Transformation of ISD in a digital space
For several years, communicating government programmes and policies to the citizenry and soliciting for feedback has been an integral part of governance.
It forms a framework for national dialogue through which informed public opinion is shaped.
It assists in public understanding and acceptance of national goals and the individual's responsibilities for reaching these goals.
One organisation that has played an outstanding role to ensure that the citizenry has access to information on government policies and programmes in Ghana over the years is the Information Services Department (ISD).
The ISD evolved from an organisation established in the latter part of 1939 as a branch of the colonial government dedicated to convey news on the Second World War.
After the war, it was renamed the Public Relations Department then later The Gold Coast Government reorganised the ISD into Department of Information as an effective government information disseminating unit to bridge the communication gap between the government and the governed.
The ISD has over the years become well known with the Yellow and Green Public Education van, since it has been the main medium for public education, especially in rural communities.
It is worthy to indicate that in addition to using the public education vans for public education, the ISD is responsible for training and posting of officers to work mostly in government organisations as Public Relations Officers (PROs) and lately as Right to Information Officers (RTOs).
In an era of information, media pluralism and the emergence of several news channels, the relevance of the ISD keeps coming up.
This is especially so when people see the public education vans as the only channel of communication to the ISD.
It is said that one of the characteristics of a good service provider is to be flexible and adaptive to provide solutions that suit the contemporary needs of the public.
The ISD has for a few years been embarking on a transformation journey tailored at providing timely, authentic and reliable source of information that is multifaceted.
This is even crucial even when society has become very complex with a segment glued onto the Internet, whereas others, especially in the hinterlands, do not have access to some of these modern conveniences of assessing information and are sometimes cut off from national dialogue.
Each passing moment throws in a new challenge of communicating efficiently as an important part of good governance.
It is this drive that led to the unveiling of a new organisational structure for the ISD that focuses on strategic public education, public relations (PR) and access to information that are researched based.
For instance, PR as an important wing of the ISD is evolving with the inclusion of Artificial Intelligence in its practice.
The ISD now employs technology to standardise PR practice that meets a certain appreciable standard.
This is what has given birth to an online application called ‘Bonsu’.
The ‘Bonsu’ application allows the Public Relations Coordination Division of the ISD to collate, analyse and evaluate PR activities of government programmes and projects in ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs),and Regional Coordinating Councils.
This system also ensures the submission of PR work plans for it to be assessed with Key Performance Indicators.
The years when PROs on secondment worked without any empirical standard for assessing them have been nipped in the bud, courtesy AI.
Soliciting for feedback from the citizen about their opinion is an essential part of the work of the ISD without which the work of the information officer falls short.
For years, this has been done manually as such its relevance for some time had been far-fetched.
To ensure efficiency and reliable gathering of feedback, the Research section of the ISD has been revamped digitally into a division equipped to conduct nationwide surveys on public opinions with regards to programmes, policies and initiatives of government.
Data collection apps have also been installed on official tablets for all the 261 metropolitan and district information officers.
This is to help collect real-time data for onward submission to the head office for analyses.
In addition, there is a survey dashboard that aid the ISD research team to analyse data collected across the country.
Media monitoring, which has been an important part of the work of an information officer, has received a fair share of ISD’s digital transformation.
The days of ‘press cuttings’ has given way to technology induced mechanism for monitoring the media landscape.
As the world plunges into the digital age, the role of technology in information dissemination is more relevant than ever.
It is this that has prompted the ISD to consider digitalisation as an integral part of its transformation.
It has been the avowed desire of the Minister of Information, Kojo Oppong Nkrumah, as he champions the agenda for transformation that ISD, will in no time, become a one-stop shop for information dissemination by government to minimise misinformation and disinformation.
The writer is the Acting Director and Technical Coordinator for Information Services Department (ISD) Transformation.