Technology Helps Africa Monitor Elections

Mobile phones and crowdsourced technologies are increasingly playing a role in how voters and outside observers keep tabs on African elections.

Posted: 12/12/2012 11:23 AM EST

The term “election observation” is always abuzz around election time in many African countries as allegations of voter fraud and election rigging can have serious and sometimes deadly consequences.

While international organizations are usually relied upon to give an official report about the fairness of African elections, several new, mobile technologies are springing up and helping citizens in Africa and other places around the world take election monitoring into their own hands.

Al Jazeera writes:

“…the "Citizen Situation Room" mapped reports from more than 9,000 observers spread out across Sierra Leone. That initiative, implemented by National Election Watch (NEW), drew on technologies previously deployed during elections in Senegal in February 2012 and Liberia in November 2011. And those efforts drew on the experiences of earlier observation missions in Nigeria, Uganda, and Kenya, among others.

There's a growing list of high-profile supporters for these types of activities. Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, described the Senegal initiative as "perhaps the most sophisticated monitoring program ever deployed in Africa or anywhere else".

Perhaps the best-known example of a crowd-sourced SMS-mapping project in Africa was also one of the first. In a story told and retold in media outlets around the world, a Kenyan blogger worked with a small team to develop an open-source piece of software called Ushahidi — Swahili for witness — which was originally designed to track 2008 post-election violence in Kenya. Ushahidi has since been adapted for a variety of projects that range from mapping Wi-Fi hotspots in India to corruption in Macedonia.”

Read the full story here.

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 (Photo: ISSOUF SANOGO/AFP/Getty Images)

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