7 Facebook Profiles to Follow on Sociopolitical Issues in Ghana

Sometimes I despair: the problems are too many, the poverty too jarring, the madness to intense, the attitude among the leaders appalling, truly everywhere I turn, I see costly mistakes.

Then I turn to these seven Ghanaian opinion leaders asking the right questions. Because we need to ask questions, we need to keep the pressure up, we need to not despair.

Here are my top seven Facebook profiles to follow on sociopolitical issues in Ghana.

  1. Golda Addo 
  2. Bright Simons 
  3. Ethel D. Cofie (see her this week on #EthelCofieStartupSchool!)
  4. Franklin Cudjoe 
  5. Jemila Wumpini Abdulai (Meet her at #Cirqmixer, July 22)
  6. Kwame Gyan 
  7. Kathleen Addy

Chin up, follow them today!

Illustration borrowed from here.

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BLOG ACTION DAY #BAD15: #RaiseYourVoice Against Online Injustices

Late last year, I went to Ethiopia. I had a wonderful stay and learned about the Ethiopian food and coffee culture and made lovely friends. Ethiopia left me with memories for life. But I also knew, going there, that bloggers who had criticised the government had been thrown in jail.badblueonwhite-participant

The nine bloggers and journalists were members of Zone9, an organization that I imagine have similarities to the organization I started in Ghana with a friend, BloggingGhana. Read more about their case on the Advox site Global Voices set up for the campaign to #FreeZone9Bloggers. Despite only being in the country for a few days, the knowledge of that I was in a country where they jailed bloggers for criticising the government had an eerie and immediate impact on me.

The damage of jailing bloggers is twofold, the personal damage to those individuals and the much larger example it sets. On my first day in Ethiopia, my hotel told me they had Internet issues, and I did not push for a resolution. When Internet arrived on day 2, I thought hard about what I tweeted and instagrammed from Ethiopia. I posted only photos and no words about my stay there. I made sure to not mention to anyone I was a blogger as I did not know how much of bad connotations that might have. I felt fear in my gut. It is a sad thing, to limit your thoughts, your creativity, and your imagination. I was just a visitor for a few days. I can’t help but think what that fear would do to a country over time. Would people discuss political developments? Criticise people in power when service delivery is poor? Would people think creatively or would they, just like I did, censor themselves?
A different aspect of #RaiseYourVoice is access to Internet that is limited in many places all over the world, both for political reasons,  lack of (electricity and data) infrastructure, and/or simply the cost. According to the UN broadband commission more than half of the world’s population is offline. Ethiopia a case in point with only 1,9% Internet penetration, compared to Ghana’s 20,1% and Africa average of 26,5%. For the world its over 40% (numbers from InternetWorldStats.com). As a blogger in Africa, I am constantly reminded, that having access to the same tools as I have (broadband and laptop) is for the lucky few. Then last week, Google announced plans of laying fibre in Ghana and Uganda in Project Link and Facebook launched a project beaming Internet to Africa by satellite. Is that not great news? Rather,  in my view it is quite worrying. In an era go knowledge, the important issue of access to Internet in Africa is taken over by multinationals with their own agenda and already strong grips on the Internet globally.
Internet is a game changer as it has the ability to bring the people of the world closer. Sharing information, once created, is next to free. When I finish writing this blogpost, how many will read it? Maybe one person (Hi Dad!), but it might also be 100 or 1000 or even 10 000. The cost is the same to me to spread my views. On the other end of the sharing, this means a university student in Ghana potentially can have the same access to written knowledge as a student anywhere else! We can all be up to date with latest scientific findings. 10 years ago, this was science fiction!
There are no easy solutions, but governments all over the world should be persuaded (by us!) to step away from fear and have faith in the power of freedom, on and offline. Individually, we have to take inspiration from the Zone9-bloggers and speak up. However, we also need better access to the Internet for the masses. I think we should think about who owns this infrastructure. It will cost, but yield returns, because when we can think freely, communicate freely, share information freely, we can also create better solutions to our problems. 
At BloggingGhana I often repeat: Every time you go online, don’t just consume. Produce too. Share your life and views with the world. Create more stories!
  • Post a photo on a social network showing something that maybe has no representation online, it could be a street, a practise, or a portrait and a brief interview with someone.
  • Show someone who do not have access to Internet what it is all about. Use your or their phone, or go into an Internet cafe.
  • Craft a Facebook-update to challenge oppressive views.
  • Spread the word on Alliance for Affordable Internet and their data.
  • Join Global Voices as a Volunteer Writer, Translator, or Partner.
  • Write a blog post where you #RaiseYourVoice to fill the void when another blogger has been silenced by fear or lack of access.

This post is part of the Blog Action Day 2015, with the theme #RaiseYourVoice. 

My earlier Blog Action Posts can be found here: 2008 on Poverty2009 on Climate Change, 2010 on Water, and 2012 on the Power of We

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Why Did Ghana’s Electoral Commission Declare Presidential Results on Facebook?

First a little background from the last couple of days: Ghanaians went to the polls on December 7th and surprisingly also on the 8th, due to malfunctions of biometric (finger print) verification machines in around 18% of polling stations. Results started to trickle in and the media and online resources that I described in an earlier post publicised them as they came in. Late yesterday evening, I went to bed. It was then an excruciatingly even race and I thought my prediction of a second round would come true. However when I woke up this morning, Joy News /Multmedia had projected that incumbent John Dramani Mahama of the NDC would win. Numbers started to tilt over 50 percent for NDC and it still was close, but with only a few constituencies left to count seemed possible to call. Then in the afternoon, the main opposition party called to a press conference and reported irregularities on the collation centre level where they claimed votes had been added in their thousands.

Fast forward to the point when we were all waiting for the electoral commission to come out and say something. As we were waiting for EC:s press conference, TV channels were showing the empty halls of the EC premises and the EC was said to be in an emergency meeting with the National Peace Council (NEC) and the two main opponent parties, the NPP and the NDC. Just before they all came out  a few minutes to 9 PM, this was posted on the EC Facebook wall:

Twitter and Facebook went wild, people were sharing this document like crazy – it appeared to be a summary of election results. Was it genuine? Why was it released on Facebook? As GhanaDecides points out, we cannot know, but here are some guesses that were mentioned on social media:

1. The Electoral Commission’s own Website came down earlier in the day (too many visitors?) and as that channel was not working they chose the next available thing, their Facebook page.

2. The meeting with the parties and the NEC was dragging out and the results were provided to show the meeting delegates that postponing declaration of results was not an option.

3. As the media was waiting in a adjacent room since a couple of hours, the results were released on Facebook to calm nerves of the press corps and the country.

Shortly after the Facebook post, the press conference finally started and the Electoral Commission confirmed the results and declared a president elect – John Dramani Mahama. However for half an hour or so, the results in Ghana’s 2012 presidential election was only available on Facebook. As the above are only guesses, hopefully we will get clarity on the process behind this historic Facebook post – the first ever Facebook post for presidential election results? – in the days to come.

In social media the discussion is ongoing if it was “good” or “bad” for Ghana that Facebook was used for this important message. As someone who works with promoting the use of social media for societal good (I am the chair of BloggingGhana, the mother organization of GhanaDecides), I think we could not have wished for a better showcase of that Ghana and Ghanaian institutions are indeed using social media and finding new and innovative uses for it for societal good. After all, Facebook is a direct and interactive channel to citizens. 

What do you think?

Currently the results have been shared 1390 times on Facebook and ECs page has over 18 000 likes.

UPDATE: Read DK’s worthwhile article on the same issue here. He concludes:

“Part of social media’s appeal to the young African is its ability to enpower individuals and communities to reflect and/or portray our lives and values, both to our peers and to international onlookers. Over the past few months we turned our Facebook feeds into mock parliamentary chambers, debating the issues of the day. We turned our timelines into soapboxes, expounding our 140-character political theories. We hung out in Google+ chatrooms, like old chums in a chop bar talking politics.

Barring the odd incident, the path, though potholed, has been successfully navigated and Ghana has indeed decided. With a turnout rate just shy of 80% (up 10pp on 2008) the real winner has to be democracy. In the light of all this, perhaps it was only fitting that a nation with a dual appetite for social media and politics, has had its appetite for politics fed by a simple post on a feed.”


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Asabaako – Ghana’s New Beach Festival

I hope you have heard about Asabaako, Ghana’s new music festival taking place on Busua beach on the 5-6 of March 2011 ( yep, also called the independence weekend, and yep, I really said BEACH).

It all seems so lovely! Party on one of the most beautiful beaches of Ghana, friends coming together, creativity and arts, rooftop DJs, concerts with Ghana’s freshest acts and in between quick dips in the sea. Did I say I was going?

On the stylish and informative Asabaako website you can find more info, including accommodation and transport. They also have an Asabaako Facebook page and an Asabaako behind the scenes blog!

And what does Asabaako mean? Well, you just have to go to their website to find out!

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Procrastinating Progress

Today was supposed to be the first day this year devoted to research. Between breakfast, laundry, Facebook,  a few old Grey’s Anatomy episodes, fixing my car and lunch not very much has been done. Sunny Saturday and I am sitting inside.

But I have to get a grip, ‘cos if I do, my husband will take me walking on the beach tomorrow morning. So I try to visualize that walk with a clean conscious and seawater on my feet and it feels good.

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Swedes in Ghana

Sigtuna Swedish flag, Ghanaians, Ghana, SwedenSurprisingly, there are a lot of cool young Swedish people in Ghana.

I say “surprisingly” only because Sweden and Swedes do not really have any strong ties to Ghana; no embassy, weak colonial connections, some mining business, but nothing major. Of course it is not surprising Swedes go south – where else would we go?

Since almost two years I know Maya Maame, a Swedish/Ghanaian blogger.  A few weeks ago I wrote about two Swedish DJ’s coming to Ghana (on their blog you currently get a teaser to their mix tape Gold Coast Rising!), but now it has exploded and I have also met engineers, business women, students, IT professionals, diplomats and a shipping agent!

To keep track of all these adventurous, beautiful and fun (the much missed irony, mostly) Swedish folks I started a Facebook group: Ghanasvenskar.  If you speak Swedish, understand the concept “fika” and you are in Ghana, you are welcome!

Pic: Some Ghanaians and a Swede in Sigtuna, Sweden.

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>A Degree in Digital Anthropology, Anyone?


UNSPECIFIED - OCTOBER 10:  In this photo illus...Image by Getty Images via Daylife

Some exciting news was reported by the Culture Matters blog today here and it is just typical. Only four and a half years too late the graduate degree of my dreams come into being.

Just taste the exotic words D-I-G-I-T-A-L A-N-T-H-R-O-P-O-L-O-G-Y ! Then imagine yourself reading exciting blogs and analyzing Facebook for a living.
Here’s some information from the lovely institution University College London (UCL) putting forth this “so 2010!” program:

The new MSc in Digital Anthropology–begun in the Autumn of 2009–is well positioned for becoming a world leader in the training of researchers in the social and cultural dimensions of information technologies and digital media.

Digital technologies have become ubiquitous. From Facebook, Youtube and Flickr to PowerPoint, Google Earth and Second Life. Museum displays migrate to the internet, family communication in the Diaspora is dominated by new media, artists work with digital films and images. Anthropology and ethnographic research is fundamental to understanding the local consequences of these innovations, and to create theories that help us acknowledge, understand and engage with them. Today’s students need to become proficient with digital technologies as research and communication tools. Through combining technical skills with appreciation of social effects, students will be trained for further research and involvement in this emergent world.

More can be found on the UCL Anthropology website here.

Too late for me, but maybe just in time for you?

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