Learner’s Submission: The Power of Information

11/06/2014

“In Brazil, there are many ways to access relevant to actions of federal, state and local government information.

In our country, all municipalities and states have an official website. Most of these governments also have channels and official pages on social networks as well as advertisements on radio and television.

The federal government has, in addition to their official page (www.brasil.gov.br), official profiles on social networks such as Facebook ( https://www.facebook.com/portalbrasil ), Twitter ( https://twitter.com / portalbrasil ) and Youtube Videos website.

In addition, the President of the Republic has a radio program called “Coffee with the President” that airs once a week where the president addresses matters of everyday life. All editions can be accessed through the program’s blog, hosted on the federal government website.

It is also customary in our country, on the eve of important dates such as vaccination campaigns, elections, and holidays like Mother’s Day and Labor Day the President of the Republic or event-related authorities to make pronouncements on national radio and television.

Another important media channel used by the government is a radio program called “The Voice of Brazil”. This program is the oldest radio and Brazil is in the air since 1935. It airs Monday through Friday at 7 pm when all the radio stations in Brazil. The program is divided into two parts. The first twenty- five minutes is devoted to the executive branch and the remaining thirty-five minutes are devoted to related news legislature. This program has been the target of demonstrations and protests from radio stations because its transmission is mandatory and many people argue that it has lost its purpose because of the ease of access to other media for greater reach.

Currently, the government channels in social networks have gained importance because these networks are extremely popular in Brazil. The number of Brazilians with access to social networks at home, at work and even on mobile is growing continuously.

The residence time of people, connected in a network also increases day by day. Having access to the government in this environment is very useful because this way we can find out the government’s actions while interacting with friends on social networks. After all, these actions directly affect the lives of every Brazilian person.

The social media channels are more than important, are fundamental to the development of democracy and Brazilian society, as we have experienced times of constant mobilization and social upheaval upon the problems of our country, where people have cared increasingly with quality of life, with life in society, with the preservation of life, safety and nature.

Moreover, many of the protesters do not care much about the government’s actions. Therefore, if such claims are fair, everyone must have access to accurate information and reliable source, so the official government channels in many imprecise information environment is critical”.  Rodrigo Leandro Sobrinho- Sao Paulo, Brazil


Learner’s Submission: Social Media Channels in the Kingdom of Bahrain

20/02/2014

“Bahrain e-Government Portal (bahrain.bh) is the official and main online portal, where the majority of the public sector organizations and a number of private sector organizations are providing their services through. The project is mainly administrated by the Kingdom of Bahrain e-Government Authority.

The vision of e-Government Authority in the Kingdom of Bahrain is:

“Achieve next generation Government excellence by delivering high quality services effectively, valuing efficiency, advocating proactive customer engagement, nurturing entrepreneurship, collaborating with all stakeholders and encouraging innovation” [1]

The main targets of the e-Government Authority are:

  • Individuals
  • Business
  • Government
  • Foreign Visitors

Due to the increase of popularity of the social media in the Kingdom of Bahrain, the e-Government Authority established multiple social media channels aiming to increase the efficiency and improve the effectiveness of services provided to the targeted categories.

The main social media channels referring to the Bahrain e-Government Portal are:

  • Facebook: is an online social networking service which enable users to get connected with friends round the world, making new connections, upload pictures and share videos and links. Referring to Alexa [2], facebook comes in the second place after “google.com” in the list of the top 500 sites on the web and according to eBizMBA Guide [3], Facebook came on the first place in the list of Top 15 Most Popular Social Networking Sites for February 2014. In Bahrain, Facebook considered as the most popular social networking website.
  • YouTube: is a video-sharing website which enable users to upload, view and share videos. Referring to Alex, YouTube comes in the third place in the list of the top 500 sites on the web.
  • Twitter: is an online social networking and micro-blogging service that enables users to post and read short messages (tweets). Referring to Alex, Twitter comes in the 11th place in the list of the top 500 sites on the web and according to eBizMBA Guide, Twitter came on the second place after Facebook in the list of Top 15 Most Popular Social Networking Sites for February 2014.
  • Instagram: is an online photo-sharing, video-sharing and social networking service that enables its users to upload pictures and videos, apply filters to them, and share them on other social networking services. According to eBizMBA Guide, Instegram came on the seventh place in the list of Top 15 Most Popular Social Networking Sites for February 2014. Instagram is one of the most popular social networking services in Bahrain.
  • Linkedin: is an online social networking service which is targeting the professionals category. According to Alex, Linkedin comes in the 10th place in the list of the top 500 sites on the web.
  • RSS (Really Simple Syndication): it is used to keep users informed by retrieving the latest updates from the sites they are interested in. Instead of visiting the site more frequently just for the purpose of checking for new updates, the user will receive automatic alerts of the updates that have been added to that specific site. The main benefit here is to keep the user updated.
  • eGovernment Blog: the blog service was initiated as a platform for direct interaction between the public sector organizations and the public in order to receive comments and opinions about governmental policies and initiatives.

In my point of view, the activated social media channels added the following benefits:

  • Enabled open and transparent communication channels with the public.
  • Improved communication with public in cost efficient manner.
  • Targeted a wide range of audience in an effective way.

Recently, the e-Government Authority started focusing on services via smart devices and started developing application for multiple systems including:

  • IOS
  • Android
  • BlackBerry
  • Windows Mobile

 

References:

[1] Kingdom of Bahrain e-Government Authority Portal, “http://www.ega.gov.bh”.

[2] Alexa –The Web Information Company, “http://www.alexa.com”.

[3] “Top 15 Most Popular Social Networking Sites | February 2014”, eBizMBA Guide, “http://www.ebizmba.com/articles/social-networking-websites”.” – Khalifa Ahmed – Isa Town, Kingdom of Bahrain


Learner’s Submission: Social Media Channels in Zimbabwe

05/02/2014

“Social media refers to internet services and mobile phone applications used for the generation, dissemination information. When a government has obtained knowledge it must be managed so that it can easily be obtained by those who need it. This overload of data is making knowledge management increasingly more important. Three key reasons why actively managing knowledge is important to Zimbabwe’s government’s success are to facilitate decision-making capabilities, build a learning country and to stimulate cultural change and innovation.  Zimbabwe uses television, radios and the internet as its social media channels.  The Zimbabwean government has realized that social media technologies allow for television and radio to be accessed and shared in a variety of ways. Viewers can actively participate while watching a program and have their interactions viewed and responded to in real time by other viewers. Technologies such as smart phones and laptops allow for these actions to occur anytime, anywhere. The Zimbabwean government has used the television and to some extent the radio to disseminate information across the country. The radio and television are used to disseminate educational and developmental information on critical areas such as agriculture and mining. This growth of internet access via mobile phones has led to much more use of social media by public sector organizations. This is part of a wider shift in greater openness around communications channels in Zimbabwe. Social media is becoming an increasingly popular set of channels for Zimbabwean government to use in their communication and engagement mix because, they provide a cost effective means of engaging with an audience, more and more people across different demographics are using social media; and they are simple to set up and use. The government has realized that each and very Zimbabwean must receive or must have access to important information irrespective of race, social status, industry and geographical locations. Information is power and has enhanced the development of the Zimbabwean community.” – Soul Nyangoni – Harare, Zimbabwe


Learner’s Submission: Online Public Services in India

04/02/2014

“Internet as a social network evoked the world with its vast input database and knowledge sharing system. Today in the modern world, the share of public services information online has become a major important aspect.  The online service is a huge network source which provides a space for information to public, private and other resources activities.

In India, Online public services in term of availability of online data is accessible in various service providing sectors related to public, private, organational, educational, consulting, banking and others. It is important to have identity of information availability relating to the particular activities in each sector. Another important aspect about the online data is the security and worm mail threats. Every online services provider has to provide with domain to login-in to be utilized to be safer side of the site. In India after the 90s a revolution of inter user came to utilize the online resources for the online services providers on various sectors.

In India the web is now established as a mass market media channel for the wealthy. Email has become a mass market media channel for office workers and professional classes. The main changes in internet access have happened in the last five years and the internet has become an essential part of office life, and plays a key role in many homes. The number of people with access continues to rise, but so too does the time they spend online. Broadband access is growing fast, but the number of home connections lags behind comparable markets; however although the number of connections is low, a large number of people in high-end demographics have access. Significant infrastructure problems remain, creating a high cost for access compared to average wage rates.

Social Media has now become part of everyday life for a majority of online Indians, with two-thirds of the country’s web users accessing social media daily, according to new research.

Today social networking, blog and web relating sources are competition the user with fast provision of data relevant to weather, network, locality, features and other possibilities. Online data can provide knowledge sharing and also some kind of misuses the network resources. Scientists describe the internet as a prime example of large scale highly engineered yet highly complex system and is heterogeneous for instance of data transfer and physical characteristics of connections.

If the resources is utilized in a proper manner to develop the aspect, it reflect the achieving the growth of sustainable goals to take forwarding the nation to a developed world.  Security threats has to be resolve for safety and security of the web resources providers.

The internet is a gateway to world knowledge as well as a massive platform for national media and documentation. Once people start using the internet their behavior changes permanently and already in India over two thirds of people with access use it several times a week or more. Work audiences account for significant amounts of the online total population.” – Kishore Kumar Neelam – Andhra Pradesh, India


Leaner’s Submission: Social Media Channels Used by Government in Ethiopia

12/11/2013

“It is a common understanding that social media refers to internet services and mobile phone applications used for the production, spreading, and exchange of information in textual, pictorial, audio or video formats.  Social Medias are tools used for digital interactions between people. Social media channels allow people to interact online in a ‘social’ manner, whether for personal and professional affairs or for official dealing.

The most common social media tools include, but are not limited to, social networking sites in Ethiopia includes Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, Twitter and Skype.

The Ethiopian Government has realized the power of social media though the infrastructure for information technology in the country is still in poor condition. Its widespread network and thousands of users has become an amazing stage to reach people and better understand what they do and how they think. It is clear that social media has the potential to open up conversations, distribute important information and (more recently) to empower government with the ability to even spy on its citizens and others. Therefore, social Medias are the key to create a new relationship between citizens and the state.

The Ethiopian Government uses social media mainly for two basic purposes. First, to open two-way communication between citizens and government to help drive conversation about relevant issues like corruption and terrorism and makes government more accessible. Second, to deliver a message that is crafted by the government to provide information or influence the perceptions of citizens on different issues like inflation and costly life.

Government of Ethiopia has different business agencies, thus, these agencies are using social media in a variety of ways: to deliver services, communicate information, coordinate resources in emergencies, and engage citizens and stakeholders in consultation processes and advertisement purpose.

Some government agencies in Ethiopia record information that provides evidence of key activities or decisions in a way that accurately preserves their context and significance, and store these records in a way that makes them easily accessible for people.

Why Social Media Channels are vital

Social Media Channels are central for the government specifically and the people in general since they are key instruments to access information and data from different sources including the government sectors. The people can provide and get timely services and feedback from government and other sources trough social media.  Therefore, any party can provide and get access with minimal cost. In this globalized world social Medias play significant role for different innovations and new ideas.

Both big and small companies use social Medias to monitor and build sentiment around their profile, products and services. On top of this, many government agencies also use social Medias to monitor public opinion on key topics.

In nut shell, the Ethiopian government uses social medias to gather information from the public and give feedback on various issues including services provided by the government, infrastructures and other necessary information, and to expand the culture of knowledge sharing among staff of the civil services and private businesses but highly limited due to the poor IT infrastructure in the country. ” –  Tadele Demissie – Amhara, Ethiopia


Learner’s Submission: Access to Data in Ethiopia

04/11/2013

“We are living in the age of information where information is power where data access is a key factor for its effect.  In light of this Ethiopia has legislation that anyone has the right to access data and some people in the country had expected that this condition would be favorable for the development of the free access for data.

From my experience and practical activities I have learned that as most people in Ethiopia are illiterate, there is no good culture to put data to access for the people. Even those who are educated do have poor tradition and system to store data and retrieve it to make it accessible for the community.  It is mostly, not always, attributed by poor information technology infrastructure of the country.

If someone goes to the government offices to access data, it is common to get a response of ‘no data’ or ‘it takes time to get it, come back another time’ as data are not stored in a scientific and systematic way.  On top of this, most government offices consider their office data as their sole property which do have no value for others. Therefore, someone has to pass lots of bureaucracies to access data in Ethiopia in government offices.

On the contrary, it is common to see the word ‘transparency’ displayed in office walls as one of the values of government offices. Government Medias also frequently talks about transparency and access to data in spite of the fact that the reality is to the opposite.

Most literate people do have better knowledge than the illiterates that everyone has the right to access data for a good purpose with limited restrictions in some cases.

It is undeniable that there is improvement in accessing data coupled with people’s awareness change on the right of accessing it in the country.

The situation is worse in private companies and organizations. Unless  someone is a part of that organization/institution, getting data in the private sectors is quite complex task in Ethiopia. In some cases people my also provide incorrect data thinking that they will be blamed.

Many researchers in Ethiopia complain that most people do not give reliable data due to low understanding of the value of it. However, it is clear that data determines people’s life as they are sources for every decision.

Therefore, it is really high time to say ‘there should be suite environment to access data in the country both in the private and government offices’, without which the achievement of good governance would be unthinkable since the fundamentals behind the implementation of access to data and information and bringing about good governance both principally and practically are of the same nature.

Many people including me were accessing data and information for some cases but many complain that it is very complicated to get data from government offices due to the bureaucracy and unwillingness of officials. Except some cases, getting the government offices’ data on internet on different issues is unthinkable due to different constraints like poor information communication infrastructures and unavailability of the data.

It is expected that media and government work closely together and cooperate in many if not in all areas of endeavor in the country for better receiving and disseminating of information. In turn, Medias in most aspects provide information for the people.

To the contrary, it is common  to see  private medias complaining that the press law has prohibited them to provide data and information for the people.

I tried my level best to use the country’s legislation on access to data. Particularly, I am an advocator and practitioner in applying laws data related to individuals needs to be handled carefully and in accordance with the Data Protection Act of the country.

I strongly believe that the data available in my government could not be safe. Though the constitution states that people’s data should always be maintained and the privacy of individuals/organizations/institutions should be protected, individual’s data and information are frequently appearing in different publication without getting permission from individuals. I believe that someone may need to consider if there are any economic, social, security or political risks associated with the release of the data.

The country has a law how to use data owned by a third party (copyright material, software or database). Someone needs to understand the terms under which these are obtained and the scope of use. However, it is common in the country using data without obtaining permission from the data owner for re-use of such material.

In general, there is good understanding among the people and the government in the country that access to data is vital for decisions though accessing it is complicated task which shows only little improvement due to poor information technology infrastructure and low number of literacy rate in the country.” – Tadele Demissie – Amhara, Ethiopia


Learner’s Submission: Social Media – Its Use and Importance in Nigerian Government

21/10/2013

Preamble:

There are different conceptions of social media. As a result, definition of social media depends on the users, ICT experts and writers. Sweetser and Lariscy gave a pragmatic definition of social media, as a “read-write Web, where the online audience moves beyond passive viewing of Web content to actually contributing to the content.” According to them, “the audience-initiated content contributions include interactivity, the ability to tailor a site’s presentation on the individual level, and opportunities for the audience to actually create or contribute content on the site.” However, amid different conceptions of social media, one thing that is sacrosanct is the idea that social media is based on user-generated participation. By this, social media enables user-to-user interaction; a trait that distinguishes social media from a traditional media. Given the diverse forms of social media, Kaplan and Haenlein have classified social media into six separate categories such as: collaborative projects (e.g. Wikipedia); blogs and micro-blogs (e.g. Twitter); content communities (e.g. YouTube); social networking sites (e.g. Facebook); virtual game worlds (e.g. World of Warcraft); and virtual social worlds (e.g. Second Life).

Usage:

Use of social media in Nigeria is progressively increasing. Social media has become a driving force in political, economic, and socio-cultural issues in Nigeria, particularly among the youth and middle aged, who use social media as a tool to voice their opinions and take part in nation building. Facebook and Twitter are two primary channels that have been adopted by Nigerian government to socialize and connect with the people. For example, the current President, since 2011 has been operating a facebook page where he talks about his administration’s transformation agenda and achievements with the community of social media users within and outside Nigeria. To his credit, with the opening of a Facebook account in 2011, he became the first president to reach out to the community of internet users in Nigeria through social media. He has a designated social media public relation team, who are on government’s payroll and who orate about his achievements and defend tooth and nail his limitations.

As Nigerian online community- with an estimated 48 million internet users (6.6 million Facebook users and large number of Twitter users)- increases more and more, various government Ministries, Departments and Agencies have tapped into the opportunities provided by social media to network, share knowledge and receive feedbacks, and promote their strategic initiatives, but most importantly keep Nigerians informed. For example, the presence of the National Bureau of Statistics is conspicuous on Facebook and Twitter as the Bureau is active in its release of updates on macroeconomic indicators, and reports on the economy.

However, Nigerian government has robustly synergized the two primary channels of social media I have identified previously with the traditional media, particularly the government owned media. For example, virtually all government owned and private owned traditional media have Facebook and Twitter accounts, and they have a common thread running in their operational fabrics in terms of their use of i-reporters- individuals without professional know-how in journalism, but with the capability of using their wits in the use of social media tools to gather information (e.g. photos, videos, etc) about things happening around them and share such information through traditional media.

Importance:

  • Given the continual rise of social media channels, which has triggered off a rise in the network of internet users in Nigeria, social media deepens dissection of audience or recipients in terms of widening of horizon of coverage and selection of information that are in parallel with the penchant of individuals. In this sense, social media enables users to understand and discuss issues and connect with other people who share similar ideas. This creates individuals with interests on specific issues to connect, hence addressing different issues from different standpoints.
  • Social media emasculates the gate-keeping role of traditional media. Given the gate-keeping role of the traditional media, substances of public discourse are determined on the altar of prerogative of the traditional media where few news media producers determine what information the public should receive. With the emergence of social media, people have the platform to communicate with their representatives at the various arms of government.
  • As a corollary to the above, social media in a similar vein reduces over dependence on press releases as media for current news content or flow of information to the public. Through social media people read breaking news and follow events as they happen.
  • Social media serves as a valuable tool for gathering information and disseminating such information, networking, knowledge sharing and entertainment. In this sense, given the increasing tempo of internet users in Nigeria, social media has emerged as a new stimulant in political, economic and socio-cultural landscape, hence dominating channels of public discourse.

Social media as an enabler of accountability widens the frontlines of good governance. By providing a platform where people discuss topical issues- issues as transparency and accountability have become exigent and widely discussed in Nigeria- people report abuse of office by public office holders and other issues demanding government attention, hence connecting people with one another and empowering them to hold public office holders accountable. ” – Chukwuma Julius Okonkwo – Abuja, Nigeria


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