Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Workshop On Geospatial Science And Technology Underway


Workshop On Geospatial Science And Technology UnderwayPDFPrintE-mail
Wednesday, 03 October 2012 16:04
A first workshop on Geospatial Science and Technology aimed at educating journalists on the use of geo-spatial in the newsroom is underway in Accra. The workshop is organised by the African Media Forum for Geo-information Systems (AMFGIS) in collaboration with the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) and the International Institute of ICT Journalism (Penplusbytes).
The theme for the workshop is “Harnessing Geospatial Science and Technology for Socio-economic Development –The Role of Ghanaian Media”, would focus on topics such as Introduction to Concepts of Geospatial Technologies, Case Studies of GIS Applications in Ghana with special emphasis on how to increase quality and quantity of Geo-Information System stories in Ghana's media.
Mr Kwami Ahiabenu, Co-Chair of AMFGIS, said “the workshop comes at the right time when Ghanaian journalists are grappling with data journalism and trying to make meaning of it and it will seek to enhance the capacity of journalists in Ghana and offer them better ways of reporting on Ghana’s extractive sector”.
He said it would help simplify reports and make it easy for their target audience to understand complex issues and appraise journalists on emerging Geospatial Technologies and Applications.”
About 50 journalists selected from various media houses would be participating in the programme.
AMFGIS is under the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) which seeks to promote collaboration, information and knowledge sharing on geospatial information, science and technology issues and the impact on the country's socio-economic development.
ECA's mandate is to promote the economic and social development of its member States, foster intra-regional integration, and promote international cooperation for Africa's development.
Source: GNA

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Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Foursquare, and a Tale of the birth of the Africa Media Forum for Geo-Information Systems(AMFGIS)

I have been home for the past hour or so mulling in my mind exactly how the day went. Simply put: it was fantastic. This is because for the first-time-ever, I got to chair a meeting impromptu and I actually had a few funny things to say--including wondering how the plot of "Avatar" might have been different if only Sam Worthington and Sigourney Weaver's characters knew how to use geomatics, which is basically another name for geospatial information technology.

If you are confused, don't be, because geospatial information technology is quite simple. It is about LOCATION, LOCATION, and LOCATION. The academics and specialists will give you long lectures of what it is about--including how it "refers to technology used for the measurement, analysis and vizualization of features or phenomena spatial occurrences, which has an impact on a country's socio-economic development ..."-- and much more. In my view, it is pretty simple, especially for journalists in the sense that it is about using maps to tell better stories.

I know that many of the Ghanaian journalists that were there probably got this sense, but I think it is important to home in on this point: it is to complement more than serve as a substitute for anything stories.

Some might say that I would say this wouldn't I, for I had the priviledge of attending a Trainer-of-trainer's meeting on Geospatial Technologies from 16-18 September in Addis. I partly agree. I say partly because I am still trying to get to grips on what it can do for journalists. I have not quite hit it, but I am getting there. Did I say it was using maps to tell better stories?

Out of the Addis meeting, a baby was born--the Africa Media Forum on Geo-Information Systems, which seeks to "be a leading information; knowledge and awareness-raising platform on “Geospatial information science and technology system for socio-economic development."

Today's meeting--sponsored by the UN Economic Commission for Africa--is the first-ever meeting held by AMFGIS. The workshop comes a day before the 7th Annual African Conference & Exhibition on Geospatial Information, Technology & Applications,-which takes place at Movenpick Ambassador Hotel from 3-4 October, 2012 (

Journalists were drawn from print; online; radio; and television, and included Multi TV's Mary-Ann Acolotse and Dansowaa Awuku; Ghanabusiness News' Emmanuel K Dogbevi; Mawutodzi Abissath of the Information Services Department(ISD); Ghana Community Radio Network's Kumadzra; Ghana Radio's Rayborn Bulley; and CITI97.3fm's Citi Breakfast Show producer Philip Kofi Ashon.

The UNECA were in town to offer their usual insights into Geospatial technologies. Aster Denekew Yilma, Geographic Information Systems(GIS) Officer of the ICT and Science and Technology Division and the Director of the Division Mrs.Aida Opoku-Mensah (who is incidentally a prolific tweeter on offered very useful insights, including providing information on the UN Global Geospatial Initiative ( Most importantly, however, were her statements regarding what the UN is doing (in response to a question raised by a participant).

Aida explained that the UN can only do what the UN member states ask it to do; secondly, if we think about how geospatial technology was used to track Al-Qaddafi, we already know what situation we are dealing with. The issue is that one's sovereignty ends, where someone has access to your domain. Third, there is an issue of intellectual property in the sense that Google has our data. Question is: WHO owns the data that Google has of our digital layouts: is it Ghana that owns it, or Google? These kind of issues are those that will inform the discussions of a meeting that will be held in Morocco at the end of October, including legal and regulatory frameworks for geospatial technologies.

If there is anything we should probably take away from the AMFGIS workshop, it is that elements of GIS are already around us as GIS technology can already be found in our smartphones, what with GPS and all. In social media, there has been a development of location-based social media , such as foursquare, including an increased number of web applications that enable one to anchor tweets.

For me, however, a foray into GIS usage would have to be the usage of foursquare. It is essentially location-based social networking. I don't know how many Ghanaians are on that site, but I do know people do use it to show where they are, and to show pictures to attest to their location.

I want to imagine a world where many more Africans find themselves on foursquare, and decide, therefore, to use it constructively by broadcasting their location--not all the time, but at critical times, such as holidays; when they are in town and witness an accident; when they are in the village and want to showcase an innovation coming from there; during public celebrations; etc etc. While the so-called crisis-management community are those likely to benefit  from many more Ghanaians on foursquare, I want to think that it can benefit us all.

The question, now, is whether our journalists have seized the opportunity to think this way, too. I do not know how many participants are on social media, such as Facebook, Twitter, or foursquare, but I do know going forward, it might be important to do a quick mapping of these skills and see how they can be built. In addition, it would be good to know what they think they learnt from the meeting, and what examples they found could be localized.

AMFGIS and geospatial technologies are not an easy sell, but we must all believe it to be useful for development in the long haul and long run.

If you have not yet signed onto the registration form, kindly sign here:

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Ag.President of AJICT-Ghana Appointed to Interim Steering Committee of newly-established Africa Media Forum for Geospatial Information Systems (AMFGIS)

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia--(20 Sept, 2012). Running along the heels of the October 2011 meeting that took place in Abuja, where Executive Member of AJICT-Ghana Mawutodzi Abissath was appointed to the ECOWAS Network of Science Journalists (ENSJ) steering committee, Ag.President of the Association of Ghana Journalists in ICT Emmanuel.K.Bensah Jr is in Addis to learn and obtain capacity-building on science journalism, and report on the launching of the East African Network of Science Journalists.

Prior to that, Mr.Bensah was involved in a Training of Trainers on two days of training aimed at improving the quality of geoinformation, Geospatial Science and Technology reporting and the impact of this area of work on the livelihood of African citizens.

According to a press release of the UN Economic Commission for Africa(UNECA), the first of its kind, the two-day training of trainers was organized by the ICT, Science and Technology Division of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), with participants hailing from western, southern and eastern Africa.

Director of Penplusbytes and chair of the meeting, Kwami Ahiabenu said that all over Africa, technology is playing an important role in transforming life, society and economy of its nations. He underscored that Geospatial Information Systems (GIS) are becoming important tools for effective and efficient strategic planning and decision-making processes at all levels, ensuring development and growth is a reality for all citizens.

A number of recommendations were adopted to promote Geospatial science journalisms for sustainable development. One of the significant points of the meeting was the establishment of The African Media Forum for Geospatial Science and Technology, in which Emmanuel K Bensah Jr has also been appointed as a member of the interim steering committee. Members are required to promote the creation of National Geospatial Science Journalists Association in their respective countries.


Tuesday, November 08, 2011

AJICT-GH Executive Member Appointed to ECOWAS Network of Science Journalists (ENSJ) steering committee

We, Executive Members of the Association of Ghanaian Journalists in ICT (AJICT-Ghana), are pleased to announce that Mawutodzi Abissath, also an executive member of the Association of Ghanaian Journalists in ICT (AJICT-Ghana), is now a member of the steering committee of the newly-created ECOWAS Network of Science Journalists (ENSJ). This follows a two-day meeting sponsored by UNECA, UNESCO, ECOWAS and the AU that was held in Abuja in October 2011. Please find below a list of  members of the steering committee, followed by a report by AJICT-Gh's Mawutodzi Abissath:

Ms. Ramata Sore – Senior Journalist – Evenement – Burkina-Faso
Mr. DIAKITE Filifing
Chargé de Mission, Cellule de Communication Primature, Bamako, Mali
Mr. Guedegbe  Gérard - Journaliste- Peer Mentor- President - Réseau béninois des Journalistes et Communicateurs Spécialisés en Education(RJCE-BENIN)- Benin

ABISSATII Mawutodzi Kodzo, Senior  Journalist, Executive member of Ghana ICT Journalist Association

CAMARA Bangaly- Director General - Institut Supérieur de l’Information et de la Communication, Guinea Conakry

Ki Abdullai Kamara, Chairman Center for Media Studies and Peace Building, Monrovia

KHAMED Abdoulaye, Director General IFTIC Niger

SARR Ibrahima, Director CESTI, Senegal

African Federation of Science Journalists- AFSJ-
Jimoh Akinlabi Kareem, Development Communications Network and World Federation of Science Journalist, Nigeria

 [R1]Mr. Remmy Nweke – Senior Reporter/Head, ICT Desk, Champions Newspaper- Nigeria; Editor, ITRealms Online


ECOWAS Science Journalists To Champion Africa’s Development Agenda

The significance of the philosophy of SANKOFA in Ghanaian folklore is more profound than the mere notion of going back to pick or fetch what one may have forgotten.

Indeed, the SANKOFA concept admonishes that if you forget something and you remember it, it is no crime to go back for it. But the caveat is when you go back to fetch that which you might have forgotten, you should not remain rooted in your seemingly comfort zone alone , but to turn back and continue with your intended journey.

Today, some modern sociologists are trying to debunk the notion that the media is the fourth estate of the realm after, the executive, legislature and the judiciary. In fact, some of these ‘latter-day- sociological-gurus’ have “nickodemously” downgrade the media from the fourth position to the ninth on the scale of 1-10 where 1 is the highest and 10 the lowest. They are entitled to their imaginations.
This author recalls vividly that in 1994, after the Rwanda’s genocide episode, the then Former UN Under Secretary for Peace-keeping, Mr. Kofi Annan, issued a statement in May the following year, in commemoration of the International Press Day and called on journalists worldwide to practice what he termed as “Preventive Journalism.”
Dr. Kofi Annan who later became the first black African UN Secretary General in 1997, reasoned that if Rwanda journalists had practiced Preventive Journalism the unfortunate genocide that traumatized the conscience of the world could have been avoided. This shows how powerful the media was considered by such an international man of global wisdom.
But the object of this piece is not to eulogize the media or vilify those sociologists who think the media is of no consequence to societal evolution as far as socio-economic, political and cultural advancement of mankind is concerned.
The purpose is to alert the suffering masses of the West African sub-region that their regional political body – Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has identified journalists in general and science journalists in particular as a force to reckon with when it comes to the development of the entire African Continent.
This writer wonders why it took ECOWAS almost 40 years of its existence to discover journalists as being one of the best partners in development for the prosperity of the continent. But as it is commonly agreed in principle, too late is better than never. The French will put it this way: “Mieux vaut tard que jamais!” Of course, some previous military governments had their own notion about the media. Thus some media practitioners were treated more as common criminals than development agents on our wealthy but poor continent.
Did you know that on 17 and 18 October, 2011, in the magnificent capital city of Abuja, Nigeria, ECOWAS made history that could be described as innovative in the development strategy of the African Continent? On those two memorable days, ECOWAS, in collaboration with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), the Scientific, Technical and Research Commission (STRC) of the African Union Commission (AUC), organized a Science Communication Training Workshop for some selected journalists from the sub-region.
The workshop brought face to face forty (40) top-notch managers of communication training institutions, high level representatives of AU, ECOWAS, UNESCO and ECA, scientists and journalists for this innovative brain-storming event of capacity building. The workshop was under a broad theme of “Making Science and Technology Information More Accessible for Africa’s Development”
Without exaggeration, one can characterize delegates of the training workshop as ‘Commanders-in-Chief’ of development communication, who called for an emergency session to plot strategies to launch an attack on problems confronting Africa’s development. The strategy sought to deploy journalists as the first infantry battalions, who were armed with Science, Technology and Innovation as weapons to move onto the battle field. It was fireworks all the way! Intellectual and academic debates ensued.
Deliberations were frank amidst heated but friendly arguments of give and take. People spoke their minds freely without looking over their shoulders. Naturally, no genuine forum of journalists can flourish without some kinds of controversy. As a matter of fact, there was one topic on “Reporting on Controversies – Ethics in reporting science controversies”
Like other speakers, the resource person from Ghana expressed his views with passion. His area was to focus on the Ghanaian Experience as far as the deployment of ICT tools for development was concerned. With all humility, his presentation was one of those acclaimed.
He felt rather disappointed that Africa was crawling instead of flying on the developmental plane on this planet of science and technology. He could not fathom why Africa should be wallowing in abject poverty with all the resources at its command.
When he was challenged by a Professor from Nigeria that it was not totally correct to create the impression that Africa was not developing, he agreed with the view that something was being done. But he reminded the learned Professor of the natural resources such as gold, diamond, bauxite, uranium, oil and gas etc, with which the Continent was endowed.
He opined that if half of those resources were to be allocated to some other countries like, Singapore, Israel and others, the Continent would have been feeding, clothing and sheltering the entire world with ease.
At the end of it all, a comprehensive pack of recommendations were drawn up and adopted. An African Network of Science Journalists was launched and a ten-member (10) Steering Committee set up to ensure the implementation of the adopted recommendations.
Mr. Thierry Amoussougbo, Regional Advisor, ICT, Science and Technology Division of ECA, who chaired this gamut of ceremony of drafting, reading, adoption, nomination and inauguration of the steering committee, told members to live up to expectation.
Dr. Fackson Banda Programme Specialist Communication Development Division of Communication and Information Sector of UNESCO assisted Mr. Amoussougbo with his expertise in drafting of the recommendations. He did not mince his words at all when he told the Committee members in the face to “stop talking and work and work, and work,” he stressed.
Among other things, the recommendations were premised on the fact that, “Science, technology and innovation have served as the foundations of social and economic well-being since the beginning of human civilization.”
That Africa cannot meet its healthcare, water, infrastructure, education, employment needs, develop industries and overcome economic challenges without significant investment in science, technology and innovation.
That poor relationship which exists between scientists, research institutions and journalists tends to affect effective communication; adding that only effectively communicated knowledge could benefit individuals with the power and skills to put that knowledge in practical application.
Participants took special note of the tremendous efforts UNESCO is making in building science journalism capacity on the African continent. As to whether Ghana is taking advantage of these efforts is yet to be verified.
As part of the workshop programme, some of the representatives of the UNESCO Reference Centres of Excellence were given the opportunity to brief participants on activities of their respective countries. These countries included Niger, Guinea, Senegal, Burkina-Faso and Nigeria.
Workshop participants also commended the efforts made by ECOWS, ECA, UNDP, AU and other individuals and organizations for the realization of the programme. This workshop happened to be the first of its kind. Resources were limited and the organization had not been easy at all.
It is the noble intention of the organizers to extend this training programme to journalists of other sub-regions such as Eastern, Central, Southern and Northern Africa to galvanize science journalists to champion the development agenda of Africa by making science and technology information available, affordable and accessible to all.
First batch of journalists who benefited from the training workshop were drawn from Benin, Burkina-Faso, Liberia, Guinea, Ghana, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda and Senegal as well as African Federation of Science Journalists, (AFSJ), USECO, ECA, ECOWAS and AU.
This writer will like to take the opportunity to call on Ghanaian journalists to embrace science reporting to enable them to benefit from the capacity building package UNESC has in store for media practitioners on the Continent. There is a need for ICT journalists in particular and science journalists in general to come together to form a solid national body and join the continental professional organization. It has been observed that apart from Nigeria, only French speaking countries are taking advantage of the science related training opportunities available.

It is also suggested that in future, some African millionaires like Moh Ibrahim and former African Heads of State like H.E. President Olusegu Obasanjor should be approached for sponsorships to supplement the efforts of ECOWAS for the advancement of the sub-region.
I have no doubt that some African industrialists and corporate bodies would be willing to support. ECOWAS has good intentions but its financial base needs to be strengthened in order to support journalists to champion the course of Africa’s Development Agenda.

Group Photograph of Participants at the Abuja Workshop
The Writer is Deputy Director/Head of ICT at ISD 

Done on behalf of the Execs,

Emmanuel.K.Bensah Jr, Ag.President AJICT-Ghana
Ruby Amable, Ag-Vice-President (outgoing)
Veronica Kwablah -- Assistant Treasurer
Emily Nyarko -- Treasurer
Nana Appiah -- Secretary

Thursday, April 16, 2009

West Africa’s ICT industry faces major threat unless ...

Local players in the ICT sector have expressed pessimism over the liberalization of trade in ICT services saying, West Africa stands to lose heavily unless national policies were reviewed to promote indigenous creativity and innovation.

The participants, who comprised experts from major telecom operators, Internet Service Providers, small scale operators in the software development sector and the media, indicated that, West African countries were being forced to open up their markets without being able to evaluate the cost and gains of the liberalization of ICT services.

This came out at a focused group discussion held by the Science and Technology Policy Research Institute (STEPRI) of Ghana last Wednesday as part of the LICOM project, a sub-regional study, which aims at contributing to a better understanding of international challenges of the liberalization of trade in ICTs under the WTO’s General Agreements on Trade in Services (GATS).

The project, which comprised four countries, Ghana, Nigeria Senegal and Benin, also intends to encourage the formulation of public policies conducive to the development of ICT and private sector in the sub-region.

The participants also advocated a harmonization of national policies on ICTs and telecommunications in the region within the ECOWAS legal framework in the sector.

Even those who supported the liberalization of the sector in the light of the global GATS, which Ghana was a signatory, cautioned that the national efforts must be pursued with the recognition that the private sector’s role was critical to the overall growth of the industry.

The group that appeared to be the most worried as it came up at the discussion was the software developers, who strongly intimated that current legislations on ICTs in the Ghana give them limited space to develop their creativities because of low recognition.

They said government definition of the ICT sector rested only on the so called “giant” operators such as mobile telecom operators and until recently the Internet Service Providers.

“But the small software developers who mostly comprised young graduates with fresh minds and constituted the majority of about 70 percent, are not so much counted,” they indicated.

Giving an overview of the LICOM project, Dr Godfred Frempong, Director of STEPRI said ICT domination in West Africa is still overwhelming and therefore there was the need to streamline public polices for member countries to take advantage of the numerous services and products the sector offers.

He said the ICT sector ought to be facilitated in its assimilation into the socio-economic activities of countries and this required commitment from governments and all stakeholders within the region.

Dr Frempong, who has carried many research activities in the field of ICT in Ghana, identified difficulties to access to finance, lack of human resources and inadequate policies as some of challenges the liberalization of ICTs poses to West Africa.

Under human resource for instance, he said, currently in Ghana, due to the inadequate expertise, many companies were using all kinds of means to poach skills workers from sister operators.

“This means that the few experts we have, kept moving from one company to another. We need to assist public policy making institutions to get deeper understanding of the trade liberalization on ICT goods as well as build more capacities,” he added.

The International Development and Research Centre (IDRC) are funding the LICOM project with PANOS Institute of West Africa coordinating with the support of Ghana’s Council for Scientific and Industrial Research through STEPRI.


Source: gna
Story from Modern Ghana News:

Published: Saturday, April 11, 2009

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Fwd: [penplusbytes] Ten things every journalist should know in 2009

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: International Institute for ICTJournalism (Penplusbytes) <>
Date: 2009/1/15
Subject: [penplusbytes] Ten things every journalist should know in 2009
To: Penplusbytes <>

1. How to use Twitter to build communities, cover your beat, instigate and engage in conversations.

2. How to use RSS feeds to gather news and manage them using filtering techniques (basic or advanced).

3. That there is a difference between link journalism and 'cut and paste' journalism (aka plagiarism).

4. That your readers are smarter than you think. In fact, many are smarter than you - they know more than you do.

5. That churnalism is much easier to spot online. If you do this regularly, your readers are already on to you - merely re-writing press releases without bringing anything to the table no longer cuts it.

6. Google is your friend. But if you are not using advanced search techniques, you really have no idea what it is capable of.

7. You do not have to own, or even host, the technology to innovate in journalism and engage your readers. There is a plethora of free or cheap tools available online, so there is no excuse for not experimenting with them.

8. Multimedia for multimedia's sake rarely works, and is often embarrassing. If you are going to do it, either do it well enough so it works as a standalone item or do it to complement your written coverage - for example, add a link to the full sound file of your interview with someone in your article, or a link to the video of someone's entire speech at an event. The latter will enhance the transparency of your journalism too. Great tips and resources here and some useful tips on doing video on a budget.

9. How to write search engine friendly journalism. Old school thinking about headline writing, story structure etc no longer applies online and there is also more to learn about tagging, linking and categorisation. Sub-editors (if you still have them), editors and reporters all need to know how to do this stuff.

10. Learn more about privacy. You can find a lot of information about people online, especially via social networking sites, but think carefully about the consequences. And bear in mind that it cuts both ways, if you do not do it carefully, your online research could compromise your sources.

credit :

visit our website at our blog is located at --- --You are currently subscribed to penplusbytes as: --To unsubscribe send a blank email to Penplusbytes online list is hosted on Dgroups- a joint initiative of Bellanet, DFID, Hivos, ICA, IICD, OneWorld, UNAIDS

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Fwd: [From WSIS] When will the National Communications Authority stand up?

---------- Forwarded message ----------

The NCA is an agency of the government with oversight to, in effect, regulate the telecommunications sector and implement terms of Ghana's National Telecommunications Policy. According to the policy (2004) that can be downloaded from the Internet, while the Ministry of Communications is "responsible for the definition and elaboration of Government policy regarding telecommunications", the NCA has a number of roles that it plays in implementing the policy, which include: "regulation of competition, including interconnection; tariff regulation consistent with Ministry policies; monitoring of operator activity, performance, and compliance", and last but not least "consumer protection."

Reading the policy itself is enlightening, for the policy sounds robust. There is a section on "Principles of Transparent regulation" that explains that NCA "shall promote public participation in and awareness of its activities and ensure that the public has adequate access to sector information." Only last week, I checked to see whether the website of the NCA that is still under construction, and with some limited information about the sector, has managed to offer some new information. There is still nothing. Neither is there what there ought to be--as stipulated in the policy: an Annual Report in collaboration with the Ministry of Communication publishing "up-to-date industry information…" made available "for public review."

Protection for Whom?
In what would prove to be an unprecedented move last year, the Authority not only threatened ONETOUCH and MTN to stop selling re-charge cards, but that they should also improve the quality of their service, otherwise huge fines would be slapped on them. This was a historic feat of epic proportions it appeared, for even with the psychedelic MTN plane then-still-perched at the Tetteh-Quarshie interchange and MTN flags virtually drowning any Ghanaian ones, the Authority barked. At the eleventh hour, the Authority yielded, allowing both mobile providers get away with only an agreement to improve their services.

I don't know about you, but I don't call that consumer protection.

Giving customer service a new life?
Then there is the recent case of Gateway Broadcasting Services (GBS) that entered the country in October last year. I do not know of anyone--and I know three official establishments around my workplace use GBS--that has been able to get through to GBS customer service. Beyond one who had given out his mobile number to subscribers (regrettably, he is no longer working for the company), no-one else can be contacted when one's service is cut off -- either accidentally or not. When your payment has been made, the several landlines that have been given will forever put you through to a call centre operating outside Ghana in…Southern Africa, where, it stands to reason, there is a more clinical approach in dealing with you, given that the people are not in the country. As helpful and "nice" as they sound, nothing beats having Ghanaians help when I want my service re-connected , even if I have to have to lose my voice in doing so.

The anecdotes aside, such continuous practices remain an indictment of the NCA's work. As a regulator of the telecommunications industry, it behoves it to ensure standard regulation--as stipulated in the policy. To wit: "all public telecommunications operators shall be required to establish service level agreements with their customers, which identify the minimum quality of service standards to which customers are entitled, and the remedies and compensation available when service falls below such standards."

Concrete steps
The biggest step to ensuring regulation, in my humble opinion, would seem to be a clear and necessary *adoption* of the National Telecommunications Policy as a working document for all in the first place! Another issue is of toll-free numbers. The other day, the sixth biggest bank called to inform me that they now have a toll-free number that operate 24/7. If banks can do it, why not our MDAs? And certainly, why not NCA? Just a small query: I noticed the toll-free number works on the ONETOUCH network for now. In the event of government passing through any privatisation of GT by way of a totally-unnecessary emergency bill, will Vodafone not seek to make profit by disbanding the toll-free nature that GT has a great interest in maintaining?

Nigeria's NiTel to be Privatised…for Vodafone?
As if the attempt to privatize Ghana's national provider Ghana Telecom is insufficient, British-based Vodafone is ready to hit the Nigerian market with the acquisition of ECOWAS neighbour Nigeria's only landline provider. Rumours and accusations of the phone company being "beleaguered" and "inefficient" don't wash with me. They are code-words for any excuse to privatize. An article in Nigeria's *Punch" newspaper actually goes further arguing that: "…we can be certain about one thing: NITEL is currently bedeviled[sic] by multifaceted problems. These problems include malfunctioning lines, erratic billing system, poor customer satisfaction, infrastructural decay and a backlog of worker's salaries…" It seems to me that chance would be a fine thing were NiTel to escape privatization.

NiTel Privatisation Not New
As far back as May 2002, then-President Obasanjo was planning a divestiture of the state-run phone company. It had been scheduled for March of that year, but had to be postponed for September 2002. It is interesting to note that still at that time, 51% was what was being offered to the so-called strategic investors!

On a more serious note, whereas the incumbent Ghanaian administration has put forth 70% of GT to be privatized, even the horror stories associated with NiTel have warranted 50% to Vodafone. Why such discrepancy one wonders? Is it that Ghana Telecom has more of these calamities at its doorstep than NiTel? Let's examine them for a second. Last time I looked, GT was offering broadband4u (; dialup4u; ExZeed company which offers 24hour service to ONETOUCH subscribers, where MTN has not a 24-hr hotline, and Tigo's is non-existent (exists only as a number); a mobile provider since 2000 (albeit itself bedeviled with astronomical prices when it started, with sim cards then going for around GHC150!); Ghana Telecom University; EasyFone (which enables landlines to be set up more easily than ever before).

According to the reports I've been reading, M-Tel, NiTel's mobile operation that is a year younger than NiTel (having been established on October 2001), has only 176,000 subscribers. Compare that to MTN Nigeria that has 15,873,000 active lines. Switch to Ghana, and we find that where MTN Ghana is around 4 million subscribers, with ONETOUCH around 1.4m. That is subscribers over one million, yet Nigeria's is able to attract only a fraction. Despite this, it is being sold for 50%!

Is it me, or is there something odd about the whole rationale of the GT purchase?

Still always about politics?
Then I think, and think some more, and remember how early last year, South Africa's Standard Bank, operating under Stanbic Bank, was so keen to take over state-owned Agricultural Development Bank (ADB). One of its main motivations for the attempted sale (which incidentally, the government, according to financial papers two weeks ago have *de-prioritized*) was so that it could use the entry of Ghana as a gateway to penetrate the Nigerian market. A year ago today, Reuters reported that Standard Bank had bought a part of Nigeria's IBTC Chartered Bank Plc, which expertise is in investment banking with 55 branches across Nigeria. Standard Bank spokeswoman Kim Howard would say that "If you are going to have a pan African strategy, you have to include Nigeria."

Looks like this time, they decided to strike Nigeria after an attempted one here in Ghana. Whether they will succeed remains moot. Whatever will happen with the sale of GT, it has become crystal-clear that the stage has certainly been set for a new revolution before our very eyes.

Forget the Industrial Revolution. We are all sitting at the cusp of a revolution that implicates a sector so critical to our lives we could never have imagined. To think that a consortium of former MTN executives are bidding—so the telecoms newsletter Balancing Act reports – for NiTel is not just a reflection of the motivation of big people with big capital, but where the next wars might be fought. Forget your Cold War. Prepare yourself for the Telecoms Wars.

Posted By Emmanuel.K.Bensah II to From WSIS at 7/24/2008 03:02:00 AM