Elections are an important and integral aspect of democracy, meant as a mechanism with which citizens hold their leaders to account for past actions and future promises. When citizens are enabled to actively contribute to an environment in which a free and fair election can take place, it will become less attractive for politicians to meddle in elections and stimulate the emergence of truly citizen-oriented politics. Technology such as Ushahidi can assist in the creation of a more rapid reporting and alert system than traditional electoral monitoring, as well as bring in the voice of citizens as a new dimension in electoral monitoring through crowdsourcing. When citizens see that their voices can make a difference, it will become more attractive to be politically engaged. Collaboration between civil society, technologists and ordinary citizens around national online election platforms is one effective way to bring this about. This platform can be used as a source of information to assess the freeness and fairness of the election process as well as picking out incidents requiring urgent action from electoral or security authorities. The incentive for citizens to engage by sending in messages is therefore not only the promise of adding a voice to the overall assessment of their own election, but also the promise that serious incidents would be relayed to those who could act upon and solve them. Making elections more open, honest, and peaceful was the impetus for starting Ushahidi, and it remains part of our core mission. We’ve been very active in helping organizations deploy and use our software to crowdsource election monitoring over the years since 2008, and have gained a wealth of experience in doing so. Here are 3 examples of how we got involved with election monitoring initiatives, what we did, and what we learned from each deployment. Uchaguzi Kenya (2013 Kenyan General Election) Uchaguzi Kenya was a deployment set up to help Kenya have a free fair, peaceful and credible general election in 2013. Uchaguzi mobilises citizens to be directly involved in protecting their vote and electoral process. This strategy is implemented through a broad network of civil society around Uchaguzi as the national citizen centred electoral observation platform that responds to citizen observations. Uchaguzi used two main tools for this.
- Partnerships: Uchaguzi was a collaboration between the Constitution & Reform Education Consortium (CRECO) a network of civil society organisations committed to promoting constitutionalism, democratic governance and institutional excellence through coordination and capacity building of CSOs, Hivos an international organisation that seeks new solutions to persistent global issues and Ushahidi. Other partners included the Kenya National Commission for Human Rights, the iHub, Map Kibera, Mercy Corps, Tuvuke Campaign, PACT Kenya, UN Women amongst many others.
- Technology: The second tool, used coordinate this strategy and the partners, was the Ushahidi deployment uchaguzi.co.ke.
- Get the Ushahidi platform up and running quickly and customize categories, design and plugins
- Train your team to use the platform and process reports efficiently
- Provide on-the-ground support before and during your election project