Politicians Must Use Digital Technology To Reach Out To Electorates
Mr Kwame Ahiabenu II, an IT Expert of Technology Innovation Experts, has stated that politicians will have to make use of digital technologies to reach out to electorates in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Owing to the rise of COVID-19 and the toll it is having on public health, the IT expert explained that politicians will have to reach out to the masses through technology.
For a proper dissemination of the plan, a virtual public political education forum was created by the Institute for Democratic Governance (IDEG) to discuss the usage of the virtual space for campaign.
“Limiting face-to-face contact plus the need for adhering to physical distancing means face to face interactions are being replaced with virtual opportunities — Virtual Campaigns,” Mr Ahiabenu stated at the public political education forum in Accra.
The theme for the forum was “Using the Virtual Public Space for the 2020 Elections Campaign,”
The purpose of the IDEG virtual forum was to foster a responsible virtual campaigning and ensure a peaceful election in spite of restrictions brought by the pandemic.
Mr Ahiabenu, who was a panelist, noted that COVID-19 has brought significant changes across all spectrums of our lives, democracy is being tested, as over 50 countries have postponed local or national elections with more to follow.
He also acknowledged that despite the restrictions, technology was paving the way for people to cope though it came with challenges which include how to police, control and regulate this growing virtual electoral space.
He said the power of the Internet and social media as a tool for political mobilization was now established as a means to locate and communicate with voters, fundraising, virtual events ( campaign rallies, town hall meetings) door to door (target one to one interaction/messaging), call to action, and debates.
Mr Ahiabenu noted that despite the mass movement towards all media strategy, the current regulatory framework in the country was not up to the task, stressing that digital platforms were not subject to the current rules.
“Any formal regulation of online/social media spaces is very complex- the underlying structure of the Internet is premised on openness and inherent lack of a central control.
“Trade-off between regulation, censorship and maintaining freedom of speech remains a thorny issue,” he stated.
He therefore urged civil society to instigate a process, culminating in political parties, and candidates pledging to adhere to best practices in virtual spaces throughout the electoral cycle, while advocating for self-regulation.
He charged civil society to mount campaigns — to protect freedom of speech in the light of any regulations or laws.
Mr Ahiabenu also called on regulatory agencies to investigate ways they could extend and support regulations in virtual spaces through public discourse, while the Electoral Commission should have a policy of zero tolerance for inappropriate behaviour by candidates/parties.
He also charged the media to work towards setting good examples and providing education and information, hold political parties, and candidates to account and ensure self-regulation.
Dr Emmanuel Akwetey, IDEG Executive Director, noted that the virtual media space has now become a safer, powerful and more important medium for political party campaigns for Ghana’s 2020 national elections.
He said COVID-19 had knocked out large size public campaign rallies amidst political parties and election candidates will now have to rely extensively on the media, both traditional and new media to carry their messages across to the voting public.