Thursday, May 3, 2018



TELECOM SECTOR MAKES PROGRESS
By Mawutodzi K. Abissath
Saturday, June 10, 2000 No. 147931. Price   ¢800
IN the 20th Century, when: Ghana was Gold Coast, gold, cocoa and timber were regarded as the economic saviours of the country. But today, at the threshold of the 21st Century, one can brag without fear of exaggeration that the telecom industry of the nation is the rock upon which Ghana can build its economic development infrastructure.

In other words, for Ghana to progress and prosper economically in the new millennium, it must invest in knowledge and skill rather than gold and cocoa. This knowledge and skill is what is technically known as Information and Communications Technology.

If you tell your 15-year-old child that, just about five years ago, there was only one place in Accra, called the P & T External Section where any human being in Ghana who wanted to speak with someone abroad ought to go, the child will look at your face with open mouth. Even then, you would have had to book your call for at least three days or more in advance.

As for obtaining your own phone line in your private house, you would need to be on the waiting list for at least ten years. If you are fortunate, you would get your phone in 20 years’ time. If you are not lucky, you might cross the great sea into the other side of heaven before it would be your 'turn to be connected,
However, today, your five-year-old child, even in your absence, can pick up your phone, either fixed or mobile and call his classmate in Kasoa and tell him: "Hello, Kofi; Mum has bought Fanta, for me; will you drink some?" Today, you can receive a call in your bathroom from your cousin in Japan that he has remitted you something you must go and collect at the Ghana Commercial Bank.

Today, a student in Bolgatanga Secondary School can call his mother at the Keta Market that he needs some Keta Schoolboys and gari. 'Today, an, investor in Chicago in America can communicate directly with a Paramount Chief at Amedzope and inquire about tourism potential of the Amedzope mountains, etc. Even though we still have a long way to go as a nation, we should not take this progress in the country's telecom industry for granted.

Records show that Ghana's telecommunications sector restructuring programme started in February 1997, with a principal aim at increasing private sector participation in the establishment of modern communications infrastructure and the provision of a variety of services.

According to telecom experts, the strategy adopted by the government was the creation of two major nation, all operators, namely Ghana Telecom and the Western Telesystems Ghana 'Limited (WESTEL) following the sale of 3D per cent share of the then Post and Telecommunications Corporation (P&T).

Government still has 70 per cent shares for future use for the benefit of the nation. Statistics indicate that as at 1994, Ghana could boast of only 5,000 telephone lines. This means that after almost 40 years of independence since 1957, when the nation's population hit almost 18 million only less than 10 million people had access to telephone facility. Thus, with the privatization of the telecom sector, the two national operators were tasked to increase telephone lines from the 5,000 to 50.000 by the 'year 2000. Telecom experts term this as increasing telephone penetration from three to over 10 percent of the population.

It is reassuring to learn that, as at the time of writing this piece, Ghana Telecom and WESTEL have managed to increase tele-density to nearly one per hundred as compared with about four per 100.0. of the population in early 1997, according to the Telecom Adviser to the Minister of Communications. Ghana Telecom and WESTEL have also increased access to telephone service through the availability of thousands of paid-phones provided countrywide 'since 1997, and 1999 respectively. It must be explained that WESTEL actually started operation in 1999.

Another telecom company which has been .licensed by the National Communications Authority to operate as a national operator is Capital Telecom. What is unique about Capital Telecom is that it is mandated specifically to provide telecommunications services to the rural and underserved communities in the country. So far, its services delivered to the - southern sector of Ghana is covering five regions including Western, Central, Volta, Eastern, and Greater Accra.

Besides, the above-mentioned fixed telephone operators, there are three major - cellular mobile telephone operators who have contributed a great - deal to make Ghana's Telecom Sector-an enviable one. They include Millicom (Gh) Ltd., operators of Mobitel, Scancom Ltd. Spacefon, and Cell Tel Ltd. operators of Celtel phones.

On Wednesday, May 17, 2000, when the World Telecom Day was celebrated throughout the world, almost all of these telecom operators both fixed and mobile under the coordinator ship of the National Communications Authority mounted an exhibition within the premises of the Ministry of Communications as part of activities marking the Day.

It was amazing to know that apart from providing telephone services to the public, some of these telecom operators have been engaging in tremendous charitable development projects and goodwill services that deserve emulation. It is relevant to mention that Ghana Telecom and WESTEL are mandated to opera CSM Mobile Services and before long; Ghana Telecom will take off and rural Ghana will not be the same again. 
         
Even though the focus of this article is on the telecom industry, one cannot fail to mention in passing the wonderful work the private sector in the Information Technology IT in general is doing.

According to the Telecom Adviser to the Government, in spite of relatively limited access to computers, the Internet services providers in Ghana today are doing a wonderful job. Data telecom operators in the country cannot be ignored for their contributions towards the advancement of the telecom industry. And if one should attempt to broaden the communications sector in its entirety to rope in the print and electronic media, the story will be different.

The simple truth is that communications has influence on economic development, supports manufacturing and agriculture, helps to promote export, projects tourism, attracts investment and facilitate banking, health and education.

Having said this it must be pointed out that, for Ghana's telecom industry to do better than what pertains today, there will be a need for the regulatory aspect of the industry to be handled professionally to create an environment of peace, harmony and trust. But Ghana's telecom experts, technologists, scientists and engineers must also not be satisfied with mere importation of foreign communications equipment only.

They must be creative and endeavor to manufacture simple telecom gadgets at affordable prices for rural dwellers to improve upon their economic development.  In his World Telecom Day message to the world this year, the UN Secretary-General, Mr. Kofi Annan stated: "In the new millennium, let us make telecommunications the engine of development and integration that it can be. Only then can we capture the promises of globalisation while managing its adverse effects."

The author works with Information Services Department (ISD) abissath@gmail.com

NB: This article was first published by the Daily Graphic Saturday, June 10, 2000.


Tuesday, April 24, 2018


FREEDOM OF THE MEDIA IS FREEDOM OF THE PEOPLE

By Mawutodzi K. Abissath

Tuesday, September 11, 2001.
Do you know that Ghana is said to be the first commonwealth country in Africa to scrap the obnoxious Criminal Libel and Sedition Law - an act described by the National Media Commission (NMC) as "a triumph for freedom of expression"?

Even the United Kingdom (UK) where the seed of criminal libel germinated during the colonial era just to attempt to padlock the lips of African nationalists, who were using newspapers to spread their messages and agitation for independence, it is reported that this intimidating law is still breathing on the statute books despite the fact that it has not been applied for nearly 20 years or so.

Against this backdrop alone, some freedom lovers are of the opinion that when the time comes to recount the achievements of the NPP government during its first 12 months in power, the repeal of the Criminal Libel Law must be cited among the first, if not the very first:

Historical records of the media in America show that as far back as 1787, Thomas Jefferson wrote.- "Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers" or newspapers without government, I should not hesitate to prefer the latter".

This is the premium the people of America place on the role of the media in nation building:
Is there any wonder that America is today the only super power of the world? America is not only the most liberal nation on earth, where almost every creature will love to live, but the most advanced politically, economically, democratically, scientifically, technologically, and what have you!

It goes without saying that when a nation allows its people to think freely, imagine freely, concentrate freely, visualise freely, meditate freely and express themselves freely, they tend to develop mentally, spiritually and psychically and eventually bring to the fore, their inner creative power to produce wealth for the prosperity of their society.

The freedom of the media is indispensable for the prosperity of a nation.
In 1993-96, when Ghana's Parliament did not have a credible opposition because the strongest opposition parties boycotted parliamentary elections due to some circumstances beyond their control, it was the Ghanaian media that took it upon themselves to play the role of the opposition outside Parliament.

That was why in those days, the term "rubber stamp" gained-currency and that august house of honourable men and women was commonly referred to as "rubber stamp Parliament". Today, nobody dares characterise Ghana's legislature as "rubber stamp" any longer. For the vibrant Minority are marching the power-packed Majority, word for word, logic for logic and debate for debate. It is fantastic!

If over 200 years ago, America recognised freedom of the press as a sine qua non for human advancement, socio-economic and political progress of that nation, then the sky should be the limit for Ghana so long as constitutional democracy will be protected, practised, maintained and sustained. With only eight months in power out of a four-year first term, it is too early to start singing Hosanna Alleluia in praise of the new government for its total commitment to freedom of the media. But, so far, the government has demonstrated beyond any shade of doubt that it is committed to constitutional governance, rule of law and respect for the freedom of the media.   
          
With the creation of a Ministry responsible for Media Relations, coupled with the repeal of the Criminal Libel and Sedition Law from the statute books, the government has put into practical application the provision of article 162 of the 1992 Constitution, which guarantees the freedom and independence of the media in Ghana. The media, generally represent the voice of the people who put the government in place in the first place.

This explains why this writer is of the considered view that the freedom of the media is the freedom of the people. In fact, the Criminal Libel Law was not meant for media practitioners alone. It was there to trap any citizen who might want to express their thoughts. 
   
It is now clear that the Media Relations Ministry has assumed the status and functions of the erstwhile Ministry of Information in a more democratic and pluralistic media environment.

One of its cardinal objectives is to directly link up the media with the presidency. In other words, the ministry is to make it easier for both the public and private media to have direct access to the Executive to enable them obtain first-hand information from the Office of the President in the discharge of their professional duties.

Put in another way, the ministry is to bridge any gap between the government and media personnel who are partners in national development. This was demonstrated when, in April this year, for the first time in the history of the media in Ghana/President J. A. Kufuor was brought face to face with many journalists, both local and foreign, to give account of his first 100 days in office. It was unprecedented in living memory in politics in Ghana.

Today journalists of both the state and the privately-owned media are accredited by the Media Relations Ministry and given equal opportunity not only to be stationed at the presidency to cover local events but to accompany the President on foreign trips to cover international assignments when the need arises.

Today, media men and women are daily briefed at the office of the President either by the Minister for Media Relations and Government Spokesperson, Miss Elizabeth Ohene, or by Mr Kwabena Agyapong, Deputy Government Spokesman, about issues of national interest.

Today, no fair-minded person can accuse the state media of being sycophantic or biased in favour of the lulling government. Journalists of the Daily Graphic, the Ghanaian Times, GBC and the GNA, are all professionals and are discharging their duties professionally, without fear or favour. 
   
This, is reflected in the quality of stories they are publishing or broadcasting, which cuts across the broad spectrum of national development issues such as education, health, agriculture, economy, art and culture, sports and, of course, politics.

So, too, the privately-owned media including the newspapers and the radio stations, cannot be accused of being against, or in favour of everything the government does. Programmes such as "The- Breakfast Show" on GTV, "Hot Issues" "on TV3, “Front Page" on Joy FM, "Agenda setting" on, Choice FM, just to mention a few, are first class manifestations of the advancement of the media industry in Ghana. But it must be admitted that sometimes, in their anxiety to discharge their duties, some media personnel tend to go to the extreme and cause excesses.

However, that is not the reason why journalists must be arrested and dumped in jail like common criminals. This is why the repeal of the Criminal Libel Law has placed the Ghana Government on top, of' all Commonwealth governments as far as freedom of the media and for that matter, freedom of expression and thoughts of the people of Ghana are concerned.

Now it's the responsibility of the media practitioners to reciprocate the goodwill of the government. This is a challenge to all journalists in Ghana. Those who do not know what to do should consult the Code of ethics of the Ghana Journalists Association (GJA). But the days when Ghanaian journalists were characterised “docile" beings are over forever.

The author works with Information Services Department (ISD) abissath@gmail.com

NB: This article was first published by Daily Graphic Tuesday, September 11, 2001.


LESSONS FROM THE STADIUM DISASTER

By Mawutodzi K. Abissath

Thursday, November 15, 2001
PHILOSOPHICALLY, life itself is an eternal school of learning. And there are two principal ways of learning a lesson in life; either through experience or by the hard way.

So, too, it is common place that there are two kinds of disasters - natural disasters over which, man has no control and man-made disasters, which can be prevented or avoided by prudent living. 
      
Ghana is such a blessed land that hardly experiences some catastrophic natural disasters such as earthquakes, volcanoes, hurricane Michelles and Mozambican-like- floods and so on. The nation must be grateful to the Creator for this blessing. But it seems Ghanaians have taken this kind of "cosmic benediction" for granted and have been living reckless lives leading to some of the man-made disasters that have been befalling the nation.

Records from the National Road Safety Commission show that last year (2000) alone, 14,650 motor accidents occurred in this country. Out of this 10,518 people injured and 1,159 souls perished just like that. Why? Simply because some of our people are either ignorant or have deliberately refused to learn from experience or to adhere to a simple instruction that, "If you drink don't drive and if you drive don't drink." Christmas is at the corner and the nation is watching motorists.

On Wednesday, May 9, 2001 in the afternoon, after a downpour in Accra, the two most glamorous teams of the land, Accra Hearts of Oak and Kumasi Asante Kotoko, went to play a football match at the Accra Sports Stadium. That simple game of sports, which was supposed to be enjoyed by all and sundry, turned out to be the most disastrous tragedy in the football history of the nation claimed 126 lives within a twinkling of an eye. This was a man-made disaster that could have been avoided.

The government must be commended for the matured and wise manner in which the entire stadium disaster has been handled from the day it occurred to the day the Government White Paper was presented, precisely on Tuesday, November 6, 2001, by the Minister for Information and Presidential Affairs, Mr Jake Obetsebi-Lamptey, at the International Conference Centre  in Accra.

First of all, at the time the disaster occurred, the government had been in office for only five months, no previous experience crisis management of at tragedy of that magnitude whatsoever. Yet, the President of the Republic swiftly exercised his constitutional powers of article 287 (1) and appointed a commission to inquire into the disaster and make a report.

The seriousness with which the Okudzeto Commission went about its task was beyond compare. They must be decorated with national honours for a work well done. The truth is that no human being is perfect, so Ghanaians should not pretend to expect whatever the commission did or whatever recommendations the Government has adopted will be totally perfect.

What is important is for us as a nation to learn how to learn from our mistakes. The day the nation will attain perfection we shall all cease to be human beings. Let's accept the tragedy as a collective karma and deal with it as such.

Another group of people who deserve commendation for the way the stadium disaster was handled is the mass media, especially the FM stations with particular reference to Joy FM and Metro TV: It is recalled that that night it was Joy FM that was covering the event live and calling on people who have cars to move to the Korle-Bu Hospital to convey doctors, nurses and other paramedical volunteers who were ready to assist but were stranded.

When people do well, they must be recognised and appreciated. We should not only take delight in condemning people when they go wrong. Ordinary taxi drivers who helped to convey some of the victims to various hospitals that day must be commended for their spirit of fellow feeling. Above all the generosity demonstrated by individuals and organisations in response to Government's emergency relief fund in aid of the relatives of the victims of the disaster was highly commendable.

Ghanaians are sympathetic "creatures", you know!

The purpose of this piece is not to go over all the recommendations as stated in the government White Paper, which is already in the public domain. One of the recommendations made by the commission and accepted by the government, which this writer finds very insightful, soul stirring and imaginative, is a "fitting memorial to the victims to be erected at a prominent place in the stadium". If we are to learn a national lesson from this stadium disaster, the proposed memorial must serve as a visual monument to prick our conscience whenever we engage in sporting activity.

It is against the backdrop of the above proposal that I doff my hat to the commission for recommending that there should also be "a Living memorial of a stadium development benefit match that will promote good sportsmanship, to be played each year on the Sunday closest to May 9th between Accra Hearts of Oak and Kumasi Asante Kotoko." This is a fantastic recommendation. Hearts and Kotoko must know that football game is not a war where the objective must be to draw the blood from your adversary's veins. They must educate their supporters, who are the troublemakers.

Some people have criticised the government White Paper for failing to punish hooligans who actually started the whole tragedy. But on page 37 of the Commission's interim report, under sub-heading Spectator Behaviour, it was stated that, ‘The evidence before the commission clearly shows that the general behaviour of the spectators in the North Stand throughout the match was commendable. There was the usual drumming and dancing and friendly banter between the supporters of the two teams.

It, however, stated that, “It is only a few minutes to the end of the match, that a section of the spectators at the extreme left side of the North Stand expressed their dissatisfaction and frustration, at what they perceived to be bad refereeing, by throwing missiles aimlessly into the area immediately in front of them.  These were not directed at anyone in particular and the evidence shows that they did not threaten anyone in the Stand or anywhere else in the arena," it concluded.

For all you know, some of the hooligans who could have been punished might have already met their untimely death among the victims. So, shall we give the hooligans the benefit of the doubt, but strongly warn those of them still alive to learn a lesson from this experience? This is just the view of this author and he is the master of his own opinion anyway. Let the nation take care of the living and move forward.

Furthermore, the White Paper made it clear that in order to carry out the Okudzeto Commission's proposals "effectively, expeditiously and comprehensively," the President has set up a Cabinet sub-committee to ensure their implementation.

The members of the sub-committee include the Hon. Minister of Information and Presidential Affairs, the Hon. Attorney-General and Minster of Justice, the Hon Minister of Interior, the Hon Minister of Youth and Sports, and the Hon, Minister of Works and Housing.

The author works with Information Services Department (ISD) abissath@gmail.com

BN: This article was first published by the Daily Graphic Thursday, November 15, 2001.

Monday, April 23, 2018



THE GHANAIAN MEDIA AND THE FUTURE OF GHANA

By Mawutodzi Kodzo Abissath

Daily Graphic Thursday, August 18, 2005

HAVE you realised that the wisdom of African ancestors is beyond compare? This is reflected in their ever green proverbs which modern scholars are wont to quote and unquote. Listen to this Ghanaian one: "If you cut your own tongue and chew it up, you've not eaten any meat".

This is lucid, isn't it? One may be tempted to ask: "Which school did our ancestors attend to acquire such insightful knowledge and wisdom?" 
And are modern educated Africans creating new proverbs for posterity to quote? I leave the answers to the meditation of the reader. But I will postulate that if the Ghanaian media set a negative agenda for Ghanaians to use for self-destruction, there will be no Ghana to build as a nation. I will explain presently.

Records show that media work, or journalism in Ghana started in 1822 in Cape Coast.
That was when General Sir Charles McCarthy, the first colonial governor of the then Gold Coast landed in Cape Coast on March 27, that year and within a few days launched an official paper, called the Royal Gold Coast Gazette. (Those who have value for historical facts can read the rest of this story in a book titled : A Summary History of the GHANA PRESS, written by Mr K. A. B. Jones-Quartey, one time of the Institute of Adult Education, University of Ghana, Legon, published by the Information Services Department in 19740).

Based on the preceding fact, therefore, the Ghanaian media, born in 1822 up to today 2005, over 200 years of existence, cannot be described as a neophyte or amateur. And the contribution of the media in Ghana to freedom of thought, freedom of expression, freedom of association and all the freedoms one can think of including, the fight for self-rule, culminating in independence in 1957, cannot be quantified in real terms & a matter of fact, some of the experiences the Ghanaian media went through after independence were even more traumatic than during the colonial era.

At some stage of military and civilian rules, for instance, the Ghanaian media operated under some of the most abhorrent laws under the sun. One of such Laws was the 'late' Criminal Libel Law, which 'died' in 2001, and the obituary of which we are celebrating today with fanfare.

In fact, at some point in the media history of this country, media practitioners were treated like common criminals. For any small human error they committed, or were' suspected to have committed, even without proof in a competent court of law, they were bundled and dumped in jail like accursed armed robbers.

This writer had his own share of that intolerance and absolute display of misplaced power of authority in May 1999.That was even during a civilian rule, so he knows what he is talking about. It was sad indeed! Such a situation did not allow cross fertilisation of ideas.

It did not permit citizens to exchange divergent views so as to arrive at consensus for nation building. That is not how other nations are moving from the ground into the orbit and back with smiles.
Having said all that it is prudent to sound a note of caution to the Ghanaian media, too.

Remember this African proverb which admonishes that, "If you cry for your chicken, you must cry for the hawk, too." To be frank and blunt, the way some Ghanaian media practitioners are operating today is totally unacceptable as far as professionalism goes.

Observers are worried that even though the Ghanaian media are doing tremendous work for the growth of democracy and good governance in the country, 'some of their actions tend to be causing more harm than good to the image of Ghana, especially on the Internet. It appears some media practitioners take delight in fishing out only negative things to project to the world whilst turning a blind eye to some of the good things the nation is accruing, no matter how modest they may be.

One of the consequences of such negativity is the recent heavy fines being imposed on some media houses by the courts in the country. This is very unfortunate. If care is not taken the media may drive the ship of state straight into a ditch. This will be because the ethics of the profession have been thrown to swines.

In April 1994, the media in Rwanda were reported to have been accused of being the initiators of that nation's genocide. The outcome was that over half a million souls perished in a twinkle of an eye. We in Ghana should not pretend to be angels. We are human beings, and as such, we are treading in the forest of errors.

When our fellow human beings commit errors, we must have the courage to correct them and tolerate them. But it is important for the offenders also to be humble enough to admit their shortcomings and offer apologies. When that is done we must move ahead with our development strategies as a nation. After all, perfection is not attained in one incarnation. We must be prepared to agree to disagree as a people.

It has been observed that for a few years now, the nation has been moving from the culture of silence to the culture of negativity. And it is unfortunate that it is the media that seem to be setting this agenda and the entire society is being led into a bottomless pit of negative thinking, negative talking and negative actions. The situation has not been helped by the mush-rooming of Frequency Modulation (FM) radio stations here and there.

It is indisputable the radio stations in Ghana are making a great deal of impact on the development of the nation in terms of dissemination of information for citizens to know what is happening and how they can contribute their views and ideas to issues of national interest. The impact is even more enormous when the platform is created for listeners to express themselves in their own language. It has been a wonderful experience with the phone-in-programmes.

But, this is exactly where the worse problem of negativity is originating from. A radio presenter or a host of a programme introduces a topic, and some people who do not understand or know the first letter of that topic pick up their telephones, call into the programme and start contributing out of context. If the host of that particular programme himself or herself is not on top of the issue at stake, callers are allowed not only to display their ignorance, but also encouraged to slander, castigate and even assassinate the character of innocent people.

This happens often if the topic in question has a semblance of political discussions. In fact, some callers may deliberately want to vent their spleen on their perceived opponents for the sake of it. They normally have a way of saying and chanting all kinds of unprintable words and go scot-free, without any apologies for the shame they deserve.

This is not good enough, especially if the perceived political opponent is not in the studio or on the other side of the line to respond. This is where professionalism in broadcast journalism is called for. If the media practitioner on duty does not know how to cut off or call that particular caller to order, the seed of animosity, which is sown is not limited only to the caller and the personality concerned.
The party members of that imaginary opponent, his relatives and all sympathisers who will be listening in to that particular programme at the material time become involved. This is how, the entire society is being poisoned like a well of water. The psychological result is that everybody's mind is being poisoned against one another.

Eventually, the collective mind of the nation is programmed as the head of a poisonous snake. Then the people begin to develop the tendencies of "BITE ME, I BITE YOU". Ghana is greater than any individual or personality, be it a media man or woman, politician, or ordinary citizen in the street.

In May 1994, on the occasion of that year's Press Freedom Day, Mr Kofi Annan, the UN Secretary-General, called on media men and women throughout the world to practise what he termed as "Preventive Journalism." He was making reference to what happened in Rwanda the previous month and then pointed out that the genocide in that country could have been prevented if Rwandan journalists had engaged in preventive journalism rather than one of hatred.

This writer would like to add his voice to that of the UN boss and appeal to the Ghanaian media to practise a kind of journalism that will guarantee the future socio-economic, political and cultural survival of Ghana. Let's say NO to hatred journalism in Ghana. Anybody with any idea to transform Ghana from the current culture of negativity to a culture of positivity should e-mail me.

The author works with Information Services Department (ISD) abissath@gmail.com

NB: This article was first published by the Daily Graphic Thursday, August 18, 2015.



ONLINE JOURNALISM PRACTICE IN GHANA

By Mawutodzi Kodzo Abissath


SATURDAY, JULY 15, 2005
Never forget this African proverb which admonishes us that: "When the rhythm of the drum changes, you must also change the cadence of the dance accordingly".

It is now crystal-clear that Information Communication Technology (lCT) has come to stay. It has 'reduced the entire globe into a miniature community, if you like.

ICT has succeeded in no small measure to change the way mankind does things, from birth to death. You can think of e-birth or e-death that is, giving birth electronically or dying electronically and even be buried online?

But one profession on the face of the earth, the practice of which has been affected positively or otherwise by ICT is journalism. As a matter of fact, ICT has even provided more ammunition for people who are of the opinion that journalism is not a profession in the first place.
The truth is that anybody who can write some kind of essay in English language and put it on the Internet can claim to be a journalist. How can we verify the authenticity of the professional affinity of such a person as far as journalism is concerned? Every trade, including even 'buying and selling' ought to be learned if one must be a professional 'buyer and seller'. How much more this noble profession of the fourth estate of the realm?

ICT has transformed journalism into what is now referred to as 'E- Journalism', or 'Online Journalism', or ‘Web-Journalism’.  Hence, practitioners of the profession who possess the skill or the technical know- how of employing the ICT tools to write news on the Internet and the World Wide Web (www) are now called 'E-Journalists' or Online-Journalists or 'Cyber-Journalists'.

Thus, those journalists who do not know or cannot use ICT tools especially the Content Management System (CMS) or think it is not necessary to learn this new way of  practicing the 'trade' are referred to as 'Traditional Journalists'. You may be a veteran in the profession, practicing journalism for a quarter of a century but you cannot be an online journalist unless you learn the technique of e-journalism.

Let us share some basic knowledge in Online Journalism which some Ghanaian journalists were exposed to recently in Accra as part of capacity building for media practitioners in ICT. The French Embassy in Accra in collaboration with the Ghana Journalists Association (GJA) recently organised a short training programme in Online Journalism for 14 journalists from a few media houses including the Information Services Department (lSD) Accra.

The workshop took place at the Advanced Information Technology Institute, Ghana-India Kofi Annan Centre of Excellence in ICT, near the State House in Accra. It is important for the public to know the difference between this centre and the Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Centre at Teshie on the Accra - Tema beach road.
As I was saying, the said E-Journalism workshop was the first of its kind sponsored by the French Embassy in Accra. The resource person by the name Jerome Hourdeaux was a very young E-Journalist of le Nouvel Observateur, one of pure online magazines based in Paris, France. He told us that his media house had another daily newspaper which was in existence long before Online Journalism was born.

In fact, the history of online journalism has it that the very first newspaper in the United States of America to launch an online edition of its newspaper was the Chicago Tribune in 1992, with its version the Chicago Online.

 As for the history of traditional journalism, all journalists know that the etymology of journalism, from the Latin diurnalis was there before Adam and Eve were ejected from the Garden of Eden for defiance, or misbehaviour, or naughtiness, or all of above.  Because we now live in the age of Knowledge Management (KM) and Experience Sharing, (ES) I deem it necessary to share the little we were taught with other colleague Ghanaian journalists who were not at the workshop. Most of the journalists who participated in the programme seemed to be from media houses which were already practicing some kind of Online Journalism.
The new basic technique of writing for the web which we were introduced to is what is known as Blogging. Blogging is simply a new way of creating a personal website which does not involve too many technicalities.            
Unlike the traditional way of developing a website whereby one needs to know (html) or (java script) and what have you, with all ICT jargons, which are confusing to aged-brains, Blogging is easier to grab and create. You can create your own Blog and write articles or any information, including photographs, graphics and other wonderful and beautiful things and upload them on web instantly.
Blog operators are a community of Internet users who create forums for exchange of new ideas and knowledge in ICT. They can chat online. Other important and relevant websites can be linked on Blogs for interaction among users on the Internet.

Online Journalists are now using their own Blogs to link up with other leading media institutions, both printing and electronic, throughout the world. This enables them to enrich the content of their own newspapers or radio and television stations.

Apart from creating personal Blogs as individuals the latest craze is what is known as Corporate Blogging. Organisations and institutions in America and other advanced nations find it easier and cheaper to create Blogs instead of developing normal websites which are rather capital intensive and time consuming. It is also very difficult to manage websites if you are not a technical person. This is why some media houses in Ghana who rely solely on Internet Service Providers (ISP) and Hosts to manage their websites for them sometimes find their sites not being updated regularly.
For example, some state-owned media houses still have J. J. Rawlings as the President of Ghana. Another important ministry still has Dr Ekwow Spio-Garbrah as the Minister for Education in Ghana on their websites. This is very misleading to foreigners who may visit such websites to obtain information on Ghana. The Blog used by the resource person to introduce the new technique to us at the workshop was in French. He explained that, that was the one he was more familiar and conversant with. He advised us to explore the Internet and discover other Blogs in English by using the Google.com search engine.

However, the one we learned for demonstration at the workshop is this: http://www.over-blog.com. After formulating this address, as URL you will be taken to a web page where you will have to click on 'create your free blog'. Then you will have to register online by giving your name and address; the title of your Blog; the name of your Blog, that is, how you may want your personal website to be known by other web or Blog users.

After going through the procedure, you will have to click on 'I accept' policy agreement that you will not use pornographic materials on the Blog and that you will not indulge in copyright and other illegal online practices etc. Then you will submit your request by clicking on envoyer or send. When your application is approved, you will receive a confirmation through your e-mail address. This implies that you will have to have an e-mail address in the first place.

After you have received your confirmation within a few minutes or so of registration, you may enter your e-mail address and password. You will now be taken to another web page where you can actually create your own Blog.

As explained above, the URL given here will take you to a web page where all the instructions for the creation of free Blog are in French language. There you may click on modules to choose a template of your choice.  When you click on articles, a working page will appear just as compose in yahoo, or hotmail for you to write your article or news and post it online. That is all! To preview your article, just click on apercu at the top right corner of the page.

If you are already familiar with web development, you can easily do this without any problem at all. But if you are a neophyte like me, then you may need some initial guidance.


I am still learning. But if in your estimation, I am a little ahead of you, and you are desirous of knowing this latest way of writing for the web and creating a Blog then I should be obliged to share this basic knowledge in Online Journalism with you.

The truth is that, whether we like it or not, lCThe T is the technological revolution of the 2Ist   century and Online Journalism is the future of our time-honoured profession.

The author works with Information Services Department (ISD) abissath@gmail.com

NB: This article was first published by Daily Graphic on Saturday, July 15, 2005.

Monday, April 16, 2018



THE INFORMATION CLEARING HOUSE COMMUNICATION 
INFRASTRUCTURE TAKES SHAPE

By Mawutodzi K. Abissath

Saturday, September 16, 2000. N0. 148013. PRICE: ¢1000
IT is no longer a dream that the 21st Century is for information revolution and global knowledge through Communications Technology. Thus, any nation that fails to put the necessary information infrastructure in place should not blame Jesus if its citizens have no access to information in Heaven.
On. Thursday, September 7, 2000 at the Ankobra Hall within Novotel in Accra, the Ministry of Communications, for that matter Ghana Government launched what was termed a National Information Clearing House (NICH) pilot project.
The basic objective of this project among other things, is to create awareness of the existence of an electronic information and communication channel to facilitate exchange of information between government institutions, private sector organisations, the academia, NGOs and the general public as a whole.

As a matter of fact, it is imperative to put on record that the launching of the NICH was just one aspect of a major country wide programme for Communication and Development in collaboration with other sectors of the economy. Some of the main partners in this country programme include the ministries of Education, Health, Agriculture, Environment, Science and Technology, as well as the Ghana Society of Information Technology, the Internet Society of Ghana and others. The entire programme was under the tutorialship of the International Institute for Communication and Development (IICD) based in The Hague, The Netherlands.

Hon. John Mahama, the Communications Minister who performed the launching event on behalf of his other colleagues told stakeholders in the Information Technology (IT) business that it is the priority of the Government to extend Communications and Information infrastructure to the rural areas for the economic prosperity of ordinary people. He cautioned that in our anxiety to implement Information Communications Technology (ICT) programme a care must be taken in order not to create what he termed as "information" "haves" and "have nots".  There is therefore the need to provide affordable computer literacy, Internet and telecommunications services to our rural brothers and sisters the Minister noted.

According to the Director of International Institute of Communication and Development, the Global Teenager project is committed to stimulating the use of ICTs for the creation of cross-cultural understanding with focus on two-way communication between students in different countries. Its motto is: "Today's Learners Are Tomorrow's Leaders”.

Dr Nii Quanor or NCS, who is also the President of Internet Society of Ghana said that in future multimedia information economy, the places (town, country and region) where bandwidth and Information Technology do not pass will be less developed. "That's what happened to some cities each time railways, roads, air routes, in general where transportation arrived, it influenced development", Dr Quanor said.

One other important aspect of the country programme which was also launched on September 7 was the global Teenager project. Mr Mahama noted that the establishment of the National Information Clearing House project by the Communications Ministry to network the electronic information system between government and the people will greatly enhance access to information by simple click of a button.

He reasoned that if the right information infrastructure is not put in place, information will be available but people will find it difficult if not impossible to access it for development purposes.

The author works with Information Services Department (ISD) abissath@gmail.com

NB: This article was first published by Daily Graphic on Saturday, September 15, 2000.