In the age of rapid digital advancements and instant news dissemination, it is easy to overlook the efforts and dedication of organizations that have played a pivotal role in connecting citizens to information throughout history.
One of such organizations which has a remarkable establishment and a rich legacy of serving the nation is the Information Services Department (ISD) under the current Ministry of Information (MOI) headed by the Hon. Kojo Oppong Nkrumah.
A Historical Foundation
The ISD traces its root back to the latter part of 1939 when it was established as a branch of the Colonial Government Secretariat with the sole and primary objective to relay news about the Second World War 11 to the people of Gold Coast (now Ghana).
The production of the news stories was done through a weekly journal dubbed “The Empire at War”, just to ensure that citizens remained informed and connected to the global events shaping the world and at the same time bridging the communication gap between the then government and the governed.
Evolution and Reorganization:
Following the war, the department underwent significant transformations. It was renamed the Public Relations Department and thus assumed oversight responsibility for crucial institutions such as the Ghana Broadcasting Corporation (GBC), the Ghana News Agency (GNA) and the Ghana Film Industry Corporation (GFIC).
However, in line with the recommendations made by the Coussey Committee which investigated the 1949 disturbances, the Gold Coast Government reorganized the Department into the Department of Information. This transformation aimed to enhance its effectiveness as a Government Information Disseminating Unit, bridging the communication gap between the government and the governed.
Central Publicity Agent:
In the wake of the February 24 Revolution in 1966, the then Ministry of Information and the Department of Information Services merged to form the Central Publicity Agent of the Government. This consolidation was also a testament to the department’s growing significance in facilitating effective communication between the Government and the People of Ghana.
Again, the Department was split in 1971 to become the Public Relations Secretariat and the Public Relations Department, currently known as the Ministry of Information and ISD respectively. The restructured exercised was aimed among others to disseminate information on relevant government policies, programmes and activities.
The Rise of News Channels:
In recent time past, however, the ISD which hitherto used information vans and its officers to travel around towns and villages to disseminate information, broadcast news and programmes on topics such as current affairs, health, education, culture and many more was faced with new challenges and opportunities.
Typically, the proliferation and the emergence of news channels provided citizens with access to a broader range of news sources and information, revolutionizing the way people consumed information easily and fast than before. The reliance on the ISD’s information vans, which had served as mobile libraries and broadcasting units, gradually declined.
ISD, after 84 years of remarkable achievements since the time of the Gold Coast coupled with its metamorphoses exercises, recognizes the need to adapt to the changing media landscape to remain active, vibrant and relevant. The Department has since sought for alternative channels for information dissemination in its previous, past and recent transformation and modernization Agendas.
Transformation and Modernization:
In recent years, for example, the ISD has embarked on a transformative journey to meet the evolving needs of society. It has embraced digital technologies, expanded its range of services, and improved citizen access to information. By investing in advanced digital infrastructure and strengthening its digital capabilities, the ISD can now efficiently manage data and provide citizens with easier access to information.
Moreover, the department has reinvigorated its media outreach efforts and established a strong presence on social media platforms. These initiatives have facilitated more extensive engagement with citizens, enabling them to participate in public discourse and remain well-informed about government policies and programs.
New Divisions and Initiatives:
To further enhance its operations and transformational Agenda focus, the ISD has established new divisions and initiatives. The Access to Information (ATI) Division, commissioned in July 2020, trains and deploys RTI Officers to government institutions, facilitating access to information requests. The Public Relations Coordinating Division (PRCD) has been retooled to effectively coordinate government information on a daily basis with the support of Public Relation Officers across Ministries, Department and Agencies, while the Research Division ensures the provision of accurate and quality data to inform government decision-making processes. Others are the Publicity Education Campaign Division and the News Room Division.
ISD Looking Ahead:
As the ISD continues its journey of evolution, it remains committed to connecting the nation through information dissemination. In an era where news channels and digital platforms dominate the media landscape, the department’s role in bridging the information gap between the government and the people remains indispensable.
The author is the Head of PAU at MELR and a staff of ISD.