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The SMAG Project

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The official report off The Social Media And Governance Project, which I undertook for my finals at Birmingham City University. ...

The official report off The Social Media And Governance Project, which I undertook for my finals at Birmingham City University.

It explored Nigeria's use of social media for the 2011 elections, and made a three pronged recommendation to the electorate, national electoral body, and individuals seeking various office.

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The SMAG Project The SMAG Project Document Transcript

  • EXECUTIVE SUMMARYIn April Nigerians witnessed an unprecedented use of social media tools and electronicapplications to bring people together to demand for change and monitor a credibleelection process. From the 9th of April 2011 till the 26th, Nigerians elected new leaders inwhat has been described severally as the Nigerian Social Media debut, as it was the firsttime the country in its fifty-one years of existence utilized social media tools in herelections.The Social Media and Governance (SMAG) project attempted to answer this question byexploring the impact of social platforms and networks on the April 2011 elections. Theidea was to ask the same questions to different cadres of people: bloggers, officials fromthe national electoral body, etc.This report captures my findings from exploring the relationship between social media,citizen participation in governance, and accessibility to the leadership. This explorationwas carried in the SMAG (Social Media And Governance) Lab, and features experimentsin forms including a focus group discussion, interviews with young Nigerians, polls, and aconference held on Twitter on the 5th of August 2011.It outlines some of the advantages and disadvantages of the deployment of social mediaduring the elections, and concludes with a three pronged recommendation to thecitizenry, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), and servingleaders/elected public office holders, as well as a social enterprise model I’m developing todeliver social media solutions via text messaging.
  • TABLE OF CONTENTS 1. Project review 3. Advantages and disadvantages of social media in the April 2011 elections 6. Politicians and the use of Twitter 12. Recommendations 15. Social Enterprise Model 17. Contact Me
  • PROJECT REVIEWINTRODUCTIONWhen I decided to study the impact Social Media had on Nigeria’s April general elections,at first I struggled with the thought that I might be undertaking an already proven line ofstudy. The verdict according to both local and international media was positive; variousmedia already praised social media, few words short of calling it a miracle.True, but the question became, how many people were influenced by it? What exactlychanged about their attitude and behaviour? How did they feel about the exodus ofpoliticians to social platforms? How did the aspirants use social media? What did we dowrong? What did we do right? Where do we go from here?Reflecting on all those questions helped me draw up a list of objectives this project wouldattempt to achieve. They were to: · the growth of social media usage in Nigeria, Trace ·Conduct an enquiry into the use of social media by four of the eighteen presidential aspirants in the just concluded elections. · a fresh perspective on the role of the media as a catalyst for national Offer development and make recommendations in that regard. ·Isolate the gaps in the usage of social media during the elections and make recommendations on how better the opportunities social media affords can be harnessed.Basically, this project sought to answer the question, “using social media, how can I getthe citizens to be more democratically engaging building up to and during the nextelections”?To answer that question I set up the SMAG (Social Media And Governance) Lab whereusing qualitative research methods I sampled opinions. Qualitative research is “a type ofscientific research that ü Seeks answers to a question ü Systematically uses a predefined set of procedures to answer the question ü evidence Collects ü findings that were not determined in advance Processes
  • ü findings that are applicable beyond the immediate boundaries of the Produces study.” (Family Health International)The SMAG LABThe Social Media And Governance (SMAG) Lab is an adaptation of the ‘Living Labs’concept developed by Professor William J. Mitchell of the Massachusetts Institute ofTechnology Media Lab and School of Architecture. This research concept is a user-centred set up where the target audience are not merely respondents, but partners in anenvironment that allows for open innovation. In other words, the ‘respondents’ bringtheir creativity and diversity to the research, and that was what I achieved by askingyoung people severally to proffer solutions to what they perceived as poor usage of socialmedia either by aspirants to various offices, or the electoral body itself.The Target AudienceThe demographic for the audience was digitally enabled young people aged 18 – 35. Thisdemographic was chosen on the back of statistics that show that out of an estimated 150million Nigerians, 87million own mobile phones that can send and receive text messages,44million have internet access, 3 million are on Facebook, and approximately 60, 000 onTwitter. Of these figures, 70% of the people utilizing social media are within the 18-35age bracket.
  • ADVANTAGES AND DISADVANTAGES OF SOCIAL MEDIA IN THEAPRIL 2011 ELECTIONSFrom the electorate to the aspirants, electoral bodies and other stakeholders, the April2011 polls were different, and positively so too. How exactly? This project asked questionsseverally on the positive and negative implications of our employment of social mediatools. This is what young people had to say.
  • DisadvantagesUnfortunately, as is with every new concept, the opportunities for abuse are more for thesimple reason that in trying to get acquainted with it, people are bound to abuse it,because they don’t know any better.But worse, there are evil people who will take advantage of the ‘newness’ of an idea tofoment trouble.Both scenarios presented on Twitter during the elections in Nigeria; there was the classwho didn’t know, wanted to know, and got the hang of things as time went on. Therewas also the group who knew, but was aware that others didn’t know, and so had a fieldeither spreading rumours, inciting others to violence, etc.The most obvious disadvantage of social media incidentally is its strongest point andbiggest edge over mainstream media. That is its ability to be instantaneous. We won’t behearing from me directly though; I have again compiled from Twitter users, thedisadvantages they had with using it during the elections.
  • It is literally like standing in the middle of a busy marketplace, and blowing powder fromyour palm into the air. Not only will the effect be felt immediately, the people affected bythat powder (both directly and the ripple effect) will never be able to all get back in oneplace for you to take the powder off them. This plays out especially Agree with thatanalogy?There is also the class of people who felt social media on the elections had negligibleimpact. Different people, different opinions.
  • AN ANALYSIS OF POLITICIANS AND THEIR USE OF TWITTERFrom 2009 and the emergence of the Light Up Nigeria online campaign, Nigeriansbecame more aware of an emerging middle class who were finding their voice usingsocial media. Young people, who constitute approximately 70% of Nigeria’s populationdecided to become aware, and get involved in the governance of their country.Politicians noticed it too, and from 2010 began to flock to various social media platformsto interact with and woo potential voters.According to the BBC News article, Nigeria Election: Politicians All of A Twitter’, “thepoliticians appear to have shunned the traditional press in favour of the social networkingsites to reach the younger generation which represents a new phase in the country’sonline revolution”.President Goodluck Jonathan joined Facebook on the 5th of July 2010, and in five days,recorded 73, 064 likes to his page.So how did young Nigerians react to politicians coming on social platforms? Here is oneanswer:The table below, created by the Social Media Tracking Centre Team (2011), shows the topthree users of Twitter among the aspirants at the commencement of the elections.Candidate Twitter ID No. of Following Followers Lists Party Office tweets SoughtDele DeleMomodu2011 1,792 4,145 129 51 NCP PresidentMomoduTunde TundeFashola 1,504 41 20,497 167 ACN GovernorFasholaMuhammadu Buhariforchange 644 1,137 10 9 CPC PresidentBuhari
  • The question now is, how do politicians see social media? With a specific focus onTwitter, was it just a means to an end, or are they on Twitter to truly interact with thedemographic there? On the 6th of September, I captured the screens of six politicians onTwitter (out of a possible 10), showing the last time they used it after the electioneeringperiod. While I don’t mention when they joined, the term ‘preliminary search’ refers totheir level of interaction (or not) from the last 20 tweets to date. 1. MUHAMMADU BUHARI, presidential aspirant on the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) platform. ·Preliminary search – No engagement. Last Tweet – 26th of April, 2011 2. FOLA ADEOLA, Vice Presidential candidate on the Action Congress of Nigeria (CAN) platform.
  • ·Preliminary search – No engagement. Last Tweet – 14th of April, 20111. PAT UTOMI, presidential candidate on the Social Democratic Mega Party (SDMP) platform ·Preliminary search – No engagement. Last Tweet – 26th of September, 2009
  • 1. GOODLUCK JONATHAN, presidential candidate on the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) platform. ·Preliminary search – No engagement. Last Tweet – 2nd of May, 20112. DELE MOMODU, presidential candidate on the National Conscience Party (NCP) platform. ·Preliminary search – high level of engagement. Last Tweet – few hours before I checked.
  • FINDINGS – from the list of aspirants analysed above, it is seen that save one, all theaccounts for the aspirants only existed as a means of pushing information to theirfollowers, not having a conversation.Some of the aspirants started out using it properly, and then after a few weeks fell back tojust using it as one more channel to publicise their press releases.There is also the issue of verification of accounts by the aspirants, who can rightly bereferred to as ‘microcelebs’. Microceleb is a term used to refer to people who by reason oftheir position in society (musician, actor, politician, etc.) or their personality on Twitter,are very popular. To safeguard against impersonation, Twitter has a function wherebysuch people can ‘verify’ their accounts; the reason you see a blue tick beside the names ofcelebrities on Twitter. None of the accounts for the politicians are verified and so itcauses a lot of confusion as to what site the aspirant actually owns. For example, a searchon Twitter for ‘Muhammadu Buhari’ revealed more than six different accounts.That’s potentially very dangerous because anyone could using those accounts sayanything and his followers would take action on it because it’s his name and picture onthe account.Another emerging trend is politicians using Twitter as their ‘day in court’, to defendthemselves or have their say on accusations levelled against them through mainstreammedia. Again it is that wooing of the demographic on Twitter at play here. For instance,in June 2011, Diezani Allison Madueke while going through the screening process by theNational Assembly was accused by some quarters of a number of things includingaccepting/giving bribes in her previous tenure as Minister, and not undertaking thecompulsory one year of National Youth Service. In the middle of the outcry from that, shecreated accounts for herself on various social platforms, including Twitter, and gave herside of the story. She has since been confirmed as minister, and has abandoned herTwitter account (last tweet was the 6th of July), as evidenced by the screen grab below.
  • L inks to the stories can be fou nd here:http://234next.c om/cs p/cm s/site s/Ne xt/Ho me /5722931-146/die zani_allison_m adu ek e_sk ipp ed_nys c_.csp ) and (http ://ynaija.com /soc ial-networking-state -se cu rity-a nd -the-new-world-ord er).Pe rtine nt to note is, while I was d oing the se arc h for these politicians on Twitter, Itwe ete d that I was trying to find a particu la r handle. I got this rep ly:L ooks lik e this y oung m an alre ady drew the c onc lu sion then!
  • RECOMMENDATIONSThe elections have come and gone; it is time for the elected leaders to begin to fulfil thecountless promises they made in their manifestoes, it is time for them to show thecitizenry that they were the right candidate to have been voted in.It is time to ask, ‘what next’? After Nigeria’s debut, how do we regroup, rebrand, andrestrategize for the second season of elections starting at the end of this year withgubernatorial elections in some states?Below is a three pronged set of recommendations to the Independent National ElectoralCommission, to politicians and public office holders, and finally to the peo ple with thepower to install and unseat leaders, the citizenry. These were drawn from online andoffline discussio ns with young people.To INEC · Explore the use of text messaging both as a means of distributing information and a way of receiving information/feedback from the people. The use of toll free lines to call or short codes for texting is mandatory to encourage participation from the people. Periodically (quarterly o r twice in the year), publish the data o f the amount of interaction (calls and texts) that has happened in that period. It will increase the credibility of the commissio n by giving peo ple an idea of how much data the Commission has to work with.The website should be updated o n a daily basis. It is the first port of call for the digitallyenabled and sho uld be resplendent with up to date information to
  • · discourage rumour mongering and douse tension, especially building up to, during, or post elections. · and maintain an up-to-date voter’s registration data base that can be Create crosschecked against census data. Make it public, and encourage people to write in if there are deaths, so names can be removed. ·need for an all year round Social Media Tracking Centre cannot be over- The emphasized. Constant interaction via social platforms provides invaluable information, and helps the citizens get used to it. · Incorporate the use of social media in voter education. Fund the creation of demographic specific voter education manuals that civil society and pressure groups can use for voter education. · Constantly publicise avenues/numbers by which the public can contact the Commission to get/give information, not only during elections. · avenues to provide feedback to complaints/inquiries from the public. Create Again, publicise this from time to time (without the sensitive data of course).To Elected Officials · what social platforms you want to use and seek training on how to Decide effectively use them. · Verification of your accounts on Twittr is necessary. It ensures that no one can create an account in your name and perpetuate mischief or incite violence from that account. It also helps people identify imposters and treat them as such. · platforms are originally designed for conversations, not broadcasts. They Social are not for posting links to press releases or the publicity of your activities alone; they are primarily to be used to have conversations. · that is acceptable to have a team tweet for you; just devise a way by which Note your followers know when it’s you tweeting. For example, some of the tweets from Barack Obama’s account are from his team, his tweets are always signed –BO so his audience can tell it is the President himself tweeting. · communication drives online communication, and vice versa. Create Offline opportunities to physically interact with your audience/constituencies.
  • To the citizenry · that it is your responsibility to demand good governance, accountability and No te transparency from your leaders · Constantly update your knowledge on national and international issues; be aware of dev eloping trends that you can adapt to your immediate environment. · Governance shouldn’t be left in the hands of public officials alone. We must play our own part in being responsible citizens and carrying out our civic duties; especially as it co ncerns elections and electioneering. ·Offline communication drives online communication, it is not enough to sit behind your co mputer to whine. Ask to hold (or o rganize) town halls and invite your constituency representatives; hold them accountable. · te that your knowledge is limited by the information you are exposed to. Read No the constitution; be aware of your rights. Only then can you make reasonable and feasible demands that are covered by the laws of the land. · all times, and especially in times, refrain from making or peddling unconfirmed At statements or reports.
  • SOCIAL ENTERPRISE MODELAs a result of this project, and on the back of discussions with Nicholas Holzherr, anentrepreneur and CEO of Qrky Codes in Birmingham, below is a model for widening thescope of social media usage in Nigeria using text messages.With SMAG.BD (Social Media And Governance Broken Down) as a working title, thismodel is as the name implies, a social media delivery tool centred on creatingtransparency in government using text messaging.JustificationOf 150 million Nigerians, there are 87 million mobile phone users. Of that number, thereare approximately 34 million who use the text message functionality. That is a hugenumber considering that social media usage currently stands at approximately 3 millionon Facebook, and 60, 000 on Twitter. (Statistics from www.socialbakers.com and theSocial Media Tracking Centre Report).Goals · provide periodical, location based information on elected officials to their To direct electorate. E.g., someone in Lagos state will receive information more on the activities of elected officials from Lagos state, both local, and national. I propose collaboration between the project and Wireless Access providers for this. ·Conduct polls based on different issues which can feed into research by government institutions. ·Provide a voice/direct line of communication from between citizens and their representatives. ·Distribute a simplified, broken down interpretation of the constitution to the citizenry handling different aspects weekly.Modus OperandiThe plan is to start with a state for the pilot and then increase locations as the model isfine tuned. It will function akin to the Social Media Tracking Center, only using textmessages. There will be three stages of work before the commencement of the project 1. Research on political office holders in the pilot location and details about their offices (budgetary allocations, staff strength, job openings, etc.)
  • 1. Collection of demographic details of citizens in the pilot location; names, age, phone numbers, gender, and profession. This will help in crafting specific messages. 2. Isolating laws peculiar to the area for instance, Sharia law in the North.It is estimated that it will take approximately three months to collect this information ifthere are three different teams (with a different number of people for each team) workingon the three areas listed above.After these stages are completed, the first of text messages will be sent out (5 messagesover a two week period), and then an in-depth survey be carried out to see the effects, ifthe recipients have learnt anything new, if the grammar needs to be further simplified,etc.This project will only receive funding from independent local and foreign who have noparty affiliations whatsoever, to ensure the credibility and unbiased nature of the model.Once in operation, it will be subject to a quarterly review.
  • CONTACT MEAs mentioned in the executive summary, this project explored the impact social mediahad on the April 2011 elections, as told by the young people themselves. All the viewscaptured on Twitter filed in this report are but a fraction of the wealth of information Igathered; the rest of it can be found at www.chiomachuka.com.Do get in touch for ·Bespoke social media solutions ·Hands-on monitoring and technical support ·Content development and production for radio and television programmesEmail – chioma@chiomachuka.comFacebook – Chioma ChukaTwitter - @chiomachukaLinkedIn – Chioma Agwuegbo www.fairygodsister.wordpress.com www.chiomachuka.com 2011