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NGO

Democratic empowerment

by Kwami Ahiabenu II

In brief

Social Media Tracking Centre team members in Accra, Ghana.

Social Media Tracking Centre team members in Accra, Ghana.

In order to help African media houses to cope with digital technologies, Penplusbytes was established 17 years ago. It is a non-governmental organisation (NGO). Among other things, it provides skills training for journalists and other media practitioners.

Currently, Penplusbytes is promoting better governance in Africa by using information technology (IT) in three thematic areas:

  • new media and innovations,
  • use of new digital technologies in pursuit of citizens’ empowerment,
  • ensuring greater oversight over the extractive sector (mining, oil and gas).

Penplusbytes’ core mission is to enable citizens to participate in public affairs. IT should serve this purpose. This NGO has worked in more than 15 African countries so far. The database of alumni has more than 1,500 reporters and media practitioners from 24 countries across Africa. The head office is in Accra, Ghana, and there are branch offices in Lagos, Nigeria, and Cotonou, Benin.

Internationally, disinformation has become a common phenomenon that reduces public confidence in the media and augments civic apathy. At the same time, digital technology is eroding the revenues and influence of traditional media. Conventional business models are collapsing.

To stay well informed, citizens need to understand digitised media and their business model. In other words, media literacy requires ever more knowledge. Any attempt to fight fake news is welcome, especially if it helps citizens navigate this complex environment with critical analytical skills. (ka)

 

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