University of Ghana Department of Communication Studies Launches Trends in Media and Communication Conference

The Department of Communication Studies at the University of Ghana in partnership with DW Akademie and Penplusbytes virtually launched the maiden edition of its Trends in Media and Communication Conference on Tuesday October 19, 2021. 

The two-day conference under the theme, “Africa’s Digital Youth: Exploring Media and Information Literacy Competencies and practices”, brought together more than 120 participants from across the African continent and beyond to map out a plan of action for Africa’s tech-savvy youths. 

Welcoming the participants to the official launch, Dr. Abena Animwaa Yeboah-Banin, head of the Department of Communication Studies at the University of Ghana explained that the aim of the conference is to bring together scholars from across the African continent and beyond to deliberate on how to equip African youths with the needed skills to take advantage of the opportunities that exist in the digital space. Dr. Yeboah-Banin emphasized the importance of having a media and information literate youth as a strategy for minimizing their susceptibility to the ills of the digital space such as misinformation, cyberbullying, and cyber fraud. 

In his opening remarks, Professor Martin Oteng-Ababio, Acting Provost of the College of Education at the University of Ghana, acknowledged the significant negative impact of misinformation, disinformation and other challenges associated with the digital space. He pointed out that discussions on the safety of individuals, who navigate the contemporary world of digital technology have become very critical. He added that the right place to start is with an assessment of media and information literacy competencies, while commending the conference’s thematic focus as a timely topic given the recent dynamics in the media landscape. 

Delivering her remarks, Madam Juliet Amoah, Executive Director of Penplusbytes stressed the need to critically evaluate the content “we consume and share” as it has the potential to affect our mental health. She cautioned against hiding behind anonymity when publishing and communicating on social media. She noted, “Digital platforms are not as invincible as people erroneously think.” She went on to emphasise that increasing media literacy at all levels is the only way to achieve collective digital responsibility and responsible media consumerism.

In her concluding remarks, Amoah tasked academics, researchers, and scholars to contextualise international media literacy strategies to meet the realities of the African context, particularly in Ghana. She also urged practitioners to be aware of the media content they create and publish, and to safeguard the public’s trust in them as they make informed judgments based on that information. Furthermore, she called on the youth to think critically and analyse the accuracy of the information they encounter using media information literacy skills. Madam Amoah assured those in attendance that her organization together with other organizations that share in their mission are working to solve problems that digital technologies present as well as to make the youth, in particular, more discerning and productive.

The Keynote Speaker, Prof Janet Kwami, Associate Professor of Communication Studies, Furman University, USA, in discussing the theme “Africa’s Digital Youth: Exploring Media and Information Literacy Competencies and practices” stated that in today's heavily media-centric and digital ecosystem, where media consumers double as producers, it is important, especially, for the youth in Africa to be equipped and empowered with media and information literacy competencies.  


Additionally, Prof. Kwami used evidence-based statistics to emphasise the gender, social, cultural, and political inequalities that exist in media access and consumption as well as the need to address the significant hurdles that limit young people's capacity to use these technologies. She stated, “The digital experience of African youth has not been sufficiently investigated and understood, and I hope that this conference would provide an opportunity for scholars and researchers to together examine this subject in more depth.”

Together with key industry players, scholars, and researchers, participants engaged in intellectually stimulating conversations geared towards providing useful insights into the emerging trends in the digital space, particularly in Africa, and shared ideas on how best the youth can safely steer the digital space while also tapping into the numerous prospects it presents.

Trends in Media and Communication Conference is an initiative that seeks to biennially provide a platform for communication and media scholars, practitioners, and researchers across the African continent to present, share innovative ideas, discoveries, projects, and learnings about emerging trends on the continent as they relate to media and communication. 

The conference brought together more than 120 participants from across African content to explore the theme. It also attracted people from across the globe interested in studying and understanding things happening on the African content. Present at the conference were Professor Akosua Darkwah, Dean of the School of Information and Communication Studies at the University of Ghana, Mad. Susanne Fuchs-Mwakideu, DW Akademie Programmes Director, Professor Audrey Gadzekpo of the Department of Communication Studies, and a host of other faculty members from Universities across the globe.

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