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Tech to track Kenyan election results

By , ITWeb
Kenya , 18 Apr 2012

Tech to track Kenyan election results

An organisation promoting peace in Africa plans to use SMS software to help monitor Kenya`s 2013 presidential elections results, in a bid to avoid a repeat of the violence that rocked the country`s 2007/8 vote.

Deadly rioting in the East African country took place after the last election, when the nation`s current president, Mwai Kibaki, was declared the winner and sworn into power, despite opposition leader Raila Odinga`s claims of victory.

A coalition government was eventually set up in light of the crisis, but it came at a high cost, as more than 1 200 people died and hundreds of thousands were displaced as a result of the violence.

Now, the African Great Lakes Initiative (AGLI) – which aims to strengthen, support, and promote peace in countries such as Burundi, Kenya and Rwanda – plans to use open source software called FrontlineSMS to help monitor next year`s presidential race.

The free software is designed to allow “citizen reporters” to SMS election results as they are announced. The results are then to be stored in a central database in Kenya to avoid the same mistake made in the last election, when results changed between the original announcement and final clarification.

The software also lets those using it text incidents of violence from constituencies, which could help to notify authorities instantly.

AGLI plans for 1 000 citizen reporters throughout Kenya to use the software to help track potential irregularities and outbreaks of violence.

The initiative used FrontlineSMS technology during the 2010 elections in Burundi, where it worked with democracy and peace-building groups to provide cellphones and training to 160 citizen reporters, in nine communities.

It intends to roll out the same model in Kenya, but on a larger scale, partnering with local government officials and other organisations to ensure effective responses to the information provided by the citizen reporters.

“AGLI long ago learned that elections, rather than being a time of assessment, change and optimism, can, in the Great Lakes Region of Africa, often be a time of fear, unrest, and violence,” said project coordinator David Zarembka.

He said the experience in Burundi had proved the technology could work.

“As with other communication tools, while the FrontlineSMS network enhanced the ways people were able to work together, ultimately the effectiveness of the network was a product of more traditional skills and relationships. The ease of communicating, and the ability to do so in a discrete way, may have engaged citizens who would not otherwise have played an active role.”

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