Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Ghana's Information Minister shows up on Facebook

By Emmanuel K. Dogbevi

Believe it or not, Ghana’s Minister of Information is now on Facebook, the most successful social networking site so far.

Facebook was started about five years ago by a young man, Mark Zuckerberg with college students in mind. But in the five years since it started, the site has gained over 250 million users, and cuts across all groups. Someone had said elsewhere that if it was a country, Facebook would have been the third most populated country in the world!

While it does not release its earnings, a recent stock buy-out option valued the site around $6.5 billion.

The Ministry announced her presence in a press statement released in Accra Tuesday September 1, 2009.

According to the release the Minister, Zita Okaikoi announced that she will be available for two hours every week to interact and answer questions on her Facebook page.

It added that the two deputies at the Ministry, James Agyenim-Boateng and Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa would also at different times be online to interact.

The news is immediately heartwarming and encouraging. It is encouraging in the sense that government machinery is waking up, albeit a bit late to the realities of the times. Despite an ambitious and forward looking ICT development agenda, government has consistently paid lip service to the actual implementation of ICT led programmes to bring about real transformation.

It is instructive to say however, that the ICT revolution taking place in Ghana currently is increasingly led by the private sector and individual initiatives.

A professor of computer science Prof. Clement Dzidonu had warned that Ghana as a country cannot make much progress by merely promoting Information Communication Technology (ICT).

He said, “ICT per se will not solve our problems, you need other resources like power and so on to make use of ICT. Buying electronics gadget without using them to solve your problems is a double loss.”

Prof. Dzidonu, who is also the President of Accra Institute of Technology, argues that while there is growing awareness of ICT in Ghana, the country is still at what he calls “the preliminary stages” of ICT. He said the country has not got to the stage where it could use ICT to transform the society and economy. That is the challenge the country is facing.

While the move by the Information Ministry is in the right direction, it is hard to see how the Ministry which has persistently performed one of its primary duties of media accreditation at below any standards elsewhere, could successfully use new media to effectively and efficiently engage the public.

Again it is curious to see how the Ministry which has an entrenched image as propaganda wing of government, would succeed in the virtual world of the World Wide Web.

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