Ushahidi's Uchaguzi Platform Empowers Citizen Participation in 2022 Kenya General Elections
In the midst of a contested election that was framed as a battle between entrenched political elites and aspirational outsiders, Kenyan citizens turned up in droves to vote for their preferred candidates. To support this democratic process, Ushahidi utilized its Uchaguzi platform, which had previously been used in general elections held in 2010, 2013, and twice in 2017. In 2022, Ushahidi collaborated with 19 civil society partners to create a customized version of the platform that enabled election situation room activities to be coordinated through technology. The citizens were able to report on election events and share their views through channels like WhatsApp, SMS, USSD, and social media. Through Uchaguzi, 93,236 reports were collected, and 12,387 of these were published. To ensure accuracy and credibility, 91 digital response volunteers from around the world engaged in a rigorous verification process to eliminate misinformation, rumors, and false narratives. The success of Uchaguzi underscores the importance of technology in promoting transparency, accountability, and citizen participation in electoral processes.
The Uchaguzi 2022 initiative was implemented with partner-led field teams located across the country and digital response volunteers stationed in both physical and online situation rooms. The field teams, composed of partner representatives, provided valuable on-the-ground insight and included election observers, community working groups, media teams, and active response teams. Meanwhile, the digital response teams in the situation room ensured that information flowed seamlessly through the Uchaguzi workflow, which consisted of three core components:
Crowdsourcing: Uchaguzi's primary focus was to tap into the collective intelligence of the crowd, making it the largest source of data. The public was encouraged to submit any relevant information they had on the election or electoral process.
Verification: Uchaguzi evaluated the information received through a rigorous verification process to determine its credibility.
Response: Once the information was verified, it was forwarded to organizations and individuals who could use it to intervene positively and monitor the response to gauge its effectiveness.
Uchaguzi 2022 proved to be an incredibly valuable tool during the election period, enabling citizens to have their voices heard and their reports escalated so they could receive the necessary assistance to exercise their right to vote. A particularly impactful report was submitted by a person with a disability who was unable to access the polling booth at their designated voting station. Thanks to the swift escalation of this report by Uchaguzi, the National Council of Persons with Disabilities was able to take immediate action. This example highlights the profound impact that Uchaguzi had on the democratic process, revealing both the intended and unintended effects of this groundbreaking initiative.
Based on the success of Uchaguzi 2022, we recommend that the initiative continue to be utilized as a tool for uplifting the voices of everyday citizens and bridging the gap between those who need help and those who can offer it. As more countries prepare to hold elections, we encourage people to turn to Uchaguzi to ensure that all communities and individuals have their voices heard during this critical time. The insights and results from Uchaguzi 2022 demonstrate the potential of technology to integrate with our everyday lives, enabling us to not only amplify the voices of marginalized groups but also restore trust and confidence in our institutions as we uphold democratic values and transparency. Going forward, we suggest that Uchaguzi be further refined and improved, building on the lessons learned from the 2022 election and continuing to push the boundaries of what is possible with technology and citizen engagement.