Ghana is taking a bold step to consolidate its democracy.
Elections 2004 is here with us, four gentleman -total lack of gender balance: Edward Mahama (PNC), George Aggudey (CPP) , Professor John Evans Atta Mills( NDC) from the largest party in opposition and the incumbent John Agyekum Kuffour (NNP) are racing for the highest office in the motherland.
It is going to be a battle of two Johns and one John is going to win. The race is competitive. The decision lies in the thumb of 10.2 million registered voters. To win the presidential race you need 50% plus votes.
Voters are expected to elect 230 members of parliament. Though one presidential candidate said during Ghana's version of presidential debate that women are "comforters" , it is comforting to know that there are 101 women candidates in the race for parliament.
Technology shows its beautiful head Embargo is placed on any form of political party campaign 24 hours before the election. Thus no political advert is heard on radio, seen on Television or in the print media. Technology shows its beautiful head, the cheating politicians, no pun intended are sending SMS messages across the country like crazy reminding voters who they should vote for. Of course, email messages containing campaign messages flow through the cyber face. One day the Ghana's Electoral Commission must figure out how to deal with the use of new technologies to flout this embargo.
Saving Trees The Electoral Commission is expected to provide all registered political parties with the complete copy of Ghana's election register listing 10.2 million registered voters in order for them to independently cross check the voters' register during Election. Some one came out with a method of saving trees by not printing this huge document. The political parties each receive a complete copy of the register on CD-ROM. The parties were generally happy with this innovation but when it dawn on them that they have to supply lap tops or PC in order for the numerous polling stations spread throughout the country to read the data they were not amuse at all. Most of the parties were left with no option than to print this voluminous document. Secondly, the parties complained that the register was not complete because it did not contain the photographs of the voters. The Electoral Commission claim that it was nearly impossible to add the pictures since it was going to going to take too much space on the CD-ROM and they could not afford the space. May be the Electoral Commission should experiment with some compression technology next time round.
Elections results via mobile phones Two key GSM mobile phones operators (Spacefon and Mobitel ) are enabling their subscribers to access in real time certified elections results. Mobile Content a mobile content provider is working with the Ghana Journalists Association (GJA) to make this project possible. Software to double check Results The ruling party NPP announced that it has acquired a software which will enable it to run a double check on elections results as they come in. Basically they are going to add up the results as they come in and compare their computation to the ones to be announced by the Electoral Commission. Some local radio stations have also installed similar software to help them process elections results as they are certified at the polling stations across the country.
Radio is going to ensure transparent, free and fair elections Ghana's numerous radio stations are working in tandem to deliver elections results as they are announced at various polling stations. Simply using GSM mobile phones, journalists are going to send results to their stations as and when they are certified at the polling stations. The radio stations are expected to broadcast this results plus posting them to their web site. This timely information flow is an important building block for a transparent, free and fair election. Life Jacket What about "overseas" areas? There are parts of Ghana called "overseas" simply because you can only reach them by helicopter or walking through the forest wild and crossing rivers at certain stages. Journalists are committed to cover these areas as well; they are going to wear their life jackets as they ride canoes to get elections results in long after the elections are over. Mobile phones do not work in those areas; electricity supply is not available and internet access is light years away. Wishful thinking: provide each journalist with solar powered satellite so that they can report from "overseas" instantly. It is not going to happen not at this election.
Maybe by the next election, our elected politicians are going to work hard to ensure that all parts of the country are well endowed with wonderful Information and Communication Technologies? Another wishful thinking!
Places to go to check out Ghana's elections results
1.. Ghana web www.ghanaweb.com 2.. Joy online www.joyonline.com 3.. Join Africa www.joinafrica.com 4.. Government website www.ghana.gov.gh 5.. CITI FM http://www.citifmonline.com/aboutciti/index.htm 6.. Ghana elections http://www.ghanaelections.com/
Kwami Ahiabenu,II is a management/new media/ ICT4D expert who writes from Accra. Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.