EXCERPTS OF DAY 1 AT THE NEW MEDIA AND GOVERNANCE CONFERENCE
EiE Nigeria, Shehu Musa Yaradua Foundation, Galaxy backbone and a host of other stakeholders put together what has now become the first ever conference on New Media and Governance in Africa. The 2 days conference held at the Yaradua Centre in Abuja with notable dignitaries in attendance. Below are excerpts of day 1 of the conference proceedings put together by Oluwatobi Soyombo. “Oluwatobi is a tech crusader and helps organization with online presence management. He also blogs for YNaija, and Mobility. You can follow him on twitter – @SOluwatobi and his blog – Musing of an Incurable Technopreneur.”
This day 1 recap of the event was first published by oTeKbits, a technology based website in Nigeria.
The program was divided into three (3) Sessions including:
OPENING PLENARY: Welcome: Conference Overview
SESSION I: Nigerian Elections and New Media, Moving Forward
SESSION II: Engaging Government
The Program started with a National Anthem (as usual), after which Yemi Adamolekun gave the overview of the conference. During her speech, she talked about how Social Media has given people all over the world a voice. She also commented about the impact of Social Media in the recent #OccupyNigeria campaign.
The Honourable Minister of the Ministry of Communication Technology, Mrs Omobola Johnson proceeded to give her opening remark. She gave incredible facts about Social Media and Technology in Nigeria. Some of these facts include: about 44million internet users in Nigeria, the fact that President Jonathan became the second most liked President in the world, after President Barack Obama (Facebook). She intimated the participants on how the government is changing the face of technology in Nigeria.
The opening plenary continued with a remarkable Keynote address by Professor Steven Livingston, who began by giving 5 types of technology and how these technologies are changing the world.
Sub Marine cable
Commercial Remote Sensing Satellites
Communication Satellites and Ground receivers
He stressed that over 5 billion people are connected all over the world. To confirm these stats, Prof. Livingston asked the audience “How many of you have a mobile phone, two, and three?” He also made it known that the Innovation Centres, cannot be regarded as a technology per se, but they’re the ones harnessing technology to change the lives of people locally.
According to him, without the Innovation Centres, the other four types of technologies will not make much impact. To buttress his point, he highlighted few Innovation Centres and the platforms they have developed to make the lives of local communities better. Some of the centers and initiatives mentioned include: iHub in Kenya, FrontlineSMS, Rapid SMS, Ushahidi, Reclaim Naija.
He went further to show the audience how these technologies are helping African countries. He cited as an example of some volunteers helping the Kenyan government map the remote areas in Kenya that are currently unavailable on any of the maps in Kenya. This initiative is made possible by the Commercial Remote Sensing Satellites.
One of the notable statements made by Prof. Livingston was this one-liner “For the first time, there’s an African revolution, born in Africa and affecting Africans and the world.” He concluded his speech by expressing that “as information costs diminish, so too do collaborations costs. Collaboration costs are found in the necessity and type of organization that needed to achieve goals, such as the provision of public goods.”
Stephen King made his way to the stage to talk about the Power of Open. Steven King stressed the need for governments to be open. He ended his speech with a 2 minute video highlighting various Open Data initiatives in the world and their effects. One of these is the UK Open Data Initiative that made hospitals publish the success rate of heart surgeries. According to the video, this led to competition among the hospitals and eventually increased the overall success rate by 50%.
The INEC Chairman, Professor Attahiru Jega took over the mic with to give his remark. He started by mentioning several benefits of Social Media to INEC. He received a resounded applause when he said “The 2011 General Elections in Nigeria, have been described as the first set of elections in Nigeria driven by new media”.
During his speech, Prof. Jega identified ‘misinformation’, a situation where someone tweets misleading information from an anonymous handle, as one of the cons of Social Media. To minimize this, Prof. Jega suggested the need for the government to regulate the use of Social Media in Nigeria. This suggestion met with mixed feelings among the participants.
The First plenary Session was focused on “Nigerian Elections and New Media: Moving Forward”. Four discussants participated in this session with Amara Nwankpa of Enough is Enough as the moderator. The discussants include: Mohammed Kuna (INEC), Nike Adekanbi (IamLagos), Michael Best (Georgia Institute of Technology) and Prof. Attahiru Jega (INEC Chairman).
During the session, discussants expressed their views on how Social Media can be harnssed to create more credible elections in Nigeria. Nike Adekanbi told the participants about the IamLagos initiative and how it can be replicated in other States. The sessions ended with the discussants responding to numerous questions from the audience.
SESSION II: Engaging Government
As the title suggests, this session was aimed at examining “how government and other stakeholders can establish appropriate structures and platforms to take advantage of new media tools in driving transparency, accountability and public service delivery”.
The discussants were Caroline Sage (World Bank), Yemi Kiri (Open Government Pilot Project, Edo State), Tonye Isenah (Bayelsa State House of Assembly) and Paul Lenz (mySociety.org)
Yemi Kiri gave a details explanation on how the Edo State government is harnessing Technology to drive her open governance project. She made it known that nothing was happening technologically in the Edo State government before 2009. So, the government employed about 500 graduates to man the ICT projects of the state. She proceeded to show the audience the year 2020 vision of the Open Government Project in Edo State. Other discussants contributed, stressing how the government has and can create platform to provide adequate information to the people.
Governor Kayode Fayemi’s Session:
The Executive Governor of Ekiti State who was scheduled to speak at the dinner later in the evening arrived at the Conference during the second plenary session.
He gave statistics on how Ekiti State Government has been harnessing various Social Media tools (Facebook, Twitter and others). He further stressed the plans of Ekiti State in deploying usable technology to the people of Ekiti State. According to him, the government has a plan to lay fiber optic cable, first in the capital city and then to other parts of the states later. With a contagious smile, the Governor stated that their dream for Ekiti State is to make it the Bangalore of Nigeria.
I must state that the Conference is one of its kinds. Do watch out for the Day 2 Recap. You can follow the live tweets using the hashtag #NGNewMedia on twitter and the live streaming here.
Photo Credit: Sunday Aghaeze (Chakam Images)