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Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is the most followed world leader on Facebook with 43.2 million followers, almost twice as many as Donald Trump who is in second place with 23.1 million followers, according to the “World Leaders on Facebook” study.

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Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is the most followed world leader on Facebook with 43.2 million followers, almost twice as many as Donald Trump who is in second place with 23.1 million followers, according to the “World Leaders on Facebook” study.

As of March 15, 2018, Queen Rania of Jordan is in third place with 16 million followers, ahead of the institutional page of the Indian Premier, @PMOIndia, with 13.9 million followers. Cambodia’s Prime Minister Hun Sen has shot into fifth position of the most followed world leaders, with 9.6 million followers and a growth rate of 48 percent.

The study analyzes the activity of 650 Facebook pages of heads of state and government and foreign ministers from January 1, 2017 using aggregate data from Facebook’s Crowdtangle tool.

Over the past 14 months, the Facebook page of President Trump had by far the most interactions of any world leader on Facebook, with a total of 204.9 million interactions (defined as the total number of comments, likes and shares), almost twice as many as Narendra Modi with 113.6 million interactions. Indonesian President Joko Widodo has 46 million interactions and Cambodia’s Prime Minister Samdech Hun Sen and Argentina’s President Mauricio Macri follow with 36 and 33.4 million interactions, respectively.

The World Leaders on Facebook study found that 175, or 91 percent, of the 193 United Nations (UN) member states maintain an official Facebook page. In addition, 109 heads of state, 86 heads of government and 72 foreign ministers maintain personal pages on the platform.

“Burson Cohn & Wolfe’s World Leaders on Facebook study is the premier work on how governments use the platform for political communications,” said Chad Latz, Chief Innovation Officer, Burson Cohn & Wolfe. “It is clear that world leaders are increasingly using social media to communicate directly with their constituents and platforms like Facebook to bring a personal, humanizing tone to their communications.”

Facebook has become the key platform for world leaders and governments to engage with voters, supporters and citizens. As of March 15, 2018, all pages of world leaders combined had a total of 309.4 million followers. Since January 1, 2017, they have published a total of 536,644 posts which have garnered close to 900 million interactions.

The findings revealed that, while more than half of the posts have photos, world leaders are increasingly sharing videos and a handful are going live to talk directly to their constituents. Posts with videos attracted by far the most interactions: 2,615 on average, compared to 1,750 for photo posts, with Facebook Live videos garnering on average 4,489 interactions. The 91,266 Facebook videos posted on world leaders’ pages have been viewed 5.4 billion times with an average view count of 70,790 per video.

Other key findings include:

–       The Facebook page of the government of Botswana is the busiest, with an average of 35 posts per day since January 1, 2017. The governments of Ethiopia and the presidency of Ghana are not far behind, with 28 and 21 posts per day, respectively.

–       The White House is the page most followed by peers, with 28 peer connections. It is followed by the European Commission with 24 peer connections and the U.S. State Department with 20.

–       Other pages followed by world leaders include the United Nations (liked by 45), the European Parliament and the archived Obama White House page (each liked by 26) and NATO (liked by 19).

–       The Russian Foreign Ministry has made the most diplomatic overtures on Facebook, liking 97 other peer pages including the personal page of Donald Trump which is also only liked by one other leader, Roosevelt Skerrit, the Prime Minister of Dominica.

–       The governments of only 18 countries have not yet set up a presence on Facebook, including China, North Korea and Turkmenistan, however a Facebook page was set up for the Chinese State Council Information Office @ChinaSCIO which has only 175 likes.

–       The most visited institution is The White House, with just under 5.2 million check-ins, followed by the Ugandan State House with 225,991 and 10 Downing Street with more than 190,000 check-ins.

–       More than 60 percent of all World Leaders’ Facebook pages allow fans to contact the page privately using Facebook Messenger. Half of the 390 pages open to messages typically reply within a day or even within minutes using Facebook chatbots and automated replies.

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Small South African town goes smartphone-only

Vodacom partners with farming business to upgrade all residents of Wakkerstroom from 2G devices to smartphones

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All residents of the small town of Wakkerstroom, which straddles Mpumalanga and kwaZulu-Natal provinces, have had their 2G feature phones upgraded to 3G devices.

The initiative is a result of Vodacom partnering with BPG Langfontein, a farming business that employs the majority of the people living in Wakkerstroom. It is now the first smartphone-only town in South Africa. This is a model the network provider says it hopes to replicate across the country as part of its mission to connect people who live in deep rural areas and are still dependent on 2G networks.

Wakkerstroom, is the second oldest town in Mpumalanga province, on the KwaZulu-Natal border, 27 km east of Volksrust and 56 km south-east of Amersfoort.  

“There are growing expectations for big corporates the size of Vodacom to serve a social purpose, and for us to use our resources and core capabilities to make a significant contribution in transforming the lives of ordinary people,” says Zakhele Jiyane, Managing Executive for Vodacom Mpumalanga. “We are helping to remove communication barriers, so that citizens in the area can be part of the digital revolution and reap the associated benefits. By moving the more than 1400 farm workers from 2G to 3G devices, this will also free much needed spectrum and this spectrum can be re-farmed to provide for faster networks such as 3G and 4G.

“Crucially, the move opens a new world of connectivity for farm workers in Wakkerstroom. As a result, most people in the area will now be able to use the Vodacom network to connect on the net and access online government services, eHealth services such as Mum&Baby and eCommerce. Learners can now surf the internet for the first time and access Vodacom’s eSchool free of charge and those who are actively looking for jobs can start using their smartphones and tablets to apply for jobs over the internet on Vodacom’s zero-rated career sites. This will be key for driving growth to the benefit of people living in this area.”

Vodacom has already deployed 4G base stations in Wakkestroom as part of this initiative.

For the next phase of this project, says Vodacom, it is going to educate the farm workers about data and the benefits of the Internet. Vodacom will also look at various ways in which it can help empower members of this community in areas of education, gender-based violence and health.

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10 more African countries join Facebook fact-checking

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Facebook today announced the expansion of its Third-Party Fact-Checking programme to 10 additional African countries, which now join  Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, Cameroon and Senegal in the project,

In partnership with Agence France-Presse (AFP), the France 24 Observers, Pesa Check and Dubawa, this programme forms part of its work in helping assess the accuracy and quality of news people find on Facebook, whilst reducing the spread of misinformation on its platform.

Working with a network of fact-checking organizations, certified by the non-partisan International Fact-Checking Network, third-party fact-checking will now be available in Ethiopia, Zambia, Somalia and Burkina Faso through AFP, Uganda and Tanzania through both Pesa Check and AFP, Democratic Republic of Congo and Cote d’Ivoire through the France 24 Observers and AFP, Guinea Conakry through the France 24 Observers, and Ghana through Dubawa.

Feedback from the Facebook community is one of many signals Facebook uses to raise potentially false stories to fact-checkers for review. Local articles will be fact-checked alongside the verification of photos and videos. If one of our fact-checking partners identifies a story as false, Facebook will show it lower in News Feed, significantly reducing its distribution.

Kojo Boakye, Facebook Head of Public Policy, Africa, said: “The expansion of third-party fact-checking to now cover 15 countries in a little over a year shows firsthand our commitment and dedication to the continent, alongside our recent local language expansion as part of this programme. Taking steps to help tackle false news on Facebook is a responsibility we take seriously, we know misinformation is a problem, and these are important steps in continuing to address this issue. We know that third-party fact-checking alone is not the solution, it is one of many initiatives and programmes we are investing in to help to improve the quality of information people see on Facebook. While we’ve made great progress, we will keep investing to ensure Facebook remains a place for all ideas, but not for the spread of false news.”

When third-party fact-checkers fact-check a news story, Facebook will show these in Related Articles immediately below the story in News Feed. Page Admins and people on Facebook will also receive notifications if they try to share a story or have shared one in the past that’s been determined to be false, empowering people to decide for themselves what to read, trust, and share.

Providing fact-checking in English and French across eight countries, Phil Chetwynd, AFP Global News Director said: “AFP is delighted to be expanding its fact-checking project with Facebook. We are known for the high quality of our journalism from across Africa and we will be leveraging our unparalleled network of bureaus and journalists on the continent to combat misinformation.”

Eric Mugendi, Managing Editor from Pesa Check who will provide fact-checking services in Swahili and English added: “Social networks like Facebook haven’t just changed how Africans consume the news. Social media is often the primary access to digital content or the ‘Internet’ for many Africans. They shape our perceptions of the world, our public discourse, and how we interact with public figures. This project helps us dramatically expand our fact-checking to debunk claims that could otherwise cause real-world harm. The project helps us respond more quickly and directly. We’re seeing real positive results in our interactions with both publishers and the public itself. The project also helps our fact-checks reach a far larger audience than we would otherwise. This has helped us better understand the information vacuum and other viral dynamics that drive the spread of false information in Africa. Our growing impact is a small but tangible contribution to better informed societies in Africa.”

Caroline Anipah, Programme Officer, Dubawa (Ghana) said: “Dubawa is excited to be in Ghana where the misinformation and disinformation have become widespread as a result of technological advancement and increasing internet penetration. Dubawa intends to raise the quality of information available to the public with the ultimate aim of curbing the spread of misinformation and disinformation and promoting good governance and accountability.”

Derek Thomson, editor-in-chief of the France 24 Observers, said: “Our African users are constantly sending us questionable images and messages they’ve received via social media, asking us ‘Is this true? Can you check it?’ It’s our responsibility as fact-checking journalists to verify the information that’s circulating, and get the truth back out there. Participating in the Facebook programme helps ensure that our fact-checks are reaching the people who shared the false news in the first place.”

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