So it looks like I’m on a roll these days, it’s been one post after the other…three posts in three days, are you even trying me?
Let’s get serious; introducing the Social Media And Governance (SMAG) Project.
This project seeks to explore the impact of social media on the April 2011 elections in Nigeria focusing specifically on the Presidential elections as a case study and Twitter as the social media tool.
Nigeria held her 2011 elections in April 2011, with the National Assembly elections on the 9th, the Presidential on the 16th and the Governorship and State House of Assembly elections on the 26th.
The country ‘officially’ utilized social media tools for the elections for the first in its political history and this project is centred on that.
Research according to Goodwin and Goodwin (1996:5) “results in the creation of knowledge to solve a problem, answer a question, and better describe or understand something”. This research plans to systematically
- Trace the growth of social media usage in Nigeria,
- Conduct an enquiry into the use of social media by four of the eighteen presidential aspirants in the just concluded elections.
- Offer a fresh perspective on the role of the media as a catalyst for national 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.
- The end point of this study is to discover how social media can be used as a tool for good governance in Nigeria, thereby solving the problem of Nigerian leaders being inaccessible and unaccountable to the people.
SETTING THE CONTEXT FOR THE PROJECT: A REVIEW
The first part of the review will set this work in context by defining key terms in the project while the second part will set the academic framework for it.
Often referred to as the ‘Giant of Africa’, Nigeria lies along the Gulf of Guinea in the West Coast of Africa, sharing a common boundary with the Republic of Cameroon and Chad on the East, Republic of Benin on the West, and Niger Republic on the North.
Currently home to approximately 150 million people (World Bank 2009), Nigeria became a political entity in 1914 when her Northern and Southern Protectorates were amalgamated by Lord Fredrick Lugard. It is Africa’s most populous nation with 36 states and a Federal Capital Territory.
Nigeria has one of the most vibrant media in Africa. According to the BBC (April 2011), “state radio and TV have near national coverage and operate at federal and regional levels. All 36 states run their own radios; most of them operate TV stations. Viewing is concentrated in urban areas”.
World Bank indicators as at 2009 put Nigeria’s literacy rate at 61%, and as at 2009, there were 9 million Nigerians online.
As for the country’s usage of social media, the prevalent and most subscribed to social networking sites by Nigerians are Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, in that order. There are currently 3, 124, 280 Nigerians on Facebook, ranking 39th out of 213 countries; above 70% of this number are aged 18 – 34.
SOCIAL MEDIA AND DEVELOPMENT
Communication is as old as man. It has evolved from hieroglyphics to face to face messaging, to mass communication. Earlier forms of communication did not need any technology or skill but as the need to communicate with a wider audience grew, so did the channels, bringing writing and writing forms in its wake. That era introduced theories like the Hypodermic Needle theory that dwells on the strong, direct effects of the media on people.
With the advent of new technologies today, the focus has shifted. The Uses and Gratification Theory has actively displaced the Hypodermic Needle theory in the sense that people, when they are not seeking out media to subscribe to, can/have become the media themselves. The ‘audience’ have moved from being just consumers to producers of their own media. Tools like blogging, podcasting, video blogging allow the average people become citizen journalists.
Social media has evolved from being just interactive to becoming a form of mass communication. It is interesting to note that while traditional media battles to assert its superiority over social media, attempts are currently being made to extend mass media theories to social media.
Communication is necessary for the progress of any society, that fact is widely accepted both by academicians and people in government or industry.
Schram (1964:42) in discussing the role of the mass media in national development said, “it is hardly possible to imagine national, economic, and social development going on at its present pace without some modern information multiplier effect and indeed, without mass communication. Probably the great freedom movement and actual stirrings of the last few decades would not have come about at all.”
The mass media especially functions as an agent of socialization replacing traditional agents like the family, school, religious gatherings, and one’s peers.
Thomas Jefferson was quoted by Akinfeleye (1988:115) as saying, “Since the basis of democracy was the opinion of the people, the very first objective was to keep that right. If it were left for me to decide whether we should have a government without mass media or the media without the government, I would not hesitate to choose the latter”
This work will explore the relationship between social media and the Nigerian Presidential elections that held on the 16th of April not only to archive data gathered, but also to interpret it and from it deduce acceptable usage strategies.
Over the next few days I will be wrapping up on some experimentation I have been doing. I invite you to join the #SMAG conference on Twitter on the 5th of August 2011, starting at noon and running till 4pm. It is your platform to express your views on the elections as enhanced/derailed by social media, and make projections for future use.
The more we are, the more fruitful the discussion! Have your say!
- Introducing the 3, 2, 1 Series!!! (fairygodsister.wordpress.com)