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Opinions of Tuesday, 13 December 2016

Columnist: Amofa, Kennedy K.

Technology: E-democracy - A new vision for Africa's democracy

By Kennedy K. Amofa PhD

The issue of political instability in Africa has negatively affected both the political and socio-economic development of the various African countries experiencing this problem.

The emerging and promoting of e-democracy is imperative to strengthen the political systems to ensure freedom and self-governance in the various African countries. The integration of advanced technology into Africa's political systems might promote free and fair elections, accountability for the political leaders, and the participation of the democratic process by all citizens both in the country in question and around the globe.

The 21st century is considered as the Information Age for the fact that Advanced Technology in the form of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) has increasingly enabled the dissemination of information of a given country`s political issues and concerns globally.

The essence of e-democracy is the integration of advanced technology into the political structure, systems, and processes to help serve the citizens effectively and efficiently.

The concept of e-democracy exhibits numerous connotations including e-government, virtual democracy, e-participation, teledemocracy, digital democracy, and cyber democracy. The e-democracy presents numerous benefits including greater transparency and accountability in democratic institutions and processes. Most importantly, it fosters the national pride for citizenship and loyalty.

The internet has created numerous online global forums for both local and global democratic participation by citizens all the world. This new global political platform encourages engagement and interactions across a broad spectrum with diverse interested parties and stakeholders. A typical example is the Ghana`s 2016 political elections which started with all the online FM radio stations a unique platform where people will vent their anger and frustration for the political events in Ghana.

With time, the Ghanaians also used the same venues to get their grievances to the world. These two demands created a new global forum to foster greater public participation around the world with the various subjects including corruption, political parties’ affiliations, the critique of the government development policies, and other national issues.

The e-democracy explores the capabilities of the social media in the form of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube to engage the citizens around the world. The pronouncement by the Inspector General of Police (IGP) John Kudalor of Ghana Police Service for the consideration of blocking social media across the country on election day could be disastrous with the clouds of darkness and uncertainty that would be created over the county.

Agreeably, the social media played a crucial role in the 2016 election by providing real time information about events of the elections for the local authorities to take corrective actions and kept the Ghanaian citizens current about the election processes with new real-time updates and live data streaming.

The various news outlets used the social media to disseminate important news items to the global world. The most important news feed of President John Dramani Mahama historic phone call to congratulate the president elect Nana Akuffo Addo brought great peace to the heart of all Ghanaians and dissipated the cloud of anxiety and fear due to the delay of the Electoral Commission final pronouncement of the winner for the elections.

Scholars and researchers including West (2004) in the area of e-government have identified four distinct types of the Internet online interface for governments to providing services to the general public. The first stage is the billboard stage, which provide an interface for government to deliver basic information to the public.

The next stage allows public access to information from government websites with selected online services, and the third stage, additionally assured the public with fully integrated online services. West (2004) further argued that the final stage of the e-government websites explores extensive advanced Internet technologies including data streaming, web analytics, content analysis, social media data integration, and finally interactive websites with self-services for the public.

As at now the Ghana Elections Commission`s website is at the first stage and it is recommended that it must be upgraded to the fourth level to serve as the hub for political information processing and data sharing for the citizens to have primary elections data and insights.

The e-democracy initiative involved the integration of Election Intelligence(EI) and for the past decades, advanced countries including the United States has used Election Intelligence(EI) to provide reliable credible elections results and to predict the probability for a candidate to win a given election.

Although, they have the big data and the analytic tools for the 2016 US presidential election they were off with their predictions and it now the new task for social science researchers to come up with new constructs that can accurately measure the emotions of the electorates.

The situations in Ghana 2016 election and Nigeria 2015 elections were different as both countries deployed Election Monitoring Intelligence Systems (EMIS) a cloud based application that provided real-time provisional unconfirmed elections results data from exist polls and results from the polling stations. This EMIS was integrated with online analytic platform (OLAP), Geographical Information Systems (GIS), Google Maps, and with cloud computing interface to create a unique platform to analyze the elections results.

Few hours after the Ghana 2016 election was over, the opposing party the New Patriotic Party(NPP) with the use of the EMIS came up with the projection of Nana Akuffo Addo as the winner of the election based on the data from the pink slips of the polling stations form all the constituents. Certain observers were concerned that this might create confusion in the country underestimating the importance of advanced technology and evidence-based decisions.

The major media outlets in Ghana including Adom FM and Joy FM were able use the EMIS to make their projections as Nana Akuffo Addo the winner of the elections. It is important to note that efficacy of the EMIS as the variations from the results officially declared by the Ghana Election Commission and the projections was not statistically significant. This restore confidence, peace, and calmness to the citizens to wait patiently till the end.

To this effect, a conclusion of the use of e-democracy is an indispensable tool not only for peaceful transitioning of governments but to create a new opportunity to integrate advanced technology into the existing political systems to make them viable. Going forward as a country, the use of advanced technology including the smartphones and global engagement online platforms will help fight corruptions, create value for the global market, and to contribute to a robust government that accounts for all the citizens.

It is recommended that Ghana should have a national data mart to account for all the citizens including electronic verifiable ID, Social Security number for all, individual credit score, and the social citizenship score as in China for everyone`s social contributions to the nation.

This process will create more high paying technology jobs for the youth and to make everyone accountable for the economic advancement of Ghana. Long live all the presidents of Ghana including the newly elected Nana Akuffo Addo, Long live Ghana, and long live Africa.

Reference West, D. M. (2004). E-government and the transformation of service delivery and citizen attitudes. Public Administration Review, 64(1), 15.

Kennedy K. Amofa PhD. Business Adjunct Professor Grand Canyon University Phoenix, AZ, USA www.kennedyamofa.com kenamofa@gmail.com