On Sunday, the Electoral Commission of Ghana changed the place of social media in African politics forever. After a very close race for the presidency of Ghana, they posted Ghana’s official election results on Facebook!
- The Electoral Commission’s own Website came down earlier in the day (too many visitors?) and as that channel was not working they chose the next available thing, their Facebook page.
- The meeting with the parties and the NEC was dragging out and the results were provided to show the meeting delegates that postponing declaration of results was not an option.
- As the media was waiting in a adjacent room since a couple of hours, the results were released on Facebook to calm nerves of the press corps and the country.
Regardless of why they posted to Facebook, this is a BIG deal! Previously, the thought of posting such a critical government document/decision on a non-government website, much less on a social media site, would be so far outside the realm of possibility as to be laughed at as an option.
With 1.7 million Facebook users in Ghana (77% of the online population), and with usage spiking with the introduction of Facebook Zero, the question now becomes, “Why not release public documents and decisions on Facebook?”
Of course, public documents should also be on government websites, and Facebook cannot and should not replace direct government communications, yet as Ory Okolloh points out, Facebook is a much more democratic conveyance of information than what was done before.
So I am calling it. Sunday, December 9th, 2012 was Facebook’s tipping point in Africa. Social media, and especially Facebook, is now the primary information and communication technology tool to accelerate the social development of Ghana, and of Africa as a whole.