Although there is a lot of activity when it comes to monitoring mainstream media, there is currently only an inefficient manual tracking of trends in social media here in Ghana.
Social media provides the insight and up to the minute information that will be imperative in ensuring a peaceful Ghana Elections 2016. It is because of this gap in efficient data monitoring that Penplusbytes’ Flagship “Social Media Tracking Centre” (SMTC) is set to roll out ahead of the December 7 polls.
The SMTC is a system to monitor and respond in real-time to reports emanating from social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, etc. The technology at the middle of an SMTC is the Aggie social media tracking software, developed at Georgia Tech. Aggie is able to present trends grouped around voting logistics, violence, political parties, etc. Penplusbytes will pass the information on to the National Elections Security Taskforce. Through rapid citizen feedback, gathered through social media, problems that may trigger security incidents will be quickly resolved, contributing to a peaceful election.
The centre is to be manned by a core team of tech savvies made up of students from tertiary institutions like the Meltwater Entrepreneurial School of Technology and the University of Ghana, Legon as well as staff of Penplusbytes. The team will be monitoring social media for 72 hours non-stop on a rotational basis from 6th to the 8th of December, 2016 which is before, during and after the elections.
Key words that have been categorized into trends and incidents will be tracked in real time on social media platforms and staff will verify these, before producing rapid electoral incident reports to share with diverse electoral stakeholders. Penplusbytes will share its real-time incident reports with the Electoral Commission, National Elections Security Task Force (NESTF), and other election stakeholders for prompt action. A new addition to the software tracking platforms is the SMS short code. All these will be done with embedded representatives in the electoral management and observer control centers.
With funding from the Deutsche Welle (DW) Akademie and the National Endowment for Democracy, this project seeks to promote peaceful, transparent and credible elections in Ghana and support effective and efficient information and knowledge exchange through a strategic and structural engagement of citizens and the electoral management bodies (Electoral Commission and National Elections Security Task Force – NESTF).
According to the executive director of Penplusbytes, Kwami Ahiabenu II, “Technology is playing a key role in Ghana’s socio-economic development and its application in the governance sector is no exception. This centre and its activities during the elections is clearly in line with our vision of being the leading institution for promoting good governance using technology.”
During the 2012 Ghana elections, new digital technologies were applied by all stakeholders in the elections continuum from the electoral management body, political parties, electoral observers, down to the individual voters.
Given this context, there is no doubt that ICTs is going to be a key factor in the elections and this project will seek to enhance and contribute to the democratic momentum that has already been built over the years.
Penplusbytes is a not-for-profit organization driving change through innovations in three key areas: using new digital technologies to enable good governance and accountability, new media and innovations, and driving oversight for effective utilisation of mining, oil and gas revenue and resources.