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PWDs call for Assemblies to engage using ICT platforms

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Persons with Disabilities (PWDs) have called on Municipal, Metropolitan and District assemblies (MMDAs) to incorporate new digital technologies which are disability friendly into their engagements with communities especially since face-to-face meetings are often conducted in inaccessible venues for persons with disabilities.

Speaking on the sidelines of the Social Accountability Multi Stakeholder Forum in Accra, Alexander Williams of the Ghana Federation of Disability Organisations posited that the assemblies have not been that inclusive especially in dealing with persons with disabilities. He is of the opinion that the use of new digital tools will make it convenient for PWDs to easily access government information and help them to add their voice to the governance process and ensure their needs are captured in national policies.

Contributing to the topic; “ICT and media: Enablers of social accountability”, Mr. Williams said local media houses or community radio stations that are often close to such persons would not send out information unless payment is done. He called on the National Media Commission to address this concern. “It is true that these radio stations are closer to the communities, but they would not send out an information unless monies are paid and this is often frustrating”, he explained.

Using basic digital tools such as SMS and WhatsApp platforms, it would be more cost effective and less time consuming to engage and share information with all persons within the district including persons with disabilities. Text-to-Speech Technologies or Interactive Voice Response (IVR) services would help visually impaired persons who find it difficult to type. Also, smart phones with screen readers would be beneficial to such persons.

He further advised that the disability fund should rather be used to address issues specific to persons with disabilities and not subsumed into the District’s common fund.

The Social Accountability Multi Stakeholder Forum was held on the 27th and 28th of February on the theme ““Institutionalizing Social Accountability in Local Governance: the Success, Gaps and Way Forward” and was jointly organised by SEND Ghana, CDD Ghana, Penplusbytes, and Ghana Anti-Corruption Coalition.

Speaking at the opening ceremony of the two-day Forum, the Board Chairman of the Ghana Audit Service, Professor Dua Agyemang, who spoke on behalf of the Senior Minister Yaw Osafo Marfo, said, globally social accountability is recognized as one of the tools that Government can use in the fight against corruption but more importantly, to increase citizen and Government engagement at the national, regional and district levels.

He indicated that Government’s commitment to the use of social accountability is evident in the Social Accountability program hosted by the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development, which is empowering Metro, Municipals and District Assemblies (MMDAs), Civil Society organizations (CSOs) and end users of different public services to ensure that there is value for money.

A communiqué developed from the Forum is expected to be shared with relevant government bodies and other stakeholders.