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By Lily Edinam Botsyoe
Earlier this month, I had the opportunity to learn and deliberate with other writers and bloggers from eleven (11) West African countries on the theme "Governance, Migration and Social Media in Sub-Saharan Africa: Challenges and Prospects" organised by the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES) office in Ivory Coast.
My attendance to this workshop was made possible by the Open Foundation West Africa (OFWA), who recommended me together with Ms. Epifania Amoo-Adare(@EAAdare) to the organisers of the conference.
I first came into contact with OFWA in 2016 and took a long break from participating in their activities till last year when I got the chance to attend a Wikipedia Edit-a-ton they organised. Until that event, I took lightly the articles I saw on Wikipedia having heard people questioning the sources. All my doubts were cleared when my very first edit was rejected due to the tone I wrote in. It took me some time to re-craft my piece, referencing sources to the article before my article was reviewed and made visible on Wikipedia.
From that meet up, I endeavoured to sign up for more events to master how to edit and to tell untold stories from the African perspective, impact and teach a global audience by editing articles and writing on subjects which are not available on the World’s largest encyclopaedia - Wikipedia. The group’s mission which seeks to extend the activities and reach of the open movement in the West African sub-region, through open education programs, digitizing open resources, preserving cultural and heritage items and promoting content about the West African Sub-region also prioritizes the issue of Governance, Migration and Social media, hence recommending two community members with backgrounds in IT, writing and blogging for the Workshop. I was extremely excited about this selection because I was recognised as an active member of the community through participation and contribution.
Prior to the conference, I was quick to think the concept of migration was of less significance since the West African region is currently undergoing massive developmental changes.
Through discussions at the conference, I gathered that there are about one (1) billion migrants each year with two thirds of this movement being internal. West Africa is recognised as one of the sub regions with a strong population movement, also having its countries as transit points for many European countries.
We shared on problems of governance, migration flows and its relatedness to social media at the Assinie Beach Lodge in Abidjan and a field trip to the African Development Bank Group (AfDB) which provided a serene environment for engagement and relaxation while fostering result driven deliberations during the two (2) day event .
One major element at this conference was the seeming popularity of irregular migration (a preferred phrase instead of illegal migration) where migrants travel through unlawful means. The event saw participants present on Internet, social media and democratic governance with the policies available in their countries to curb fake news while allowing openness as much as possible for users. The initiatives in various countries seemed similar with much concentration on cyber security and affordability.
My takeaway from this conference was that, we have a responsibility as social media players, information technology experts and content creators or curators on the internet to use social media not to only portray the western world as the only lands where prosperity is assured, but to use this tool to propagate developmental initiatives in our home countries, report on the dangers involved in irregular migration and use our platforms as conduits for connecting those who have left to those who are home and to facilitate discussions that can lead to more investments by migrants in their home countries.
Relating this experience to what I do in my volunteer capacity on Wikipedia, I think I have been steered towards a new topic area of interest that can help bridge the gap on Wikipedia about Ghana, West Africa and Africa in general. I owe my country and knowledge seekers the responsibility of sharing fresh perspectives and potraying all the new developments from this part of the world.
Photo- Lily Edinam Botsyoe, left
Epifania Amoo-Adare, Right
30. Sep. 2018