Information Services Department Looking Up To 21st Century

Mahama-Ayariga1The work of ISD has also been further enhanced with the establishment of the Government of Ghana (GoG) Official Website (www.ghana.gov.gh) or Portal, with the aim of disseminating information on government/national policies, programmes and activities, in line with its effort to facilitate the free-flow of information and transparency.

It is a single point of access or one-stop shop for authentic and reliable information on Ghana with links to existing websites on MDAs. The website provides information on all sectors of the economy including investment, education and tourism.

In 2005, two hundred and forty-five (245) Mobile Cinema Vans (MCVs) were procured by government to beef up the declining fleet in the pool in order to enhance the work of the Department.

Challenges
In spite of this support there are still some challenges the Department currently faces.

Over the years, the fortunes of the Department steadily declined due to a number of factors. For example, the Department has, for several years, not had a substantive Director, with all appointments to that position being in acting capacities.

Added to this is the frequent change of the acting Directors, making any long-term development plan for ISD not feasible.
The cancellation of staff postings to Ghana’s Foreign Missions has also been a major blow to the Department. Hitherto, these postings, apart from being a major boost to overseas career development for staff, also served as an impetus to productivity.

Currently, only four officers of the Department are on postings at Ghana’s Foreign Missions — two in London and one each in New York and Washington.

Expansion in the areas of operation of the Department has come with its own challenges. Recently, forty-six new districts were created, necessitating the opening of ISD offices in all these districts.

The addition of new offices has shot up the total number of district offices in the country necessitating the acquisition of new equipment, logistics and tools to work with. The recent distribution of laptop  computers by the Minister of Information and Media Relations, Hon. Mahama  Ayariga is therefore a step in the right direction.

Another challenge the Department is facing is competition from other Departments in the area of publicity. Some Ministries and Departments have acquired their own information vans for public education which, hitherto, had been the preserve of ISD.

Since the pre-independence days and the early years of the post-independence era, the ubiquitous yellow and green branded vans of the Information Services Department carried the bulk of government information.

With the liberalisation of the airwaves and changes in communication dynamics, ISD is facing serious challenges. The radio stations have become the choice of preference for information dissemination even in some small areas.
Staff motivation is another issue that has seriously affected morale and work output.

As if these are not enough, the strategic role of ISD itself is being viewed by some politicians with suspicious skepticism. Members of governments-in-waiting see it more of a propaganda machinery for the government in power.

This position needs re-thinking for the simple reason that media pluralism is a strong-enough reason to discard the notion of propaganda. The most important thing now is the development of strong institutions which was echoed by no less a person than US President, Barrack Obama, when he visited Ghana.

The way forward
Despite its current difficulties, ISD remains one Department that can adapt to changing times and has the propensity to champion government’s development agenda.

There is, therefore, the need for government to come out with a strong policy to merge all the publicity outfits of the various Ministries and Departments under the Information Services Department in order to streamline and strengthen the source of government information.

More than sixty percent of Ghana’s population lives in the rural areas. Information dissemination in these areas using ISD MCVs has several advantages. First, the green and yellow color branding of the ISD cinema vans have become popular and that makes it easier for people to identify with it and because ISD commentators are in close proximity with their target audience, information dissemination is rich and direct. Furthermore, there is the opportunity for interaction between the general public and ISD field officers during such public education campaigns.

Metropolitan, Municipal and District Information Officers must be tasked to come out with action plans on innovative ways of generating revenue for the Department while a percentage of the revenues so generated could be earmarked as incentive for motivation.

We have reached a very important phase in our nation’s development where information plays a very critical role. Thankfully, our current President, His Excellency John Dramani Mahama, was one time a Deputy Minister and later on the substantive Minister when the Information Ministry was designated as Ministry of Communication.

Presently, the Ministry has been re-named Ministry of Information and Media Relations, in line with the current Government’s policy direction.

Since assuming office barely a couple of months ago, the sector Minister, Honourable Mahama Ayariga, has held a series of meetings with ISD staff to find out the problems facing the department and the way forward and as a first step, has presented laptop computers to ISD Head Office for onward distribution to all regional, metropolitan, municipal and district offices of the department country-wide to support their work.

It is therefore, my hope that Hon. Mahama Ayariga would help give ISD a new lease of life to position it better to enable it meet the challenges of the twenty-first century.

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