Social Media Is Playing A Role In Ghana’s Election 2012
4/12/2012 11:32:32 PM -
I have no doubt that social media would play and is playing a significant role in Ghana's Election 2012. As a keen follower of political debates and analysis on various social media platforms, my conviction of the role of social media in this years election is deep-seated, positive and insurmountable.
I believe that social media has opened a new wave of opportunity for citiziens, politicians and civil society organisations to engage in an open, transparent and dialogical discussions that are relevant to the entrenchment of our democratic values and aspirations.
Particularly, I would like to share some insight about Facebook and how it is becoming an inevitable tool in our public debate and discourses in Ghana. Socialbaker, a social media analytic company estimates that Ghana's Facebook user base is reaching 1,211,760 and grew by 92,300 in the last six months.This means that there is a slight increase of over 150,000 users each month with a penetration rate of about 5%. Recalling how election '08 was close to call and the difference of 40,586 votes between the candidates, politicians should not underestimate the power of Facebook to galvanise, canvass and rake-in floating voters and keep their loyal supporters up-to-date with information and news. Perhaps it is also interesting to share this point; 32% of the total number of Facebook users are between the ages of 25-35, but the largest group of 41% is between 18-24 years of age. The impact of Facebook cannot therefore be brushed away in this election year. News now flies like wild-fire, and I stay updated about political happenings in Ghana through Facebook. I know I am not alone.
Interestingly, no stone is being left unturned. Political parties and their representatives in Ghana are now very active on Facebook. Dr. Paa Kwesi Nduom, the presidential candidate for the PPP( Progressive People's Party) has more than 10,551 subscriptions on his Facebook page. He seems to have grabbed the real essence of this tool very well. On 7th April 2012 he requested his followers to participate in an online chat with him, an opportunity to relate to his supporters on a one-one basis while giving them the chance to ask questions and make comments. Who would have thought about this a decade ago?
Meanwhile, even before campaigning in Ghana kick-starts officially, the debate has long started on Facebook. Many of the youth in Ghana are using this medium to express support and opposing views about issues of national character and importance, though emotional, sentimental, naked insults and inconsequential at times. Nevertheless, this is somewhat a strong indication that there is a greater desire for greater political transparency and public inclusion. For example, the state of the nation address; the mob attack on a radio station by thugs of the opposition party; the wrangling within the ruling party;the Woyome judgement debt scandal where a financier of the ruling government is 'purported' to have been paid an amount of 52 million dollars as judgement debt and recently issues arising from Ghana's mundane biometric registration exercise gained lots of commentary. Just today, the topic dominating is the beating of 'loud-mouthed' Ursula Owusu of the opposition party who has gain notoriety for her insulting behaviour; not even the president is spared at times.
Some parliamentary candidates are also communicating and disseminating information to heterogeneous audiences using Facebook. Ras Mubarak, one of the youngest Parliamentary candidate in this years election is an ardent user of Facebook. He connects with the over 2,000 public subscriptions on his Facebook page and constantly updates this with his campaign activities.This young politician is definitely pushing the frontiers and is reaching out to lots of people, affording them the opportunity to make informed decision, like his ideas, and express their views by way of commenting. It will be fair to say that there are many other Parliamentary candidates doing same.
This trend is not only limited to politicians, other concerned civil groups such as Ghana Decides and Ghana elections are sensitising and educating people about the biometric registration and other related election issues. You may want to visit their websites here http://ghanadecides.com/ and http://www.africanelections.org/.
With an increase in internet penetration and 3G, the expectation is that many people would turn to social media to be informed, share and disclose their affiliation to political parties. luckily enough, internet is readily available on mobile phones thanks to the numerous telecommunication companies avaliable.This is a greater height for our democracy and very potent omen.
Using Facebook to connect with otherwise inaccessible groups and capture new members by distributing public information would probably influence the outcome of this years election. Perhaps there are politicians who are adamant to use this new development. Well, this could only be to their own peril. For them I say, this is a bandwagon you should roll along with.