"The world’s largest democracy, India, goes to election starting April 16, 2009. The month long general elections to the 15th Lok Sabha will be held in five phases on April 16, April 22, April 23, April 30, May 7 and May 13, and the results will be announced on May 16."
The last week has seen an incredible amount of activity amongst the Indian team putting together VoteReport.in - a site to track the upcoming elections in India. At Ushahidi, we've seen a number of deployments of the platform, but few have been as well organized and grown with as much community input as this Indian one, led by Gaurav Mishra. On the technical side, Selvam Velmurugan of eMoshka, a non-partisan non-profit organization to enable stronger democracies through increased citizen awareness and engagement, has done most of the heavy lifting. Selvam is also organizing India's first Gov 2.0 Barcamp. Indians can send in reports four ways, by
SMS to 5676785
Email to firstname.lastname@example.org
Twitter with #votereport
Online via web form
Interestingly, Indian has a Twitter-like service called SMS GupShup that has millions of users subscribing to certain channels. The team is creating city-specific update accounts on Twitter and SMSGupShup for the top 8 cities in India (ex: VoteReportMumbai, VoteReportDelhi etc.). They can then point the RSS feeds for these cities to these accounts and give users four options for subscribing to alerts: by email, by RSS, or by SMS on Twitter or SMSGupShup.
How to get involved
Let your family and friends in India know of this initiative. Email and SMS them the info.
If you would like to get involved the best place to start is at the wiki used to organize this initiative.
If you're from the media you can start on the Press Page, or get in touch with members of the team.
Blog, Twitter and GupShup the link.
Ushahidi's First Elections and Swift River
This will be the first time that Ushahidi is being used in the workup to an election. It will be interesting to watch how it is used and how much of a factor it will play in gathering information from the general public. The groundwork for this interaction with the public and with media outlets is being setup now, so the team is optimistic that there will be a good number of incoming reports to work with. Swift River is an initiative that seeks to do two very important things, both of which are crucial for not just Ushahidi, but for many emergency response activities in the future. First, it gathers as many possible streams of data about a particular crisis event as possible. Second, using a two-part filter, that stream of data is filtered through both machine based algorithms and humans to better understand the veracity and level of importance of any piece of information. Concurrently to the rollout of VoteReport India, Swift River has has gotten to the prototype phase through the planning and hard work of Andrew Turner, Chris Blow and Kaushal Jhalla. Andrew took the foundational elements used for the initial "Twitter Vote Report" engine as a starting point. We hope to see a greater number of information streams coming online, and a greater level of understanding of that information through the use of Swift River.