The fracas around the management of President Yoweri Museveni’s Social Media interactions has been with us for a while now with stories of infighting among some key staff. What is interesting to note is that the decision to take the President online was well received by the online community and within a short time, the number of followers on the President’s Twitter and Facebook accounts grew swiftly. As of October 29th 2014, the @KagutaMuseveni official verified account has 66,258 followers while the Facebook page has 155,885 likes.
It is thus good to thank whoever had the dynamism in his team to see this social media push through. The fruits are starting to be seen. Unfortunately like is the case with many Ugandan Government related initiatives, whenever an initiative begins to shine, it attracts conflict. We have seen this happen before and are not about to stop. While some may be happy with the fact that the president is now able to relate with all citizens easily using online media, others are probably seeing it as a source of money and hence the genesis of the bickering. Unfortunately, the bickering eventually roped in my good friend Joseph Owino who in a bid to carry out patriotic services (bulungi bwa nsi) was construed as an evil brained hacker and had his movements restricted (arrested) for a while. His situation was the culmination of some unprofessional reporting by a local media house and the lack of comprehension of IT basics by someone that had been entrusted to manage the President’s Social Media image. Her choice to command the arrest of this young Ugandan technology talent reminded me of the ‘panda gari‘ days of Amin and Obote II regimes. Its a pity that she may be too young to realise that she is replaying history.
Mr. President, if I were you, I would take on this Social Media push as follows;
First, I come up with a Social Media Strategy in order to have a clear path on the way forward. When you simply dive into something without much aforethought, you are likely to get the kind of internal cannibalism that is being witnessed in your team. In our street linguo we call it jumping in fwaaa or okugwa mu kidiba. This strategy should allow you to identify the goals, set objectives, identify the target(s), know what the competition is like (opposition in this case), choose appropriate channels (do you opt for twitter and facebook only or even Google+, Instagram etc?), create a content strategy, allocation of budget and other resources (this will prevent the now standard Katosi like budgets that have become typical in Government) and finally assign roles (How many people do you need to run this initiative, what are their roles)
Secondly, I would get professionals (probaby from the private sector) to guide my team on designing the strategy and all this without having to spend obscene sums importing expatriates. I would support the Buy Uganda Build Uganda (BUBU) strategy and utilise the readily available local resources. I once heard of a training in open source software that was conducted by the Uganda Communications Commission where they imported trainers from Europe sidelining competent and proven local personnel. This should stop and I would ensure there is no repeat.
Finally, I would direct the National IT Authority of Uganda (NITA-U) to come up with guidelines on official use of Social media (in case they haven’t yet done it). These guidelines would then have to be followed by the Social media team at State House and adhered to.
At this juncture, there would be very little to be stressed about. Remember, while Ugandans may tolerate mediocrity the global audience that Social Media platforms expose you to isn’t usually that forgiving. Any small gaffe is likely to soil the already good image that you may have been built.
Thanks for this, James (even though it is NOT addressed to me). You mentioned the need for social media guidelines by NITA-U, and I thought it would be good to share this: http://www.nita.go.ug/publication/government-uganda-social-media-guide.