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

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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


Learner’s Submission: Social Media Channels in Ethiopia

18/10/2013

“First and foremost it is very important to define what is social media and Social media Channels? When we say social media, it is refers to the means of interactions among people in which they create, share, and/or exchange information and ideas in electronic medias  like  internet services and mobile phone  applications used for the generation, dissemination, and discussion of information in textual, pictorial, audio or video formats. It includes all forms of current and future    tools used for digital interactions between people. Social media channels are instruments that allow people to interact online in a ‘social’ manner, whether for Personal and professional reasons, or for official business. Current examples of social media tools include, but are not limited to, social networking sites such as Face book, MySpace and LinkedIn; blogs and blog publication and others.

In case of Ethiopia, a lot of social media channels are used. For example, Government media, like National TV, Radio and mobile are all easily accessible by almost all citizens of the country. Moreover, internet like, blogs, YouTube, Skype and others are also the most used media channels used by the government to inform citizens about the overall activities and current issues in the country.

Social media presents government with a number of opportunities to engage with citizens using familiar and widely available technologies. This two-way form of communication enables government to be more active in relationships with citizens, partners and stakeholders – increasing the frequency and speed of public engagement. Thus, Social media is powerful tool to drive cultural, political, economic and social engagement. Moreover, it is also a key communications tool for local authorities and highlights their commitments to openness and transparency. Furthermore, it Increase citizens’ access to government and increase government’s access to audiences  and enable government to be more active in its relationships with citizens, partners and stakeholders

Therefore, it is  important for a government  to consider the active participation of all people if to bring and  preach democracy. For this purpose, media play a great role in keeping citizens engaged by providing information, educating and mobilizing the public. Thus, it is important for the Government to choose the cost effective social media channels that are easily accessible to all citizens equally.” – Hiwotie Walelign Alemu – Amhara, Ethiopia


Learner’s Submission: Indian Government in Social Media

14/08/2013

“Whether it is Nirbhaya’s (Delhi gang-rape) case or Anna Hazare’s India Against Corruption social media played a huge role in awakening the people. The social media has proven the power of reach, with millions of hits for Kolaveri Di or Hello Honey Bunny in Youtube.  As a coin has two sides, the social media also has both good and bad. Provoking youth against particular religion, region or a cause are one among those activities that pull the social media towards an evil side. No matter good or bad, many MNCs like Nike have recognized social media, as a good platform to promote or advertise their products. Now it is the time for Indian government, which has found most of the young India have accounts in social media and are active. Narendra Modi, the Chief Minister of Indian state Gujarat and BJP’s Chairman of Central Election Campaign Committee, is the first-politician to be active in social media. He has an account in Twitter, a Facebook page and a Youtube channel, updating his daily speeches, campaigns, etc. The Central Government is also active in social media.

Indian government in different social media:

–          Twitter

–          Facebook

–          Youtube

–          Google+ Hangout

Ministry of Finance and Ministry of External Affairs of India are the most active users of social media, among different Ministries. P. Chidambaram, the Finance minister of India and Narendra Modi are once in a while active on Google+ Hangout, to interact with the public. Even some Government officials like Sam Pitroda, Planning commission deputy chairman, Montek Singh Ahulwalia are active in updating the government schemes and day-to-day happenings. Even though the number of netizens in India are less in percentage but the impact that is created in social media is huge. Indian Government has found this fact and thought that social media is the right place to interact with the public and publicize their schemes and campaigning for their respective parties. Let us wish that the social media brings a positive change, in better understanding the needs of public or the society.” – Avinash Inuganti – Tamil Nadu, India


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