Mr Kwami Ahiabenu II of Technology Innovation Experts has postulated that in the era of global COVID-19 pandemic, the new digital technologies are now indispensable for the conduct of Election 2020.
"Ghanaian politicians desirous of reaching out to the electorate with their campaign messages must turn to the use of technology in order to reach out to voters.
Today COVID-19 has raised the issue of Public health and the need to follow preventive restriction.
"Limiting face-to-face contact plus the need for adhering to physical distancing means face to face interactions are being replaced with virtual opportunities – Virtual Campaigns," Mr Ahiabenu stated at a public political education forum in Accra.
The Public Education Platform: webinar was on the theme: "Using the Virtual Public Space for the 2020 Elections Campaign," was created by the Institute for Democratic Governance (IDEG) to discuss the usage of the virtual space for campaign.
The main objective of the IDEG virtual forum is to promote responsible virtual election campaigning and contribute to achieving peaceful elections with credible outcomes in the face of the restrictions brought about by COVID-19.
Mr Ahiabenu, who was a panelists, noted that COVID-19 has brought significant changes across all spectrums of our lives, democracy is being tested, as over 50 countries have postponed local or national elections with more to follow.
He said in spite of the restrictions, technology was creating opportunities for coping with this pandemic, though it comes with challenges which include how to police, control and regulate this growing virtual electoral space.
He said the power of the Internet and social media as a tool for political mobilization was now established as a means to locate and communicate with voters, fundraising, virtual events ( campaign rallies, town hall meetings) door to door (target one to one interaction/messaging), call to action, and debates.
Mr Ahiabenu noted that despite the mass movement towards all media strategy, current regulatory framework in the country was not up to the task, stressing that digital platforms were not subject to the current rules.
"Any formal regulation of online/social media spaces is very complex- underlying structure of the Internet is premised on openness and inherent lack of a central control.
"Trade-off between regulation, censorship and maintaining freedom of speech remains a thorny issue," he stated.
He therefore urged civil society to instigate a process, culminating in political parties, and candidates pledging to adhere to best practices in virtual spaces throughout the electoral cycle, while advocating for self-regulation.
He charged civil society to mount campaigns – to protect freedom of speech in the light of any regulations or laws.
Mr Ahiabenu also called on regulatory agencies, to investigate ways they could extend and support regulations in virtual spaces through public discourse, whiles the Electoral Commission should have a policy of zero tolerance for inappropriate behaviour by candidates/parties.
He also charged the media to work towards setting good examples and providing education and information, hold political parties, and candidates to account and ensure self-regulation.
Dr Emmanuel Akwetey, IDEG Executive Director, noted that the virtual media space have now become a safer, powerful and more important medium for political party campaigns for Ghana's 2020 national elections.
He said COVID-19 had knocked out large size public campaign rallies amidst political parties and election candidates will now have to rely extensively on the media, both traditional and new media to carry their messages across to the voting public.