The political ecosystem in Ghana now presents inadequate spaces and technological tools to enable citizens demand openness in government development plans and budgets especially at the local level and the absence of same for government to supply or respond to citizens’ demands. Penplusbytes aims to bridge this obvious information gap using new digital tools.
Thus, with support from DW Akademie, Penplusbytes has been at the forefront of implementing the Access to information – OpenGov platform since 2015, which sought to equip citizens at the district level with simplified information to meaningfully participate in the governance process. This year, the Phase II of the project seeks to use new digital tools to connect ordinary citizens to duty-bearers at the local government levels (selected districts in the Upper West, Greater Accra, Central and the Western Regions of Ghana) with a focus on building the capacity of selected journalists in the project districts to use data journalism skills to better report on District Assembly budgets and development plans. The project aims at enhancing information and knowledge sharing in the districts to ensure the voices of citizens are heard in the planning and implementation of district assemblies’ development plans and budgets.
As part of the project implementation activities, the Penplusbytes project team will train journalists from community radios in Tema Municipal Assembly, Twifo Atti-Morkwa District Assembly, Ellembelle District Assembly and Wa Municipal Assembly. The first training will take off between the 5 -7 September and it will involve, ten (10) journalists from Obonu FM, Latenu Radio and Radio Ada and they will be equipped with data journalism skills in reporting their local assemblies’ budgets and development plans.
The 10 journalists would also be oriented on the OpenGov platform (www.opengov.org.gh
) and equipped with skills for practical use of data in telling compelling stories that citizens can easily understand and assimilate to effectively hold duty bearers to account.
The Executive Director of Penplusbytes, Kwami Ahiabenu II, said “Community radio is a very vibrant and effective means of reaching the masses and this training will provide a sure means of making duty bearers accountable for what is bestowed in their care by the people. Penplusbytes’ trained data journalists have over the years proven to be equal to that task.”
The project will build on earlier activities undertaken in the four selected district and complement interventions by other DW Akademie grantees in the districts. It will involve updating the OpenGov platform with the current development plans and budgets from the 4 project districts and consistently using SMS to engage citizens and duty bearers. This will cumulate in the overall sharing of usable information that citizens can use to monitor and engage duty-bearers on the district’s development plans and budgets.