Ashley Hinson in Calais, Maine, USA
Since Ushahidi was developed in 2008 after the election in Kenya, the power of information and communication technologies (ICTs) has dominated the conversation about free and fair elections. Crowdsourcing has been called “the most important activist technology,” and there’s no question why. “Having a voice” was considered a primary concern in a major survey, after basic necessities and income generation. While we know that there is no ‘silver bullet’ solution to ensuring true democracy, there is much more to crowdsourcing than meets the eye.
See, crowdsourcing is more than a buzzword, and ICTs go beyond cool technology. The approach of collecting data reflects a whole new model of development – A model of engagement, equal voice, accountability and transparency.
We want the political process to work for us, but for this, we must be involved in the process. The fact is that when people are engaged in an election, or a large development project, they are more likely to take stock in the outcome. What better way to get citizens involved than to ask for their suggestions from the very beginning – in the most important stage of the process?
Wouldn’t it be nice to engage people in a survey post-voting to further strengthen aspects of elections that need consideration? If citizens are expected to vote, and governments are expected to serve, establishing a direct channel of communication is critical.
Beyond serving as a reliable center for reporting violence and other issues (see previous blog post) during the upcoming elections, LIG hopes that crowdsourcing data will develop new norms of behavior. Participation should not stop at the polls. The point is to encourage citizen involvement on the day of elections, but also before and after the election – to create a safe, accessible venue for expressing concerns, including the reporting of violence associated with political processes – anytime, anywhere.
Current debates surround the challenges of getting enough reliable data and finding ways to verify all the information that comes in – especially during times of high activity, such as a national election. Luckily, we’re talking technology – where constant improvements, adjustments, and customizations are the name of the game.
We believe that information in itself is of immense value. It’s a two-way street – we need people to share experiences of their participation in the political process, and we’ll compile that information in a way that’s meaningful.
There are definite challenges. But, we’ll figure out the kinks – the servers, identifying reliable data, etc. After all, technology is made for tinkering. This also means finding creative ways to engage people, while simultaneously, creating an environment of trust.
What if I told you that the key to free and fair elections is within arm’s reach? Well, if you believe in the legitimacy of public opinion and the strength of technology, then you just might be holding the power in your hands at this very moment.
1.) http://www.texttochange.org/sites/default/files/newsfiles/ M4D2012_Hellstrom_Karefelt(1).pdf
2.) http://panos.org.uk/wp-content/files/2011/03/heart_of_change _weby2wvJO.pdf
Lenneke P., Creative Commons License