Increasing citizens’ participation in legislative processes in Ghana has been challenging up until, the Committee on Government Assurances partnered Penplusbytes to implement the “Connecting Citizens to Parliament” project to help them play an effective oversight role over assurances and promises made by government through maximized interaction with citizens.
The “Connecting Citizens to Parliament” project made use of technological innovative tools to engage with citizens to effectively monitor assurances, promises and undertakings given by Ministers of state on the floor of parliament on specific sector issues.
The project has been running for over two years and to mark the successful end of its second phase funded by OSIWA, the Committee on Government Assurances of Parliament will hold an executive working lunch session on Thursday May 26th 2016 to review and plan for a future project scale up. It will also afford members of parliament the opportunity to go through project highlights, achievements, lessons learnt and the way forward.
The Executive Director of Penplusbytes, Kwami Ahiabenu, II said, “as we celebrate the success of “connecting citizens to parliament”, we are certainly excited we offered Ghanaians an innovative digital mechanism to connect with parliament of Ghana while Parliament, on the other hand in playing their oversight role, received concrete citizens’ feedback through the same mechanism.”
The project particularly focused on getting civil society organisations and citizens to be supportive of the different technology platforms and committed to using these tools to enhance interaction with parliament. It also enhanced citizens’ engagement with parliament using easily accessible platforms such as an online portal, social media, SMS, WhatsApp and mobile apps as well as face-to-face community engagements in Ho in the Volta Region, Tamale Central in the Northern Region, Twifo Heman Lower Denkyira in the Central Region, Trobu-Amasaman in the Greater Accra Region and University of Cape Coast in the Central region.
Activities within these communities included public hearings, online platform operations (web, social media and SMS), citizens’ forums, knowledge management, media outreach, and validation visits to see the progress or status of ongoing projects.
The chairman of the committee and Member of Parliament for Ho West constituency, Hon. Emmanuel Kwasi Bedzrah acknowledged how the project has enhanced the technology and information skills of committee members. He said, “we call on all stakeholders to support us, sustain the success chalked by “Connecting Citizens to Parliament” project to ensure that the Parliament of Ghana can continue to interact with even more of our citizens”.
The platform has indeed removed the challenges of physical distance and logistical barriers to citizens’ engagement especially among the youth. It has solved problems related to tracking and monitoring assurances made by the executive. The proposed next phase of the project is targeting expansion to other committees in parliament as well as other countries in the sub region.
Penplusbytes is a not-for-profit organization that seeks to empower the media through the use of Information and Communications Technology to advance journalism in the coverage of governance and accountability, new media and innovations, and mining, oil and gas.