SOCIAL MEDIA AND CITIZENSHIP ENGAGEMENT
Mobilization efforts of African CSOs who met in Dar es Salaam between 15th and 18th February 2010 were given a boost as participants were introduced to an emerging media advocacy frontline – social media. The effective use of social media for citizenship engagement and activism was among key presentations that caught the interest of many. Regular reporting and information flow to partners and constituencies of CSOs were recognized by participants as major difficulties in sustaining smooth relationship with communities.
Beyond issues of just information flow, social media allows for openness and transparency. Unlike traditional media which provides a one way communication channel, social media allows for participation of constituencies in the communication process. Feed back is a key feature of social media. Tools such as Google docs, blogs and social networking platforms blurs lines between authors and the audience. The level of openness and participation offered by this form of media bring about a we-feeling for CSOs and their constituencies in their struggle for change.
A lot of these tools are available for free on the internet and include types such as Google docs, facebook, twiter, flikr, youtube and sms. The strength of social media for advocacy draws from the extensive understanding and awareness created on an issue and therefore the potency that it lends to the collective voice that demands for change. CSOs must embrace and maximize the dividends of social media as this will further improve the question of representation and accountability often posed to us.
The downside to this medium is that not many people have access to the internet and therefore not many people can access social media. However there is evidence that internet connectivity is increasing and access to mobile phones is doing a lot better. The terrain is new in our part of the world and is waiting to be harnessed. Social media holds a promising prospect for advocacy and activism in Ghana because majority of the most productive section of our population (the youth) are one way or the other online. Hope we are able to utilize the endless opportunities that this bring.
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