corruption in the media and an animated interview with the opposition shifted the topic. After having done extensive live-tweeting for a few days, I was asked to do twitter training with Citi people. Had lunch with a Canadian journalist from a Human Rights organization spending 6 months in the newsroom and turned in my Brain-Drain report. Hopefully, it will be the basis of a Citi Breakfast Show to come!

Thursday. We did not really know what topic to go on, the news was a bit scattered and did not provide a clear direction. I took part in the discussion. A news item on three young robbers started a discussion on the reasons behind very young criminals and a discussion on youth unemployment ensued. I quickly did some research and found  some statistics of youth unemployment in Ghana (65% in 2011 according to the World Bank) and some reasons according to academic research.  Within minutes those facts were read on air. I had lunch with two of my former students from Ashesi who were also interns at the station and compared notes. I partook in a Facebook training in the afternoon.

Friday. The morning started with a discussion on traditional practices stepping in where the state and judiciary system should be, I think a rape case in the news was the starting point of the talk. But then we compared notes and realized that no one had been able to make a call on MTN since last evening and the “plotting” turned to what we can do with this. Just complain? Bernard said he wanted answers and the producers started calling up the telcos. I started a discussion on Twitter with the hashtag #dearghtelcos and then things went crazy….People from #YaleConfGH stopped by to do promotion. At least two of these guests are on every day. As a cherry on top of my week, hosts Bernard and Nhyira did a mini interview with me on air. During the weekly Friday meeting for the team Co-host Nana Ama put a question straight to me, “Kajsa, you have been here for a week now, what do you think?” For the team to want my opinion was a golden moment for me!


Answers to my questions:

How do they prepare?

I learned in the reverse they “plot” on Fridays for the week, but then stay flexible to be relevant. They are four, sometimes five hosts in the studio and all of them spend hours every day reading news, features and books. In the morning before the show starts, they “plot” the show of the day, but frequently defer from it.


How much time goes into each show?

Do I know this? I am not sure they even know themselves as, I was surprised to find out, for all of the crew,  the City Breakfast Show  (airing 6-10am on weekdays) is NOT a full time job. All of the hosts, including the main host Bernard have jobs at the station our outside. For instance Nana Ama is the Online Editor and Bernard the Operations Manager of the station.


What best practises do they have to share as a successful team?

  1. They start everyday with a meeting and end every week with a meeting. – I think this is important as it creates a frame within which they can be creative.
  2. They are experts in their various fields. – They find a way to efficiently mill through heaps of data and be up to date on many fronts.
  3. They are young. – The whole station seem like a very young workplace and the vibrancy of workers allow for high tempo and fresh thinking.


How do they keep their enthusiasm when uncovering so much hardship?

They have a mission to influence Ghanaians and change Ghana. They aim to make radio that get results and they are getting there. I found it interesting, that people in power call them every day to explain themselves! That in an environment where we complain there is little accountability! Privately, some of them have faith, others family to fall back on, because Chale every day, it is a new, horrible story.


What did I learn?

  • As always, you learn more about yourself than anything else when stepping out of your comfort zone. It was really nice to be at an organization without any money changing hands, formal agreement, I felt no stress to perform. Ahhhh.
  • I also learned, I love the news room pressure – that vibe, that “the deputy minister is on the phone”, “Wait, I have the police on the other line!”, “Can you get me numbers?”, “What did the Graphic say about this? Quick!”  – it is addictive!
  • I also found I quickly assert myself and participate. I had planned to “be a fly on the wall”, but discussions were just too interesting not to take part of.
  • Finally, I like how Twitter and Facebook also allows you into a discussion that might be held on air. On Friday, we saw how many “listeners” follow through social media when in 15 minutes 80 comments flowed in via Facebook. Clearly, there is much more to explore in the Social Media/Radio interface in Ghana.

One of my readers pointed me to this article on taking an internship at the age of 30. The writer suggests being an intern after a certain age “can seem like a step backward or even feel a bit embarrassing”, and I guess it can. But then again , why should we always step forward and upward? In the wisdom of Ghanaian folklore, “Sankofa” or “go back and fetch it” suggests that we have much to learn from that which lies behind us!

In hindsight, doing a Grown Woman internship with my idols at Citi FM was a great idea, an exciting week and absolutely a learning opportunity for life!

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Supreme Court Ruling on Ken Kuranchie and Stephen Atubiga: I’m confused!

This is a BloggingGhana universal post on the issue of this month: Free Speech.


As I was driving home listening to City FM, the question was raised: Is This The Day When Freedom of Speech Died in Ghana? The case of Ken Kuranchie and Stephen Atubiga before the Supreme Court for making “prejudicial comments about the on-going election petition case” (from my understanding not in the court room but in media) and their sentences of 10 and 3 days in prison respectively offset this uncomfortable debate.

In addition to sentencing Kuranchie, a journalist, and Atubiga a politician of the ruling NDC, the Supreme Court issued a warning:


 “any person be it in the media or not who crosses the final touchline on proper coverage and reportage on our court proceedings will be met with the appropriate response from this court.”


Now what do we make of all this? Also, exactly what was said, where? (I cannot seem to find the comments that were sentenced today, maybe reproducing them is now a crime?) Did the comments really undermine the supreme court? If so, is 3 or 10 days a harsh enough punishment?


And does it mean we should all not comment on the election case publicly? This evening the discussion has been hot on social media, mailing lists and the like and think I agree with a friend who said if we stop discussing the supreme court proceedings and rulings “are we not all admitting that freedom of speech has died?” Other friends, talked about how with the right to free speech comes a heavy responsibility, one quoted this Editorial in the leading newspaper the Daily Graphic on that press freedom is never fixed, but rather, in the words of a British lawyer: “what is left after the law had its say”.


I am confused! All this confusion, I believe, take away from the MAIN ISSUE AT HAND: Was the National Electoral Commission right to declare NDC winners in the election with 50,7% of the votes in the 2012 election?  


Last week was PACs letter to RLG. This week, I have been reminded of the responsibilities that come with pressing “publish” on my blog. What is coming next week?
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My Visit at iSpace – A New Home for the Tech Community in Ghana

The other day, I had the pleasure of meeting Fiifi Baidoo and Josiah Eyison of iSpace Ghana. iSpace is an idea of bringing together the tech community, social entrepreneurs and related folks, like bloggers in Ghana. iSpace is also an amazing space on the fifth floor of a building between the buzzing Oxford street in Osu and the La Beach, it offers lovely views and –  by the end of this month –  office, meeting and lounging spaces for the community. 

iSpace collage

Clockwise from “noon”: a view of the full space with assistant Dorcas at the front, Josiah at the conference room glass wall,  view(!), me flanked by the iSpace guys and in the middle Josiah describing the plan and Fiifi listening.

I walked away from our first meeting impressed by the vision (“in two years we have out-grown this space”) and the social concern (“we are doing this so that we can come together and solve Ghanaian issues”) and I can definitely see how BloggingGhana members can use this hub.

Eric Hersman, or White African as we know him, says about tech hubs in Africa:

“The tech hubs in Africa provide a home for those with new and innovative ideas, create an atmosphere where they are encouraged to try new things, and most importantly are able to meet like-minded individuals they can grow with.”

To sum up, iSpace is wonderful news for a community that is growing stronger by the day, but until now lacks a space to come together! 

Read also Edward Tagoe’s informative post on iSpace,  iSpace’s website  or Google+ page. Other African tech hubs are listed with AfricaHubs.

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African Union Day and Data Bootcamp in Ghana

Screen Shot 2013-05-26 at 10.04.00 PMThis weekend is Memorial Day (US), Mother’s Day (Sweden, Hurray for mom!) and African Union weekend (Africa). But how does one celebrate the African Union? I am not sure, but will spend the delayed holiday (in Ghana holidays that fall on weekends get “compensated” at the first possible weekday, in this case AU Day fell on Saturday 25 May, hence tomorrow, Monday 27th is the day off!) and two more days at a data bootcamp vamping up my data mining skills, maybe they can be beneficial for the continent?

Normally, I stay away from everything bootcampey as endurance is not my strongest side, I rather like to digest information slowly over time, but I have made this exception as I am very much interested in how data can become news and more people can get access to knowledge. Or is the words of the organizers:

“to boost analytical, evidence-based reportage by giving journalists the digital tools, access to data, and computational skills necessary for transforming the way that newsrooms function.”

We will learn how to “mine” and “scrape” data, how to build apps and websites to visualize the data and how to “pitch” ideas as to get funding. Teachers are a list of interesting people from techie/journalist Justin Arenstein that I have earlier met at a Google event to the Worldbank statistician Lynne Henderson and many more interesting folks.

I am excited about tomorrow and should probably hop to bed. Already, I have some ideas for apps that might not necessarily conform with the “extractive sector” that is a focus of this workshop and a hanging question: where does academia come into all of this?

Behind this data bootcamp is the African Media Initiative, the World Bank Institute, Google Africa and theOpen Institute. Thank you!

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25 Questions on Entrepreneurship

Screen Shot 2013-05-24 at 10.55.17 PMMy blogging friend Kobbie has started a project asking people in Ghana tech / entrepreneurial / life questions such as What does the internet mean to you? (Q2),  What’s the biggest thing you struggle with as an entrepreneur? (Q 11) and What does seeing the world mean to you? (Q 15).

You can read my 25 answers here, however here is a preview:

12.  What’s the strangest thing you’ve ever done as an entrepreneur?  Bought 200 bananas.”

Edward, Ato and Rodney are other participants.

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Impact of the Internet in Ghana: Dalberg Report

Hurray! Yesterday, the Dalberg report (click here for PDF) was released to describe the impact of the Internet in some African countries, including Ghana. This is the type of report that a blogger needs when asked “…but really, can the Internet have an impact in Ghana?”

The report openly target policy makers in Ghana ( Kenya, Senegal and Nigeria) and focuses on “potential” and findings such as “more than 80% of SME owners expect that the Internet will help them grow their business, and 70% of those expect to hire new employees as a result.”(p.7) It also comprehensively compares the countries with a model that takes into consideration “core” (from infrastructure to business environment and school enrolment rates) and “conditions for usage” (from percentage of households with electricity to mobile and broadband subscriptions to  uploads of video!). Here we can see that over the past six years, Ghana significantly improved the “core”, but not the “conditions for usage”. They recommend government to play a role.

Screen Shot 2013-04-16 at 12.31.01 PM

My understanding of this, but detailed data could tell if I am right, is that although we have the core or the basics in place, for some reason the conditions for usage and hence reach does not follow. It is still expensive to access Internet in Ghana and despite competition bordering on overcrowding, data is not becoming cheaper.

Here are 5 other findings from the report I thought were interesting and my corresponding comments:

1. Ghana Rocks Social Media

“[Ghana] shows comparatively high engagement in social media, content generation on Wikipedia and video sharing. These build atop its leading position in mobile broadband penetration on the continent, relieving barriers to higher bandwidth interaction. Despite this strong performance, our analysis suggests that Ghana now needs to focus its attention on improving the level of attractiveness of Internet services” (p.11)

We often complain about access, but comparatively (with other African developing countries), we are doing fine. Also, I am happy to read that content creation, as recently discussed at BlogCamp13 is relatively good. Although mobile broadband is fine, it is still expensive especially for data intensive operations such as uploading video.

2. The promise of social media for government and citizens

“Social media and social networking is proving to be a catalyst in driving Internet access and impact….Social networks can create stronger links between government, educators, service providers, businesses and citizens. Users are already engaging on topics including music, dating and sport, but these networks are also quickly expanding to include education, health information and governance, and will undoubtedly influence how users engage in more sophisticated Internet
use over time.” (p.3)

This point cannot be overstated and it is A GOLDEN OPPORTUNITY for Ghana and other countries in Africa with traditionally not very cosy relations between citizen and state.

3. Wider Access Completely Changes the Game

“Internet penetration also opens up entirely new business models for both companies with technical expertise as well as entrepreneurs. In Nigeria, for example, it has created opportunities for software designers developing gaming applications and mobile traffic applications, such as Maliyo Games, Gidi Traffic and Road Peer. It has also created opportunities for traditional and new media companies via advertising revenues, bringing in over 5M Naira a month for bloggers such as BellaNaija and Linda Ikeja, discussion forums like Nairaland, and newspapers such as Vanguard. Vanguard’s print business was unprofitable on its own, but its online portal ranks as the twelfth most popular site in Nigeria, and generates enough advertising revenue to make the entire operation viable.” (p. 17)

In Nigeria, bloggers make a living on what they do. So far in Ghana, there are just a handful bloggers who can , Ameyaw Debrah is the one that springs to mind, and maybe a few others who consult alongside their websites. Still, there seems to be no profitable way of advertising online in Ghana (although I believe a MEST start-up Adsbrook is working on it) . Is it a volume issue? What if Internet reached not only the population it reaches today (18% or 4,1%), but twice as many households?

4. Access is key

What is this report about? I think this word count exercise will tell you in a blink! The word “access” was used 234 times, “mobile” 134 times, “growth” 112 times, “broadband” 42 times, “open data” 24 times, “blog” just 7 times, “political” only 3.

5.  What about Political Impact?

Following the exercise above…If to look broadly at “impact” there were some important political initiatives such as Enough is Enough Nigeria and GhanaDecides that were not mentioned. I suspect that is because these were not initiatives that made economic impact (not directly at least), but rather focused on governance. But as we all know, they are interlinked! A chapter on political impacts of Internet (and political potential) including transparency, accountability and governance would have added that which, according to the Dalberg report:

“available studies typically lack detailed analyses of the social and political value of the Internet, especially across Sub-Saharan Africa.”

That is, if you want to call a report “impacts of the Internet”, include all major impacts. Else, “economic impacts” might be a better title.

All in all, this is an amazing report that I will be referring to for a long time. I only wish details of the computation leading up to the table posted above would be shared, maybe on the companion website for the reportThanks to Google Africa for sponsoring (commisioning?) this useful report. 

Other places for Internet information concerning Ghana are: Afrinnovator’s Ghana Page, History of Internet in Ghana from GhanaWeb (not well written, but an interesting reminder) and another historic reminder from Colunmbia University (from 2005?) Internet World Stats (last figures from 2009), Internet Governance Forum Ghana and Research ICT Africa.


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April Fool

Since a week, I do not have access to Internet from home. Few things are more painful for a blogger and Twitter add…I mean, user. I have written all these marvelous blog posts in my mind, but when the working day is over and it is time to type and upload them, the ADSL light is having a disco instead of indicating the steady supply of WORLD in my home.

The customer service person for my internet service provider suggested I turn to my back up provider. Solid advice.

But when that also fails? And your back up ISP hangs up on your call to customer service after three minutes…every time you call?

Then it is time to accept the April Fool badge and go to bed early. 


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#BlogCamp13: Still Overwhelmed

BlogCamp 13 collageSaturday 23 March 2013, Ghana’s second blogcamp or conference for bloggers took place. In the evening Ghana’s forst Social MEdia awards were held at the same venue. It was amazing and two days later, I am still tired and slightly overwhelmed.

I will not tell you about everything that happened (Kinna did that already very well), neither will I talk about my trip to the venue (far less interesting than Kofi Larbi’s), but just offer some thoughts – as one of the cofounders of BloggingGhana – the organizing body behind the event:

1. Do we really have 400 people plus in Ghana interested in blogging to the point they spend a whole day, and transport costs, learning more? Amazing!

2. BloggingGhana has been about friendships since the very beginning. I have made some of my most important friendships in this group and what made me happy on Saturday was that new friends seemed to be all around. Many people also met their Twitter or Blog friends in person for the first time. I had some experiences like that as well! Kinna wrote:

I wasn’t privy to any such conversation, but I’m sure there were all manners of hooking up going on! Lots of smiling, lots of hugs, some shade and a world of happiness!

That was indeed the feeling!

3. I wasn’t expecting feeling moved by that the US ambassador came by, but his speech contextualized BloggingGhana in ways I haven’t fully before realized. Hearing things like this constituted an aha-moment for me (click on link above for the whole speech):

We applaud Blogging Ghana for its efforts to encourage hundreds of Ghanaians to express themselves on a broad array of topics affecting daily life. …We support events such as this because we know that honing communication and information technology skills will directly be transferable to the expansion of business opportunities between the U.S. and Ghana, one of our highest priorities.  We agree with the visionaries who founded Blogging Ghana:  In the next five years more and more people are going to find employment utilizing their social media expertise.

4. The glamour of the Social Media awards were also surprising (I should have changed my clothes!) and can be credited to aforementioned diplomat, our own Nana Darkoa of Adventures from winning the Best Blog category and the organizers of the award, Fred and Golda for their attention to detail, for instance to the beautiful physical awards! (bottom left in the collage above)

5. We have already started to plan #BlogCamp14! We started around lunch time on Saturday! It will be better, bigger and more intense. We will also think of a way of making the event more sustainable, likely by roping in some of the attendees as contributing members of our organization. Watch out!

Trust me, I have so much more to say about this day and all the people I met/highfived/laughed with/gave my contacts to/directed to the right session, but talking to so many people, both in mics and face to face is tiring. I still feel exhausted. Thankful. Overwhelmed.

And Inspired.


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Blogs I Read: AntiRhytm

There is a blogger that quite stands out from all the rest in the Ghanaian blogosphere in two ways, tirelessly he posts like clockwork Monday through Friday (although a lil’bit less recently) and the subject matter is always snapshots of Ghanaian life carefully crafted in words. as you have already guessed, I love this blog!

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Ghanaian poetry the way you have never seen it before, in seemingly impressionist style, he sketches the street or office life in Accra.

The blogger Nana Yaw Asiedu is also the originator of (now deleted) The Flirt Files, poetry blog about romantic office situations(!) and Makola Law, a helpline for legal questions in blog format.

This blogpost is part of a series of  Blogs I Read.

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Photos and Tweets from BloggingGhana’s March Meet-Up

On Sunday we had a three-legged meeting – Writing workshop, discussion on future collaborations and finally, info about our yearly event, BlogCamp, coming up this month on the 23rd!

Some stats:

  • 44 of us met at MEST Ghana
  • 3 types of finger food was provided by Tigo
  • 400 participants have already registered for the BlogCamp13 event
  • 7 hugs I got from BloGh members


“@gwumah: #BloGH March 2013 meeting; lots of great discussion:” >> Love the panorama pic! @BloggingGhana

@gwumah#BloGH March 2013 meeting; lots of great discussion:” >> Love the panoBloggingGhanaoggingGhana
“@MutomboDaPoet: RT @silverscholar: @kajsaha speaking @BloggingGhana March Meet Up #BloGH *that lady is nice” Thanks!

@MutomboDaPoet: RT @silverscholar@kajsaha speaking @BloggingGhanaMarch Meet Up #BloGH *that lady is nice” Thanks!
More than 400 confirmed participants for #BlogCamp13 on 23rd March, says @ttaaggooee @BloggingGhana.  #Blogh

More than 400 confirmed participants for #BlogCamp13 on 23rd March, says @ttaaggooee
I see familiar faces. Miss these people! RT @Kwabena: We have a full house at the @BloggingGhana meeting. #BloGh

I see familiar faces. Miss these people! RT @Kwabena: We have a full house at the @BloggingGhana meeting.
@dje_djelyn @chrisdof during group discussion time at @BloggingGhana March Meet Up. #BloGH

@dje_djelyn @chrisdof during group discussion time at @BloggingGhana March Meet Up. #BloGH
Should we discuss things that never seem to change? Hot debate on the @LightOffGhana1 issue @BloggingGhana meet-up.

Should we discuss things that never seem to change? Hot debate on the @LightOffGhana1 issue @BloggingGhana meet-up.
Personally, I'm happy we finally have a fashion blogger in our midst! @fashionmaniagh

Personally, I’m happy we finally have a fashion blogger in our midst! @FashionmaniaGh
44 people in the room, not enough chairs! Thanks all for attending this month's @BloggingGhana meet-up! #Blogh

44 people in the room, not enough chairs! Thanks all for attending this month’s @BloggingGhana meet-up!
This month's @BloggingGhana Meet-up is over but discussions continue... #Blogh

This month’s @BloggingGhana Meet-up is over but discussions continue… #Blogh
Chris also wrote a blogpost about the event:
Learn more about BlogCamp13 here:
“@gwumah: #BloGH March 2013 meeting; lots of great discussion:” >> Love the panorama pic! @BloggingGhana
I see familiar faces. Miss these people! RT @Kwabena: We have a full house at the @BloggingGhana meeting. #BloGh
Should we discuss things that never seem to change? Hot debate on the @LightOffGhana1 issue @BloggingGhana meet-up.
Personally, I’m happy we finally have a fashion blogger in our midst! @fashionmaniagh
44 people in the room, not enough chairs! Thanks all for attending this month’s @BloggingGhana meet-up! #Blogh
Chris also wrote a blogpost about the event:
Learn more about BlogCamp13 here:
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Johanna Koljonen: Nordic Media Personality Blogs in English

As someone living abroad, I of course follow many blogs and tweeps for information on what is going on in my native Sweden. Social media is beyond popular in Sweden with fast and accessible broadband and smartphones in almost every pocket.

Sweden has more than 500 000 twitter users for a population of 9 million people (according to #meg13) and I read once that a third of Swedish women 18-30 have a blog!

Not surprisingly, most tweets, blogposts and articles are posted in Swedish and although I adore my mother tongue, it is disappointing to never get to share my Swedish feeds with my  non-Swedish speaking crowds. Then today, I found Johanna Koljonen’s blog. And it is written in English!

Screen Shot 2013-03-07 at 8.43.18 PM

  Strictly speaking Koljonen is not Swedish, but Swedish-Finnish and from her blog I learned that she lives in Denmark and has a degree from Oxford. So let me not claim her for Sweden, but rather call her “Nordic”.

Still she is a central media personality in Sweden right now and apart from appreciating her style (girl next door meets thoughtfulness) and interests (literature, sex, popular culture), I really do love that I can share her with you!

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