Friday, June 29, 2012

By Mawutodzi K. Abissath
Indeed, the popular adage that “Rome was not built in a day” is a universal truism. Even the Supreme Creator Him/Herself, who could have created the world in a second, took seven long days to accomplish the task of creation, according to scriptures.
M.K.Abissath, Workshop Facilitator
In Ghana, the concept of Community Information Centre (CIC) aimed among other things to bridge the digital divide between urban and rural dwellers is gradually but steadily taking root and shape. The CIC concept falls within the framework of Ghana’s Information and Communication Technology (ICT) for accelerated development (ICT4AD) which formally took off in 2004 in the country.
It is against this backdrop that the Ghana Investment Fund for Electronic Communications (GIFEC) of the Ministry of Communications, in collaboration with the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development, the Ministry of Information and the United Nations Fund for Development (UNDP) a two-day capacity building workshop for District Information Officers (DIOs) and CIC Managers in Accra.
Held under a broad theme of Capacity Building in Digital Content Creation and Management at the District Level, the workshop brought together 40 participants made up of one DIO and one CIC Manager each drawn from selected 20 districts where the CICs are reported to be doing well.
Basically, the objective of the workshop was to update and upgrade the knowledge and skills of DIOs and Managers of CICs to enable them to put to good use new Desktop television equipment that was procured by GIFEC for their respective CICS for the benefit of the rural people with their designated communities.
The Desktop television is a multimedia facility that will enable CICs to telecast relevant socio-economic activities, development news, educational campaigns as well as entertainment and recreational events being organized by the people and for the enjoyment of people themselves at with their communities in their own districts.
The Desktop television technology is an innovative multimedia facility that does not need internet connectivity to operate. It can be used broadcast locally created contents using basic tools such as digital cameras for information gathering, multimedia packaging in audio-visual, text and photograph to tell interesting stories as well do business with the outside world if networked.
Thus, for the DIOs and CIC Managers to acquire the needed skills to make maximum use of the technology, they were taken through digital content creation techniques such as blogging, basic video documentary production, writing for the web, photo editing and video editing techniques and how to upload pictures to illustrate stories on their own blogs.
Even though there have been some technological challenges because one or two participants, especially DIOs were having the opportunity to use the computer for the first time, majority of demonstrated they were up to the task.
 This was reflected in their output when the workshop was broken for group work. At the end of it all participants were able within the short span of 48 hours created blogs and produced short video documentaries after the hands-exercise. As a matter of fact, two days was extremely too short a period to master any new technology. But the creativity and ingenuity of the participants was amply demonstrated for what they were able to display within the time constraint.

Brightening the Corner where you are
Hon. Kofi Attoh, CEO, GIFEC

Mr. Kofi Attoh, Chief Executive Administrator of the GIFEC, who formally brought down the curtain on the two-day workshop on Wednesday, 27th June 2012 at the Ghana Multimedia Incubator Centre (GMIC) here in the capital city of Accra, advised DIOs and CIC Managers to endeavour to add value to their respective CICs for the benefit of their communities and for their own self-actualisation. “You must brighten the corner where you are,” Mr. Koffi  Attoh counseled them.
According to Mr. Attoh, the selection of workshop participants was not done, as he put it, on the basis of a ‘coin-tossing’ fashion as in the case of two football captains to determine who plays from right to left and vice versa. “You have been selected from among 93 other operational  CICs  to be trained because  GIFEC, and for that matter, Government has provided your Centres with Desktop Television equipment  in addition to the usual computers and internet facilities at your Centres,” he noted.
Mr. Attoh explained that the first 20 Desktop television equipment were procured at very high cost and distributed free of charge to the CICs that were deemed to be doing well. This, he said was   to enable them to display the activities, programmes and development  projects taking place in their Municipal, Metropolitan and District Assemblies (MMDAs) for the information, education and entertainment of the rural brothers and sisters, especially the youth.
The GIFEC Boss intimated participants were brought to Accra for training so that they would know how to use the new technology to serve its intended purpose. “If you provide equipment or gadgets for the CICs and the people don’t know how to use them, then its better you did not acquire them in the first place,” he pointed out.
Mr. Kofi Attoh said efforts were being made to provide the new technology to other CICs in due course. Hon. Attoh tossed the idea for GIFEC to consider sponsoring some DIOS and CIC Managers for further training courses at the Ghana Institute of Public Administration (GIMPA) and other institutions of higher learning to upgrade their knowledge and skills to enhance their academic and professional competencies.
Mr. Attoh urged the DIOs to explore the potential of ICT platforms to promote and project   investment opportunities, tourism attractions, the economic activity, festivals, and unique cultural heritage of their respective districts to be uploaded on their districts blogs or websites to be accessed globally to attract investors and tourists to their communities.
“The world is at your doorstep, must bring investors and tourists to district blogs or websites to see your farm produce and other cash crops available in your districts. You must tell your story to world while at the same time informing and educating your people to know development activities taking place in and around them,” he stressed.
Mr. Kofi Attoh advised the CIC managers to collaborate with DIOs by using their technical know-how to support them when they create the local content for it to be uploaded on the blogs become more accessible globally.
The GIFEC Boss urged CIC Managers to be proactive and innovative in the day to day running of the Centres. This, he said they must do in collaboration with expected CIC governing committees including DIOs, District Planning Officers, District Budget Officers,Traditional Authorities, Women Groups as well as some Community Based Non-governmental Organisations.
“You must endeavour to sensitise your Municipal, Metropolitan and District Assembly (MMDAs) members, government officials, farmers, traders, fisher folks, teachers, students, especially the youth on the use of the internet and its advantages and benefits.
“When mountain does come to David, David must go to the mountain,” so to speak, philosophised Mr. Attoh. He gingered the CIC Managers not to sit down with their hands in their laps, lamenting that people are not coming to their Centres to do business.
“You must communicate and educate the people about the internet as a two-way process in which data and information are sent and received between two and more parties. It is your duty to tell the people how knowledge and understanding the use of data and information can lead to their own empowerment and improvement of their standard of living standards,” Mr. Attoh opined.
For example, if the farmer or fisherman has information about more competitive prices of their produce in Kumasi than Accra, they would prefer selling the goods and services to the highest bidder. “And this will make them earn more income to pay their children’s school fees and live about life.”
The GIFEC Chief Administrator, therefore, urged DIOs and CIC Managers to put on their thinking cup and search for new and innovative ways to harness the power of the Information Technology (IT) to enhance the economic, social, cultural, educational and development objective of the people at the grassroots level to minimise the incidence of urban-rural migration or exodus in search non-existing greener pastures and their consequences including wrongdoings.
 Mr. Attoh  that pointed out that this explains why Government is making tremendous efforts at using ICT and innovative ways to address the some of the  multiple challenges confronting rural populations under a single roof, providing simple, single-point access to information and services to rural people  though the Community Information Centres.

Alhaji Botingnaa Alhansan, LGS

Alhaji Botingnaa M.B.Alhansan, Coordinating Director of Local Government Services (LGS), disclosed the Local Government Service Council has adopted ICT policy to ensure that local government services are automated and computerised to promote local and national development strategies.
According to Alhaji Alhasan, the Local Government Service in collaboration with UNDP is working to provide internet access to district assemblies nationwide to automate human resource data for efficient and effective human resource management for better planning and implementation of policies.
 The Local Government Service Coordinating Director has revealed that the Service has adopted a new scheme of service for IT technicians to help retain them the public service. “A career path in IT and Information management Systems can be taken at Local Government Service with clear opportunities for progression,” hinted.
Alhaji Alhasan told participants that the basic entry point for the ICT category staff is “Data Entry Clerk through Assistant Director of Management Information Systems to Director Management Information Systems,” he concluded.
Ms. Vivian Ayeboah, CIC Manager for Ga East Municipal Assembly, Greater Accra, who was elected Class Captain spoke on behalf of course participants. He was full of praise for the organisers of the programme, and assured GFEC that they knowledge they acquired would be put to good use.
Ms. Yeboah, however, used the occasion to appeal to the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development to impress on MMDAs to effectively involve DIOs and CIC Managers in all their activities and programmes to enable them obtain relevant data and information for video documentation and blogging for the benefit of visitors to the Community Information Centres.
Mr. Philip   Prempeh, GIFEC, Mr. Mawutodzi Abissath, ISD/Ministry of Information, Mr. Truth Lumor, UNDP and Mr. Kudjo Tsiagbe, Integrated Multi-Media served as workshop Facilitators.  Topics treated included Digital Content Creation at the District Level, Web Development and Content Management, Entrepreneurship & Small Business Management and Desktop Television Operation at the CICs.

Chick here to view more pictures of the workshop

Story and Photographs by M.K.Abissath Deputy Director/Head of IT, ISD, Ministry of Information

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

By Mawutodzi K. Abissath

A two-day workshop aimed at updating and upgrading the knowledge of District Information Officers (DIOs) and Community Information Centres (CICs) Managers opened in the capital city of Accra yesterday, with a call on participants to take advantage of the programme for their own technological advancement and for the benefit of their respective Municipal, Metropolitan and District Assemblies (MMDAs).

The workshop which is being organized by the Ghana Investment Fund for Electronic Communications (GIFEC) brought together 40 participants drawn from selected MMDAs throughout the country. It is under a broad theme: Capacity Building in Content Management -Creating Content at the District Level.
Mr. Michael Agyei Takyi Technical Director at GIFIC, who opened the workshop on behalf of the Executive Administrator, Hon. Kofi Attoh, told participants that the event forms part of GIFEC’s capacity building and training programme in ICT for the accelerated development of the country.

He said it is Government polity to bridge the digital gap between the urban and rural dwellers through the establishment of CICs. “This policy cannot be fulfilled without the role of the DIOs and CICs managers,” he noted.

Mr. Takyi advised the DIOs and the CICs managers to see themselves as partners in development at the District level and closely collaborate with one another and work as a team to ensure that government information, policies and programmes are effectively disseminated to members of the rural communities through the CICs. “After today’s workshop, you must see yourselves as a pair or twins and work together at the CIC in your district,” he stressed.

Madam Victoria Dei-Kumah of GIFEC and Coordinator of the programme assured participants of their welfare and advised them to take advantage of the opportunity.
Mr. Mawutodzi K. Abissath, Deputy Director at the Information Services Department of the Ministry of Information and Mr. Truth Lumor of UNDP were resource persons who took participants through the programme. Mr. Abissath handled Content Creation at the District Level, while Mr. Lumor focused on Website Development and Digital Content management.
(Opened on Tuesday, 26th , the workshop is expected to end on Wednesday, 27th June, 2012).

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

By Mawutodzi K. Abissath

Just keep this popular Chinese proverb in mind as you move on in life: “A journey of a 1000 miles or approximately 2000km begins with one step.”
Records show that President Dwight D. Eisenhower was the first US President who established the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in 1958. Then President John F. Kennedy on 25th May, 1961, in a speech - challenged American scientists “to land a man on the moon and bring him back safely by the end of the 1960s.”

True to President JFK’s words, the American scientists took up the challenge and when the state put resources at their disposal, precisely on 20th July, 1969, Neil Armstrong and Edwin Aldrin, through Apollo 11 mission, became the first two humans to land and walk on the surface of the moon in human history. This is inspirational leadership par excellent!

That scientific and technological feat was unprecedented in the annals of human ingenuity. It proved clearly that man is microcosm or a small-scale version, within macrocosm or a larger scale form of God. The inference is that man was truly created by God in His own image. Those who don’t believe in the existence of God should just block there nostrils and mouth for ten minutes and they will live to win other souls to their thinking.

So, over 40 years ago, as village kindergarten kids here in West Africa, our teacher told us that we should stay awake and watch some people from America, who would land on the moon that night. At that time some of us did not even know what is called America.

Indeed, at the appointed time, some of us out of mere curiosity, fixed our naked eyes gazing squarely towards the dark sky and faintly saw some dark object rotating round the moon clockwise several times, as the Apollo 11 space craft was negotiating to land on the fragile moon. We gaped with awe!

Ghanaian scientists
Respected reader, I have related the preceding anecdote to illustrate what a visionary leadership coupled with inspirational direction can do for a nation. If Americans can do it, there is no reason why Ghanaians cannot achieve the same feat. As a matter of fact, as we speak there is a Ghanaian Robotics Engineer by the name Dr. Ashitey Trebi-Ollennu, who is not only a mere worker at NASA, but is playing a leading role in Mars Exploration Rover project over there. In fact he was in Ghana a couple of years ago to introduce robotics engineering to some second cycle students in this country.

It is against this backdrop that this writer wishes to commend Ghana’s Ministry of Environment, Science and Technology for officially launching Ghana Space Science and Technology Centre (GSSTC) in May this year. The event took place within the premises of Ghana Atomic Energy Commission School for Nuclear and Allied Sciences here in the capital city.


For this writer, the day of the formal launch of GSSTC project, precisely on May 2, 2012, was a fine opportunity for any visionary and inspirational leader in this country, not necessarily a politician, to have come out boldly and thrown a challenge to Ghanaian scientists that, by the year 2030, they must transform say, the Nyanpkala campus of the University of Development Studies into “Ghana Agricultural Space Science Laboratory through the Savanna Accelerated Development Authority (SADA) project. What is the priority of the Ghanaian leadership over the years?

Ghanaian media
But what amazed this author the more was the lackadaisical manner in which the media covered that epoch-making event. The official launch ceremony of the GSSTC was performed by the Chairman of the Council of State, Prof. Kofi Awoonor on behalf of the President on 2nd May, 2012.

One would have thought that for once, the media would have put politics temporarily on the back burner and blown this scientific and technological dream of our beloved country out of proportion. This is to show to the rest of the world that Ghana too, has taken the first step to its 1000 miles journey into the space.
But the agenda setting role of the Ghanaian media seems to be diametrically opposed to Scientific and Technological Development Theory we studied in Journalism school. What is our priority as the fourth estate of the realm in Ghana?
As we speak, other countries are scrambling for space in the space as the colonial masters were once over one another’s throat for lands in Africa which led to the partitioning of the Continent after the Berlin Conference in November 1885. If Ghana does not make haste now, she will not have a place to plant her flag and later build her embassy in space in the very near future.

Benefits of Space Science Centre
Hon. Sherry Ayittey, Ghana’s Minister for Environment, Science and Technology who outlined the vision, mission and objectives of the GSSTC that day said: “The introduction of advanced technology in most developing nations worldwide has been found to be a key component for accelerated development. This is evident in the important roles played by mobile telecommunications and information technology in changing the socio-economic face of Ghana in the past few years,” she noted.
According to Hon. Sherry Ayittey, “the vision of the Space Centre is to uncover and exploit the capabilities of space science and technology for national socio-economic and technological advancement and development through education and cutting-edge research, “she said.

The Minister enumerated several benefits Ghana stands to gain from the establishment of the Space Centre: “Under Agriculture, we will be able to monitor crops in Continental Climates through assimilation of satellite information; and also space technologies to describe a specific situation using all relevant information available on the territory.”

She cited water availability, soil types, land cover, climatic data geology, population, land-use, administrative boundaries and infrastructure (highways, railroads, and electricity or communications systems.)” for illustration.
Other important benefits Ghana was billed to gain included: “For National Security, space technology application will be used by the security forces to police land, air, and sea of territorial space of the country. It is also required for maintaing law and order such as monitoring major activities in real time.” Ghana is now an oil producing country and her vessels must be protected against rascal terrorists, who have been harassing cargo ships on high sea.

2012 G8 Summit
Only a couple of days ago, President Barrack Obama of US invited the Ghanaian President Prof John Evans Atta Mills, and three other African heads of state to participate in this year’s G8 Summit that took place at Camp David, Maryland . Records show that in the history of G8 Summits, Ghana is the only African country whose Presidents have been invited twice to attend that prestigious summit. The first Ghanaian President to be invited was President John Agyekum Kufour and President Prof John Evans Atta Mills was the second. This is not by accident.
On President Mills return from the G8 Summit, the Ghanaian Minister of Food and Agriculture, Hon. Kwesi Ahoi, who was among the Presesident’s entourage to the Camp David summit told Ghanaians that our beloved country was granted 600 million dollars from a three-billion-dollar fund for the new Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition being championed by the G8 countries.

Thanks to ICT tools the whole world saw it live on television how President Obama was very serious and pointed out that there was no earthly reason why Africa should not be able to feed itself. The chosen few African leaders who were called to partake in the bread and wine on the G8 Summit table went there because of food security in the first place. So, if in the next ten years Africa is able to feed itself and export surplus foodstuffs to America, President Obama’s vision would have been fulfilled. Are African leaders taking any notes?

Since of one of the goals of the Ghana Space Science and Technology Centre is to help in the advancement of the Agricultural sector through the provision of relevant information in water availability, soil types, land cover, climatic data, geology and land-use and so on, it is suggested that at least, five percent (5%) of the $600 million G8 grant should be invested in the Space Centre project. This is where the Nyanpkala Agric Space Science Laboratory project comes in.
Ghanaians must not only think of what to eat today, but what will ensure the survival of posterity as well. This is what I will term as sustainable development. And that is why the wanton destruction of the country’s rivers by “galamsey” operators ought to be seen as a national tragedy.