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Anthony Kweku AnnanArticlesGhanaSocial Issues

Climate Change and Sustainable Development

CLIMATE CHANGE AND SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT

It will be recalled that in December, 2015, over one hundred and ninety delegates, including Heads of State, met in the French capital, Paris, to deliberate on Climate Change. What has come to be known as CAP21Paris was a Forum on Sustainable Innovation which prepared a United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change for eventual ratification by member-states.

The Forum sought to ensure that steps to reduce carbon emissions are to be enshrined in laws of participating countries. It was targeted to hold global warning to a level below 2Celsius for industrial countries and between 1o and 1.5C for Least Developed Countries (LDCs). The Forum also sought to ensure that countries agree to a new global deal to tackle Climate Change. There was the need to embed Climate Change legislation into national action and equity differentiation between developed and developing countries.

The Agreement to curb carbon emissions was signed by 165 countries at the United Nations Headquarters, New York, (22nd April, 2016), including about ¾ of governments of African countries. The World Bank was expected to spend 28% of its investments on projects directed towards limiting planet heating and control or mitigation of the effects on the ecosystem in the form of desertification. The Bank is supposed to be insistent on the search for renewable energy.

It is significant to remark that the United States and China, which are the world’s most polluted countries, readily joined the other signatories to ratify the deal into action. According to a statement before the signing ceremony, the President of the Grantham Research Institute, Lord Nicholas Stern, emphasized that the investments to be made by the World Bank must be in transport, energy, water, buildings and land utilization and management. He warned that, otherwise, we are doomed to a situation where people can neither move nor breathe in our cities and to ecosystems that will collapse.

To that effect, more than USD100 billion yearly will have to be invested in infrastructure globally for the next 20years, if the commitments made in the agreement are to be fulfilled. Meanwhile, in the past decade or so, poor countries have not been able to benefit from a Green Climate Fund (GCF) created to give small, developing countries direct access to finances to protect themselves from risks due to Climate Change, like flooding and desertification. Such vulnerable nations include islands such as Tonga, the Comoros, Grenada, etc., which have been confronted with complicated bureaucratic and accreditation processes.

The documentation on a 52-page application dossier includes the GCF fiduciary and gender policy standards as well as how relevant environmental and social safeguards against corruption and complaints have been handled in the past couple of years, among others. The accreditation process has thereby been described as an ‘excruciatingly painful’ document.  Least Developed Countries in vulnerable situations have had to resort to contracting international financial institutions and NGOs to access the maximum of USD300,000, after complying with the relevant guidelines.

At the next meeting of the Forum, in Marrakesh, Morocco, COP22 is expected to highlight African problems relative to Climate Change as over 250 million people are displaced annually as a result of floods and desertification. For the meantime, the signatory-member-states of the UN are required to redeem their pledges while cumbersome procedures for accessing the Green Climate Fund would have to be reviewed. Countries would have to adopt projects and accelerated action plans for early-warning predictions. At the individual levels, we are obliged to co-operate in the way we consume products of non-replaceable fossil energy.

Lifestyle changes would have to be evident and taken seriously by citizens of Least Developed Countries as our personal contribution towards a sustainable development and the limitation of the effects of Global Warming or Climate Change.

The Government of Ghana should join the other signatories to come out with precise action plans embracing long-term projects to protect water bodies, forests and other elements of our environment. The benchmarks set in the Global Agenda for Sustainable Development may only succeed if the ordinary citizens see themselves as the beneficiaries in the long run.

 

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Information and Communication Technology

Smart Forest: Can ICT Play A Role In Preserving The Forest Resources of Ghana?

Smart Forest

Ghana’s total land area is at 22,754,000 square hectors while total area covered by our forest is 5,517,000 square hectors representing 24.25% as at 2005 according to data published by the mongaby.com. However the statistics keep dropping due to various factors that affect our forest thus causing fast depletion of the forest reserves. There’s alarming rate of destruction of our forests and game reserves according to Sumit Chakravarty’s research into cause and effects of deforestation. The Food and Agriculture Organization FAO’s FRA report on deforestation according to Annon, 2001 estimated that between 1990 and 2000 about 0.20% representing 8327ha/year of the world’s total forest cover was depleted and 0.13%ha/year representing 5211ha/year was destroyed and this is a serious call for concern for us and the whole world because our livelihood depends greatly on the forest.

According to data published by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) on Ghana’s forest reserve for the year 2010 under the Global Forest Resource Assessment (FRA) program, Ghana’s forest contributed to 4% of the nation’s GDP for same year as compared to 8% a decade from 2010. What will the next decade be?

Forestry experts have warned according to the Graphic Online; 21st August 2017, that Ghana risks losing its forest reserves to illegal and legal logging in just a decade from now if immediate actions are not taken to curtail activities of wood harvesters and unregulated miners.

These forest reserves have been handed over to us by our forefathers and there is the need to preserve them in a sustainable manner at all cost for the generations after us and also for our own benefit.

Now let’s take a look at some of the factors that contribute to the fast depletion of our forest reserves;

  1. Population growth: the population of humans in Ghana is on an exponential increase resulting in high rate of urbanization, increase demand for food and shelter. Due to this forest reserves are rapidly being converted to farmland, trees are increasingly being felled to satisfy the growing demand for man’s need.
  2. Illegal logging: Apart from meeting the growing demand of the citizens of Ghana, some people also illegally are involved in the harvesting of timbers in our forest for export thus resulting in fast depletion of the forest.
  3. Bush burning: In 1982, Ghana suffered severe destruction of our forest reserves from bush fires during which period a lot of farmlands and farms were destroyed. The result of this was severe famine in 1983 which impacted negatively on the economy causing the death of many people. According to the BBC, bush fire is caused either naturally or by human activities which may be accidental or deliberate but in most cases it’s deliberate.

The Forestry Commission of Ghana has been on the vigilance guarding against deliberate destruction of the forest by activities of people. However, there is the need to find ways and means by which ICT can be used to provide increased vigilance of the forest and also to provide real time data collection from our reserves. The question then is what role can ICT play in preserving the forest reserves of Ghana?

Let’s therefore examine a few things that can be done using ICT.

Internet of Things (IoT)

There is the need to inculcate ICT tools into the management of the forest especially in areas where illegal activities require monitoring. One way by which this can be done is the use of Internet of Things simply referred to as IoT.

In this context, sensors, cameras, wireless technology can be deployed in the forest to collect data on the various components of the forest ranging from wildlife mobility and migration, trees, plants, humidity, temperature, flood detection, bush burning, presence of people, sound level, canopy cover etc.

A network of these sensors, cameras and wireless devices can be set up and connected to a cloud based server for easy monitoring and real-time data collection via the internet. Data from the forest can now be ubiquitously obtained. Examples of some of these sensors that have been developed purposely for this technology are dendrometer bands and photosynthetically active radiation sensors for automated forest and rangeland productivity measurements; nitrate, dissolved oxygen, pH, and dissolved organic carbon sensors for automated water quality measurements; acoustical sensors for automated detection of presence or absence of wildlife species; optical sensors, including “critter cams” to capture and record wildlife presence and behavior, as well as more sophisticated phenocams and image extraction procedures to automate detection of canopy condition resulting from stressors such as drought, nutrient imbalances, pests or pathogens. Kudos to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), for setting the pace in the development of these Smart Forest Technologies.

This new cyber-technology can be built using wireless sensor communication to transmit high frequency and high quality data to stakeholders more rapidly. Measurement can be obtained more easily and cost effectively compared to manual collection.

Advance countries like the USA, Australia, and Canada have already deployed these technologies and are still making researches into how to make use of ICT to better manage their forest reserves which serve as important national asset.

Economic Benefits of Using ICT to manage the Forest reserves

Information Communication Technology has come to make live comfortable and so is Internet of things (IoT) which keenly focuses on connecting things both animate and inanimate to the internet for easy manageability and real-time data collection.

Governments all over the world especially in Ghana can take advantage of technology in the effective management of the forest reserves so as to;

  1. Be able to the collect real time data what is happening in our forest reserves and to formulated policies or to enact laws to prevent people from destroying to forest.
  2. Enhance access to data on our forest reserves. Accurate data is required in forecasting what the forest reserves will be like in a period of time to come and this can be made possible through ICT
  3. Curb incidents of bush burning. Bush fire is number one threat to our forest resources and food security. However, with effective and automated monitoring and warning in place, bush fires can easily be detected and prevented or controlled so as to avert its economic impact on the nation as had been the case in 1982 and 1983 and many similar repeated occurrences thereafter.

In summary, ICT has a key role to play in the future of our forest resources and that is the way to go and the nation must embrace it with all urgency required.

Investors, researchers, ICT professionals are encouraged to begin to focus on the best ways by which this important national assets can be reserved using ICT.

Elolo Alfred Konglo – Telecommunication, ICT, Electrical and Energy Engineer (Member, Institute of ICT Professionals, Ghana)

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ArticlesInformation and Communication TechnologyToday in History

The Facebook Evolution Since…

facebook

There are very few apps that is as popular and used daily as the Facebook app. For many people it’s the next app to check after a weather app in the morning to see what’s up with the friends, family, countless number of brands they follow, and of course, news.

Millions of people use Facebook every day to keep up with friends, upload an unlimited number of photos, share links and videos, and learn more about the people they meet.

On Wednesday, February 4, 2004, Facebook was launched, and obviously looked different from what we see today. The site looks completely different now. Facebook has come a long way since 2004. We shall take a little tour of how the site evolved.

Before it had 1 billion users, the site was available to Harvard students only—Thefacebook. It started at Harvard and slowly opened up to other colleges.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mark Zuckerberg as the founder of Facebook, also described himself as the "Master and Commander" and "Enemy of the State." See the about section in the image below.

 

In 2005, this is how a group page looked like (left)… Compared to current looks of group page as at 2018 (right)…

In 2005 the company decided to drop “the” from its name, after it bought the domain Facebook.com for $200,000…

Facebook launched the News Feed to display all your friends’ activity in a single timeline in 2006, and in 2009, Facebook’s home page got a face-lift. Posts started to stream through the News Feed in real time…

 

 

 

The Facebook Timeline was launched in 2011 to act as a virtual timeline of your entire life. Same year, Facebook also split its instant-messaging into a different app called Messenger.

Facebook also owns a bunch of other popular apps, most notably Instagram, which the company bought for $1 billion in 2012. Facebook has acquired more than 50 companies, including WhatsApp. The WhatsApp acquisition closed at a steep $19 billion; more than $40 per user of the platform. Facebook also purchased the defunct company ConnectU in a court settlement and acquired intellectual property formerly held by rival Friendster. The majority of the companies acquired by Facebook are based in the United States. Facebook has also made investments in LuckyCal and Wildfire Interactive.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has stated in 2010 that “We have not once bought a company for the company. We buy companies to get excellent people… In order to have a really entrepreneurial culture one of the key things is to make sure we’re recruiting the best people. One of the ways to do this is to focus on acquiring great companies with great founders.” The Instagram acquisition, announced on 2012-04-09, appears to have been the first exception to this pattern. While continuing with a pattern of primarily talent acquisitions, other notable product focused acquisitions include the $19 billion WhatsApp acquisition and the $2 billion Oculus VR acquisition.

 

Here’s what Facebook’s News Feed looks like today…

This is what Facebook’s mobile app looked like when it first launched (left)… And over the years, the mobile app version has evolved in looks too (right)…

Today, there are roughly 2 billion smartphones in use in the world and out of that stunning number, 85% of smartphone owners use Facebook app. Among all Facebook users 47% access it via mobile. In fact about 6% of ALL digital time is spent on Facebook and this figure grows steadily.

In 2011 Facebook decided to single out a messaging feature into a standalone app – Facebook Messenger and three years later the company announced that messaging featured will be removed from Facebook app completely and so all users will have to download the Facebook Messenger app to be able to send instant messages on Facebook.

 

Today, more than 2.2 billion people use the social network every single month.

As of the fourth quarter of 2017, Facebook had 2.2 billion monthly active users. In the third quarter of 2012, the number of active Facebook users had surpassed 1 billion, making it the first social network ever to do so. Active users are those which have logged in to Facebook during the last 30 days. This statistic shows a timeline with the worldwide number of monthly active Facebook users from 2008 to 2017. The platform is also the most popular social network worldwide.

By virtue of having more than a 2 billion of users, Facebook app is the one that has the most diverse user profile. It is available globally, except 10 countries where Facebook and therefore its mobile apps are banned.

Source: Statista 2018

Leading countries based on number of Facebook users as of January 2018 (in millions)

The statistic shows the leading countries ranked according to their number of Facebook users as of January 2018. During the measured period, 130 million Brazilian users were registered on the social networking site. India claimed the first place with 250 million users, ahead of second-ranked United States with 230 million Facebook users. Facebook is the most popular social network worldwide, with a global usage penetration of 22.9 percent.

Source: Statista 2018

Building Global Community

To our community,

On our journey to connect the world, we often discuss products we're building and updates on our business. Today I want to focus on the most important question of all: are we building the world we all want?

Today we are close to taking our next step. Our greatest opportunities are now global -- like spreading prosperity and freedom, promoting peace and understanding, lifting people out of poverty, and accelerating science. Our greatest challenges also need global responses -- like ending terrorism, fighting climate change, and preventing pandemics. Progress now requires humanity coming together not just as cities or nations, but also as a global community.

For the past decade, Facebook has focused on connecting friends and families. With that foundation, our next focus will be developing the social infrastructure for community -- for supporting us, for keeping us safe, for informing us, for civic engagement, and for inclusion of all.

MARK ZUCKERBERG·THURSDAY, 16 FEBRUARY 2017

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ArticlesBlogGhanaSocial IssuesViews of Kwame Krah

What Exactly Is Pushing the Police Force to Package Its Grievances and Surrender Them to God in Prayers?

Ghana Police

When I first read the news feed that “Ghana Police set February 4th, 2018 to pray for safety and divine protection for all police officers against attacks by criminals”, I was tempted to consult my grammatical oracles, build some vocabulary muscles and do my usual opinion columnist stuff by venting my anger on them for denigrating the 21st century essence of our nation, projecting Ghana with a theologically stagnant image, imposing archaic theocratic tenets on the nation and as well remind them of the good news version of Proverbs 19:3 that “Some people ruin themselves by their own stupid actions and then blame the Lord” BUT a second analysis of that particular decision revealed a game changing question which is worth addressing.

The response to that is very obvious–one does not require a PhD in theology to comprehend the basis or factors that predisposes typical religious people to seek God’s intervention on issues of concern. When the human systems put in place to deal with a particular need fails to deliver, the people are forced to go beyond human capacity in pursuit of a God redress.

The police system need to be resourced to be in a better position to function to expectation. Take some time off and read about the mode of operation of high ranking police forces in the world. If you juxtapose the Ghanaian policing system to that of the Japanese, the Americans, the French, the Canadians and many others, you’ll discover a vast difference factored around resources and management.

Subject the human resource of Ghana Police to a litmus test and see the rather unfortunate results it will produce. The outcome of that test will smell of nepotism if not favoritism. You will see a set of unqualified party favorites riding on the political powers of some bigwigs who risk national security for selfish personal and party interests.

Take the operational autonomy of the force yet again—I mean the very freedom of the police to execute their duties without fear or favor. They cannot brag of that professional right. Their internal structures have been begrimed with politics and inhumane job security threats forcing majority of them to compromise on professionalism. Do we blame the police for it? Certainly not. It’s way beyond their control.

The least said about infrastructural facilities of the Ghanaian police the better. They adopt all sorts of deceptive mechanisms ranging from the wearing of synthetic resins with thermoplastic features to deceive the public to believe it’s a bulletproof, hold guns with no bullets and many others to project a professional image that never really existed.

The major thing that beats my understanding and makes me shed tears for the average policeman is that, the nation they pledge allegiance to protect in all matters turns out to betray and gamble with their lives. This same nation failed to resource the force to enhance their work but continuously produces hard-core criminals.

Ghanaian leaders have successfully produced criminals out of the numerous disgruntled certified unemployed graduates and as well promoted insurgency. There were people who were recruited by politicians into the force, trained to handle diverse weapons but later relieved off post into their respective communities on grounds of qualification. What do you expect the ripple effect to be? A crime ridden society is what is being created. Who do you expect to control these criminals? The ill-resourced police force? With what capacity?

All these constitute the factors that seem to be making the police uniform look more like a suicide jacket. The average police officer is gradually losing that professional energy and the courage with which to wear his uniform just for the fear of the hard-core “shoot-to-kill” criminals out there which on the real shouldn’t be the case. The criminals must fear and give due respect to the police like they do to the military not the other way round.

Amidst all these leadership neglects, time bombs and death threats looming towards the police force, it will be very disheartening of anyone to rank himself a moral police and question that decision of the force to seek redress from God. The human system they so believed in has failed them miserably and it makes absolute sense to seek external support. Don’t blame the police, blame the system.

Richard Kwame Krah

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Information and Communication Technology

SIM Box Fraud in Ghana: The Control Mechanisms

SIMBox Fraud

Introduction

A SIM box fraud is a setup in which fraudsters install SIM boxes with multiple low-cost prepaid SIM cards. The fraudster then can terminate international calls through local phone numbers in the respective country to make it appear as if the call is a local call. This way fraudsters bypass all international interconnect charges. It has become a very important area of cybercrime in the telecommunications sector in Ghana.  In our previous article entitled article “SIM Box Fraud in Ghana: The way forward”, we discussed about the nature of SIM Box fraud, how it works, its effects, and some control mechanisms in Ghana. In this article, we continue with the last section of the previous article- “SIM Box Fraud Control Mechanism” We first discuss the effects of SIM Box fraud. Next, we discuss briefly about how some African countries have mitigated this type of fraud. We conclude by proposing some mitigation strategies.

Effects of SIM Box Fraud

Subscriber Identification Modules (SIM) box fraud is a set up where fraudsters team up with international entities to route international calls through the internet, using voice over internet protocol (VOIP) and terminate those calls through a local phone number in Ghana to make it appear as if the call is local. This allows the box operator to bypass international rates to fraudulently undercut the prices charged by Mobile Network Operators (MNO) and evade the surtax charged by the government. This act denies telecommunications and government from benefiting from international phone calls.  Besides loss of revenue, SIM Box operators cause degradation of call quality which prevents them from meeting service level agreements for mobile hubbing traffic. Ghana, in 2016, made attempt to detect and track SIM Box fraudsters. We believe the tracking and detection activities only deter fraudsters, but it does not eradicate the problem. Administrative and technical controls must be implemented in Ghana to thwart SIM Box operations.

 Some African Countries’ Perspectives

Elsewhere in Africa, mobile operators have traditionally suffered from SIM Box fraud activities over the years, but they have successfully mitigated the risk. Countries like Senegal, Uganda, South Sudan and Kenya have implemented several measures to restrain people from engaging in the act using policies. According to the Rwanda Utility Regulatory Authority (RURA), the country has experienced less fraud than its neighboring countries because it has a fraud management system within its International Gateway Traffic Verification System. Nigeria reduced this activity by implementing relatively less international call rate as compared to other African countries in the sub-region. The low international call rate has made SIM Box acts unfavorable for fraudsters to operate because criminals will not have high profit margins as it is in Ghana.

The huge difference in the local call termination rates compared with the international termination rates has created a loophole which has led to the loss of millions of dollars from the mobile network operators in Africa.

The way forward in Ghana

Authorities in Ghana recently made attempt to work with Afriwave to investigate fraudulent bulk SIM registration. By July 2016, about 300,000 SIM cards used in SIM Box fraud have been detected and deactivated in the first six months of test operations of Afriwave Telecom. It was reported that strategies are being implemented to include Geo-location solution which will expose the location of the equipment and their operators for confiscation and prosecution. The network operators were mandated to block all SIM card identified to be involved in SIM Box fraud activities, but these operators mostly do not block this fraud SIMs in real time or near time. We believe these mechanisms cannot prevent SIM Box operations in Ghana because they can only detect or track fraud activities. The solution must not be just tracking, blocking SIM cards and arresting the culprit. Both administrative and technical measures must be put in place to stop the act or make it less attractive.

The only plan that could probably stop or prevent SIM Box fraud in Ghana is to create an environment where the criminal will feel uncomfortable to operate. Since it is practically impossible and economically unwise to reduce the call rate for the international traffic penetration, government must implement measures to either reduce the crime rate or eradicate it entirely.

The sale of pre-paid SIM cards contributes to operation of SIM Box activities. We recommend that National Communication Authority (NCA) put measures in place to reduce the sale of pre-paid SIM cards by Ghana’s mobile telecommunication companies. NCA must sanction any network operator whose SIM is used for perpetrating crime without proper profiling. NCA must speed of the implementation of is in the process of SIM registration. Additionally, network operators need to implement an intelligent software or hardware system that can detect and report multiple name registration for onwards investigations.

NCA must task the ICH implementers to provide enhanced bypassed traffic detection and location-aware system. This system has the capability to identify fraudulent VoIP calls (in real-time) and provides the GPS coordinates for the exact location of the SIM Box.  The proposed intelligent solution could be software or hardware device programmed to intelligently detect cases in real-time and then enforce immediate blocking of the SIMs detected. Real-time information of any suspicious or potentially fraudulent activity can be instantly identified and brought under control so that financial losses are avoided. Further, there must be automation of fraud detection process, implementation of organizational standards, customized policies, rules, and thresholds (with fraud management system) which is built around NCA’s specific needs and operational requirement. Government must ensure that the law enforcement agencies, NCA, Network operators and ICH collaborate to affect an arrest of the perpetrators in near real time.

These measures, when implemented appropriately, have the tendency of providing a lasting solution to the SIM Box fraud in Ghana.

Owusu Nyarko-Boateng, ICT Expert (Member: Institute of ICT Professionals, Ghana)

 

 

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BlogGhanaPoliticsViews of Kwame Krah

The Gitmo 2 Saga: A Game of Politics and Slander

GITMO 2 IN GHANA

In 2016, when the then ruling government (NDC) decided to accommodate Mahmud Umar Muhammad Bin Atef and Khalid Muhammad Salih Al-Dhuby, the two ex- Guantanamo Bay detainees, the minority then (NPP) disputed that decision with all aversions.

They’ve stated reasons ranging from threat to the Ghanaian security as well as speculated allegations of some alleged underground transaction between the Obama administration and that of John Dramani Mahama.

I could remember how it was successfully articulated as one of the New Patriotic Party’s 2016 campaign strategy to incite the common voter against their political rivals.

I equally remembered how the Catholic Bishops Conference consistently pressured the government calling for the repatriation of the two detainees to the United States.

Now the NPP in power, minister for foreign affairs, Shirley Ayorkor Botchway, is telling Ghanaians that the supposedly dangerous GITMO 2 have been granted refugee status premised on a clause of “possible integration” hence there isn’t a need for repatriation.

I wish I could equally advance the numerous “threat to security” arguments but it’s not worth the time–what is important is the slanderous image this act of contradictory political unfaithfulness seem to be painting  of the highest court of our land.

The Supreme Court ruled out the legality of the GITMO 2 agreement with a strong argument of a breach of Article 75 of the 1992 Constitution by the then President John Dramani Mahama.

The court went forth as accurate as I could remember to give a three month ultimatum to parliament to either ratify the final majority decision or the court will be compelled to repatriate.

If the Supreme Court concluded that, whoever signed this agreement goofed big time, why are there so many political powers at play that seem to be overshadowing the court’s decision?

The mere fact that the minority now–I mean the very people who accepted this offer when they were in power are seeking clarity on reasons for their stay after the stipulated time has elapsed and the majority who use to avert this decision deciding to defend it now is actually rendering this whole thing very dilemmic and fishier than we ever perceived it.

What actually is the game changing factor? Is there anything juicy surrounding this whole GITMO 2 saga that the lay voter doesn’t have a clue of?

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