Since the beginning of November 2020 the world has watched in wonder, and often disbelief, as the spectacle of the United States’ 2020 presidential election, continues to unfold. The two candidates on polar opposites of the political spectrum, fought two very different campaigns with sharply contrasting messages. As was witnessed in the US’ previous elections in 2016, social media played a pivotal and often divisive role in shaping the views of the electorate. In the aftermath of the 2016 US elections, the world gleaned a better understanding of how foreign nations could use social media to exploit the ideological differences that exist in any society to devastating effect. Some argue that the full effects of this are still not properly understood.
Across the Atlantic Ocean, on the 7th of December 2020, the Republic of Ghana will be holding its 10th general (presidential and parliamentary) election since 1960, with an expected record voter turnout. Ghana has become the envy of the continent having routinely and successfully conducted peaceful elections and the subsequent orderly transition of power between political parties. Nonetheless, the stakes are higher this year than they ever have been. This is mainly because of the powerful technology voters have at their fingertips. Never in our history has there been such transparency and speed of communication. Almost every voter has a high resolution camera in their pockets, capable of capturing both video and photographs. Add to that is the access to some form of mobile data connectivity (2G, 3G or 4G), and we have ourselves a nation of amateur and intermediate journalists.
This responsibility is not to be taken lightly and all Ghanaians have to do their part to ensure that, in keeping with tradition, the 2020 general election is conducted and concluded peacefully.
The telecommunications industry, as a rule of thumb, has always supported the Electoral Commission (EC), the government, independent observers and the public with a robust telecommunications infrastructure and framework leading up to, during and after general elections. It is an important feature of the free and fair election agenda, ensuring that each of these important stakeholders is equipped with the tools, information and network access (phone, Internet and SMS) it needs to play its part responsibly
For 2020, all major mobile network operators (MNOs) have again undertaken a series of activities to ensure maximum support for a free and fair general election:
• Network Optimization
Since the beginning of the year, and throughout the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, MNOs have continued implementing a set of best practices and procedures by which they can improve the performance of their mobile networks. In spite of the peculiar and challenging set of conditions COVID-19 presented this year, there has been unprecedented investment in mobile network infrastructure. This is to ensure that although a record number of businesses, institutions and individuals are now working remotely to varying degrees, there is not a corresponding deterioration in user experience. A variety of tools and technologies have been deployed to allow for convenient monitoring and real-time improvement of network performance. These include load balancing, packet loss monitoring and bandwidth management.
• Transmission of election results
One of the hallmarks of an efficient presidential election is the ability of the Electoral Commission to transmit results from the far-reaches of the nation to its headquarters in Accra for tabulation and confirmation. Transmission is done via specialized fibre-optic telecommunications infrastructure that is installed in all regional capitals and the Electoral Commission headquarters. All network operators work closely with each other and the Electoral Commission to ensure that there is sufficient redundancy in the various networks to ensure seamless and secure data transmission in the event of a power outage or other such interference. Data security and encryption is in place to ensure that results cannot be intercepted and tampered with throughout the transmission process. This and many other protocols should give Ghanaians the peace of mind that the elections remain secure and transparent to all.
• Increased customer support
Leading up to, and beyond the presidential elections on the 7th of December 2020, all network operators have also improved customers’ access to technical support. Users are encouraged to contact their operator via SMS, voice (IVR), WhatsApp, Twitter and Facebook to resolve a plethora of issues they may be facing. The network operators can be reached via the information provided below:
- Website: https://www.airteltigo.com.gh
- Call Centre: +233 26 000 0100
- SMS: 100
- Call Centre: +233 23 001 0100 & +233 23 001 0200
- Website: https://mtn.com.gh/
- Call Centre: +233 24 430 0000
- Call Centre (Toll Free): 100
- Website: https://vodafone.com.gh/
- Call Centre: +233 50 555 5111
- Call Centre (Toll Free): 100
All Ghanaians are entreated to behave responsibly leading up to, during and beyond this year’s elections. Responsibly means:
1. Do not spread lies and misinformation concerning elections, verbally or via social media
2. Be patient and get your election information from reliable and reputable news sources
3. Trust the Electoral Commission to do its job in the interest of all Ghanaians
4. Avoid unnecessary arguments that may devolve into physical altercations
5. Should your political party or presidential candidate lose the election, accept defeat graciously
Let us pledge our support to the electoral process so that Ghana can continue to be a shining light and beacon of inspiration throughout Africa.
Ernest Osei-Poku – Ghana Chamber of Telecommunications (Vodafone Ghana)