Wednesday, October 21, 2009
Announcing 233 Tech
Yes, we have finally started the march onto what I hope will become of the best content networks for Ghanaian content.
Sadly that means I have to say goodbye to this blog and focus my attention on making 233 Tech the best it can be.
You can still follow me on twitter (@just2izy). Its been wonderful, although I wish I could have shared my thoughts on several more issues and posted more often.
Thanks to anyone who read or commented on this blog. Thanks!
Saturday, July 11, 2009
Fact. Ghana was the number one trending topic on Twitter during Barack Obama's speech to Africa.
This is a big deal. Against the Iran Elections, Michael Jackson and other topics on the minds and hearts of people, Ghana became number one on twitter as Obama was delivering his speech.
I personally have had people who would in no way have met me either online or offline relay my thoughts and opinions all over the world. I believe others like (@Kwabena, @jdakorah, ) had similar experiences. It is a great time to be Ghanaian but we have #obamaghana fever for only a few more hours or days at best. It is time to take that popularity and sustain it into branding Ghana as a destination for investment and tourism.
In stating the above it must be obvious that majority of this interest especially in terms of sustained interest was on online social sites like Twitter and Facebook and discussion forums on news websites like BBC Have Your Say.
Capital required for initiatives to improve the tourism and investment outlook of a country are usually large and pound for pound or more appropriately; 'Naira for Cedi' or 'Rand for Cedi', Ghana cannot compete with juggernauts like Nigeria and South Africa and even the North Africa countries. This is where 'obamamania' provides us with a tremendous opportunity to level the playing field and we must not squander it.
The Ministry of Tourism recently launched a three (3) year tourism strategy (Budget:GHC 15 million) and I assume our capable and able leadership have included budgets for online and social media channels. Online social media like any medium online and offline needs time, investment and strategic understanding to effectively deliver a return on investment. The government needs to embrace this new medium and find the people with the right skills and knowledge to effectively use this medium.
Facebook, Twitter, YouTube all offer a possibility to send our message to the world, if harnessed properly. This medium offers great opportunities at relatively lower costs. Leveraging the viral and interactive nature of social platforms including their ability to provide a more personal experience can be a powerful way to improve the marketing mix for 'Brand Ghana'. In some cases social media campaigns could be more effective than ad spots on CNN. I mean remember the beautiful ad campaign on CNN about two years ago? They didn't last very long and I assume the rates of ad spots were just unsustainable for long term with the tourism budgets available to Ghana. (Help with Youtube Ad URL, still can't find it. Add link in comments)
I believe to effectively execute any type of tourism strategy, the ordinary Ghanaian must pitch in. As the visit of Obama has shown without any direct investment an army(#Ghana, #obamaghana) rose up to ensure Ghana was the focus in the eyes of the world online. It is time for us to draw lessons from 'Mr Hope' himself Barack Obama. Heres's a quote from 'The Social Pulpit' a study by the PR Firm, Edelman of Obama's succesful use of social media.
Barack Obama won the presidency in a landslide victory (by a margin of nearly 200 electoral votes and 8.5 million popular votes) by converting everyday people into engaged and empowered volunteers, donors and advocates through social networks, e-mail advocacy, text messaging and online video. The campaign’s proclivity to online advocacy is a major reason for his victory
Remember, the same ads I referred to were distributed on Facebook and watched hundreds of times on Youtube. Give us 10 videos like that within the three (3) year campaign and I guarantee a viral distribution without any direct prompting. Our very own Brand Ghana army is waiting to be mobilized. South Africa is doing this very effectively with its 'My South Africa' campaigns.
Barack Obama during his campaign and in his administration uses technology and new media to ensure his message is heard. Ghana must embrace this culture and make of message of opportunity reach the companies, governments and people of the world.
The following section, is almost a 'how-to' for doing it the wrong way. I have struggled with myself whether to include this section in this post, but it would be irresponsible not to show the potential consequences of underestimating the power of the internet and new media (blogs, social networks). In aiming to promote Ghana, I sought to highlight Panafest in my tweets. Google 'Panafest 2009 website' and this is what you discover.
Welcome to what was once the Panafest - Ghana website. To satisfy your curiosity, I am the former webmaster and I have removed the website from the internet for nonpayment of fees by the principal organisers of the event.
Simply it tells the tale of people misunderstanding the far reaching consequences of this medium and how the organisers of Panafest have done Ghana a great disservice.
(Note: I do not condone the action of the 'webmaster' but he seems to really want his money)
However this also brings hope because it allows me to start a real life case of why social media works.
PROJECT CODENAME: Social Media Works.
Follow @panafest on twitter for updates.
Share this Ghana.gov Panafest article URL : http://bit.ly/kCw3Z
I will update this post with statistics on how well the link is doing. Please help me prove that, New media works.
Yes We Can!
Tuesday, June 16, 2009
In the past weeks 'issues' about travel allowances for the Minister of Sports (aka the Triple M scandal) which ended with the Minister resigning for inappropriate use of public funds and two public official being asked to refund $20,000 to the state made me remember two posts I did sometime in 2007. At its basic the posts (The Book of Efficiency, Chapter One Part One and Part two were about using technology to make public expenditure and procurement more transparent, efficient and cost-effective.
Expenditure by public institutions is a huge problem for any government and especially so for the present Mills Administration because it was of the pillars of their election campaign. Technology I believe can be used to address many issues surrounding public expenditure.
In the posts mentioned above (please read them; Part One & Part Two), the UK Government (the US & Canada have similar schemes) designed and deployed an electronic payment scheme for use in Low value, High Volume purchases by Government Departments and Agencies called the Government Purchasing Card (GPC) programme, way back in 1997.
The main problems I see with public expenditure are; Transparency, Control, Efficiency and Cost-Savings.
Government expenditure is usually the trickiest part of governance for any nation because it either creates wealth, improves the health and well being of a nation and protects citizens from harm or it enriches public officials and their cohorts. Transparency i believe is the key to ensuring government spends tax payers money in ways which broadly benefit the populace. If the public does not know what is being bought, contracted for or wasted, how do we approve or disapprove. Electronic transactions by their nature improve transparency and access to financial information about expenditure and reduce the scope for illegal activities.
In the case of Ghana, a similar scheme to the UK Government Procurement Card programme would provide information about financial transactions to several institutions: Ministry of Finance and Sector Ministries (eg. Ministry of Transport); Government Departments and Agencies (GDA eg. Municipal & District Assemblies, EPA, Urban Roads,etc); Financial institutions (Provider Banks, Visa, MasterCard); Scheme Merchants & Retailers.
In the preceding list, the most interesting are the financial institutions. Collusion and corruption between government ministries and its associated departments to perpetuate the $1,000 - $50,000 schemes suddenly must involve some of these public organisations to work flawlessly. Between rigorous audits from international regulators and shareholders, loss of millions of dollars in fines and lost credibility for $10,000 rip-off schemes, most will say, No Thank You!
Electronic transactions may ensure 'The Right to Information Bill' could allow access to expenditure information for monitoring and audits by the public and interest groups because electronic data scale better than paper. Transparency ensures better control.
The main principle in UK was "Relevant financial thresholds set to capture a large percentage of low value purchases with appropriate controls, but minimizing restrictions." Basically controls were set based on the requirements of individual cardholders tailored specifically to suit each department.
The linchpin of this framework [the GPC programme] was an organized series of automatic preventive checks regarding a range of limits on expenditure: the maximum value of each individual transaction carried out by the GPC holder; the card’s period of validity; the cumulative ceiling set for each department or office
In the case of 'Triple M' the person releasing funds under 'Travel Allowance' could not have credited the Minister with more than the maximum of $1,200. In more flexible implementations, payment can occur but will trigger in-built reporting mechanisms. Such control mechanisms ensure ad hoc revisions by cardholders are reduced to a bare minimum and each such allowed overspend is documented and must be accounted and explained.
The key in all this is to provide controls but not to overly restrict the ability of individual cardholders to take decisions within the rules. Control should therefore lead to efficiency.
Efficiency of government procurement is one of the main reasons for the enactment of the National Procurement Act, Act 669. In trying to attain efficiency it must be done in accordance with the legalities of this Act.
Pre-qualifying suppliers, merchants and retailers in compliance with Act 669 and without marginalizing local providers for goods and services procured using government cards can greatly improve procurement efficiency.
Administrative and management efficiency also increases with electronic transactions as electronic data can be manipulated more easily to improve decision making processes about expenditure.
Another area of efficiency is in payment settlement, which for government contracts usually deter the best suppliers and contractors from participating because of delays in receiving payments. Efficient buying and selling reduces costs.
Electronic transactions provide cost savings in a myriad of ways. The most important cost reduction benefit is in reducing the paperwork involved in procuring goods and services by government. This huge administrative burden provides significant cost savings in eliminating paper-based purchase orders and invoice processing, accounting, record-keeping, storage and retrieval of expenditure related data.
Efficient expenditure by procuring goods and services at competitive prices in bulk by government also saves money. Another cost saving usually ignored is brought about by better priced solutions when payment settlement is reliable. When contractors are unsure about payment they increase prices to ensure their profits do not erode when they finally receive payments.
In summary, electronic payments can provide transparency which allows both government and the public to control expenditure leading to efficient spending and reducing costs.
Saturday, June 6, 2009
The 'One Laptop Per Child' (OLPC) is a project which stirs strong emotions (My original post) in me because I believe it offers the chance to enhance learning and imparting knowledge to school children in developing countries. Many of us have in our own ways lamented on how the lack of practical education from basic to tertiary levels in Ghana, hampers the growth of knowledge and the quality of education Ghana.
The XO-1 laptop offers to a great potential to correct this, if there is enough passion, willpower and thought put into implementing the OLPC vision to enhance our learning and provide a new way to gain knowledge in Ghana. Politics threatens this potential.
Politicians have great power to do good and inspire change but too often we have seen only the dark side of power exhibited. Today another dark cloud looms, one I hope is merely a misunderstanding.
"The Serious Fraud Office (SFO) is investigating the payment for 10,000 Xo Laptops which it perceives was done in haste a day before Professor Mils government was sworn in" (source: Daily Graphic)
I believe earnestly that the SFO has every right to probe into any such possible misappropriation of public funds. My only hope is they realize the payment for US $2,050,000 although done in haste was not illegal. If they find otherwise, OLPC Ghana could be in trouble.
The most important emotion in the implementation of such projects as OLPC is public perception for national good. If any illegality is found, public perception could become anger at another political gimmick to steal public funds. This I fear could be disastrous. Currently 'OLPC' is not exactly a buzzword and for it to become 'popular' only because of another political scandal would be disastrous in the least.
This leads me to another fear I have in my heart about OLPC Ghana, that unless the Ghana Education Service and the Ministry of Education truly understand the potential, this project may get a C instead of an A+. We have enough of such projects, example the Aveyime Rice Project!
I believe putting the XO laptops into the hands of pupils is itself a powerful social and educational change as is evidenced by Nigeria’s experience. (Read BBC article).
My favorite from the Nigerian experience is a boy who went from not so popular to 'Senior OLPC Repair Engineer’ (hope the video is still available) because he could fix most common problems with his and other XO laptops. Also significant is the pride and curiosity the laptops arose in both children and adults.
I believe that the real impact (A+ scorecard) will be for the Ghanaian organizations (GES, MOE, OLPC Ghana) to enhance the curriculum to include practical education, similar to what Thailand and other test countries have shown work.
I hope again this is just a misunderstanding.
How OLPC Ghana began
Paper on OLPC Ghana by SF Buchele
Wednesday, March 4, 2009
Advertising in some aspects is still in its infancy but since multinationals spend huge amounts on advertsisng we are now in an 'Ad Boom'. The question is where do we draw the line and when does advertising stop being innovative and starts irritating.
I think there's a thin line and I will leave you to personally decide but today on my way to the washrooms at Accra Mall I saw no less than3 ad 'systems' at work.
On the walls in the corridor were some wall-mounted ads (Ecobank had taken it), at the end of the corridor a guy was 'lurking' and handing out flyers.(He'd better watch out for germs). Inside the washroom above the urinal basins were ad spaces (face ads is the name of the company) and two had been taken by Marie Stopes ( Sexual, Family Health and Pregnacy awareness) with some STI ads. There was a bigger one showing a 'business card online printing service'.
My thoughts are that well if we're going to have such ads how about a little context, say a hygiene product or if you're a general business like a bank how about a "have u closed your zipper? We pay attention to the little details,bring your business and money to us" kind campaign. No context makes such ads a 'No Win' for me. For example, I need business cards so why didn't I copy the url or address, because I only remembered after I had washed my hands and left and then going back felt odd.
Another ad system at the Accra Mall is 'bluetooth advertising' (someone please try and tell) which excited me to no end the first day I saw it but my BalckBerry is probably preventing access (sob sob).
I feel that 'tech' stuff in themselves will not excite people. Bring on the 'discount coupons' and you have a service. I will 'hack' my BB bluetooth security settings just to get '50%' off Levi's jeans! I'm even thinking of interactive ways of using the bluetooth like allow uploads of funny clips shot at the mall and display, sponsored by Nokia or something.
One person who may have something to say is Amos Anyimadu
(@AfricaTalks) who thinks Ghana is now the capital of 'ugly big
billboards' (via Twitter). I will pose the question to him and update with response.
What do you think? Any thoughts on advertising in Ghana?
Sent from my mobile device
Monday, February 23, 2009
partially by ECG. Yes, ECG! There's 'light off' as we say in Ghana and
my phone is the only thing alive.
Like the title states random thoughts and I contradict myself plenty of times.
Ex-gratia: I think the issue about the 'amounts and numbers' of money
and items must be treated delicately.
What, cars and houses?
Look I also agree it would be better if the State Protocol Department
would host the ex-presidents 'guests'.
But what happens when the SPD boss gets 'annoyed' with an
ex-president. Our societal nuances, lack of political maturity and
other issues means if this alt route is used it must be made into law,
else President Jimmy Carter visiting President Kuffuor sucessfully
depends on the whims of the SPD boss and how he feels about the
ex-president and the same will apply for President Mills if NPP is in
$1 milion Foundation?
If we can build a system to ensure the foundation is not abused it
could be good. President Mills we know loves sports and it means we
will probably get a 1 million dollar sports education fund or a 1
million dollar boxing training academy, etc. What about President
Jerry Rawlings who loves Art. Ghana's first art school perhaps?
So why can't they do this while in government? Because we need a 1
million storage facility in the North, or clean, drinking water
or...... You can't indulge yourself with things you like when in
power. Out of power they can ensure something they are passionate
about gets done.
Wait a minute you say, $ 1 million, you mean 1/60th of the minimum
capitalisation of foreign banks as stated by BoG or 1/600th of the
estimated cost of the Boankra Inland Port (my dream project for job
creation) but we don't have that kind of money to waste!
Well since a foundation and a fund are cousins or at least related
and the most sucessful schemes of recent times are all fund based
(GETFund, NHIS) maybe we should find the money.
Vetting papa paa!!!
I am worried about the vetting process and yet it was a powerful
'state of the mindset' address'
I dare not doubt the character, competence and experince of the
nominees after all I have not yet achieved anything near what most of
them have done. Here's what I learnt.
Tax: the most feared 3 letter word in America, UK don't scare nobody
here in Ghana. The honourable nominee for Women & Childrens
Affair was (she has resigned hopeful as she said) Chairman of an NGOn
actually I think she registered it, and didn't know NGOs have a tax
obligation. Most people live a tax free life and who suffers, Mr
Highway, Mrs Clean Water and their children who are now on Social
Welfare! I think any government that can increase the number of people
paying taxes will do well. I think President Mills agrees with mw on
this as he"s set up a supervisory board. Another board!
Talking of boards, why did the president rush to disslove public
boards handicapping some of the activities of the organisations who
need boards to approve funds (hint:NHIS is one such og).
Anyway. CV. How can big men and women, accomplished so much have such
awful CVs. Full of typos, inconsistencies, all live on national TV.
Oopss or rather Yes!
The power is back and I will leave off my musings to do some work
(maybe a short movie then, work).
Just before I go.
ECG. They do this too much. They say theu need some plenty money($149
million just for the south, I must check the fig) to fix the power
cuts. Yesterday their Manager incharge of Debts was smiling while
telling us people owed them almost $20 million from as far back as
2005 (a single company owed 78,000)
Well hope the conversational manner of this blog is refreshingly
different from my other posts! More powercuts right!
Sent from my mobile device
Tuesday, February 17, 2009
Africa from participating fully in the revolution that is happening
through and on the internet. Although a myriad of issues ( See my post) contribute to the digital divide, one major issue has been Affordable
Access, especially in rural Africa.
Well I am enthused but suprised to stumble on Wireless Ghana, a project using ad hoc MESH networks to provide affordable internet and wide area connectiity to rural communities.
Why surprised? Because it has taken me this long to even hear of such
an initiative. If there is anyone reading who has prior knowledge of
this project why have you not continued to make noise.
Two main things I love about this initiative;
1. Action, Not words, policy, unconferences....
Wireless Ghana has the tagline "interconnectivity for West African
communities" and they are delivering small steps at a time.
The project was lauched in 2005 and currently operates a 20km wide
MESH network (Akwapim Community Wireless Network) using Open Source software and commercial network and PC hardware to share a 128 kbps VSAT internet
access across ten nodes.
It benefits schools, NGOs,small business owners across 6 towns in the Akwapim District of the Eastern Region of Ghana.
2. SMART and DIRTY!
The MESH network is built using;
a. Open Source Software: CUWiNWare (Champaign-Urbana Community Wireless Network)
b. Antenna: Rugged (probably local made) well suited for the terrain
c. Routers: Old unwanted PCs and New Wireless Cards (recycle, reuse)
I love this hands-on, hack stuff together approach because its about
using what's available and usual lowers cost.
( See Flickr Album)
So who are the people behind it?
Three people manage it;
Project Director: Mr. John Atkinson (Peace Corps Ghana); doubles as teacher.
Project co-ordinator; Mr. Gideon Kofi Amoah
Chief Officer of Technology: Mr. Ebenezer Boateng.
Ultimately it belongs to the whole community.
Sent from my mobile device