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New Technologies Monitor Ghana Elections 2012

As Ghanaians get ready to head to the polls on 7 December 2012, we would like to point out local initiatives using new technologies to ensure free and fair elections.

Ghana Votes 2012 uses a Ushahidi-based map to display election related reports:

The Ghana Votes 2012 instance map has been developed and designed to display reports from the elections body, civil society groups and citizens on the upcoming Ghana elections. The map will provide information about everything from security issues to polling station logistics to voter education activities. In addition, the map displays all the polling stations, parliamentary and presidential candidates and political parties by constituency and regions, making the map a one-stop shop for election information.

A screenshot of Ghana Votes 2012 instance map, from http://ghvotes2012.com/.

The reports can be sent by filing out a form online or using the options outlined below:

By sending a message to 7000 or 1902 or 0202841029
By sending an email to info@africanelections.org
By sending a tweet with the hashtag/s ghana or ghanaelections or ghanavotes or ghanadecides or elections or johnmahama or nanaaddo or ndc or npp or pnc or cpp or ppp

Sarah Brierley and George Ofosu reported last month that the Electoral Commission of Ghana launched a technological tool in order to expand access to the Provisional Voters Register (PVR). The tool uses SMS technology to allow voters to text in to check that their names and other details have been properly captured on the newly composed Voters Register.

However, they argued that this initiative was flawed:

Firstly, although the donor world (and indeed it is the UNDP that funded this project) have eagerly embraced mobile technology as the latest tool to “empower citizens”, it should be recognized that there are limits to how successfully citizen-based SMS projects can be executed. The fifth round of the Afrobaromter (2012) indeed shows that only 36% of Ghanaians ever used SMS when communicating, and the vast majority instead relies on voice calls. This suggests that for all of its efforts and related costs, the EC may be targeting a relatively small voter population. Arguably, the money could have been better spent educating citizens on the importance of visiting polling stations, organizing community meetings for voters to check the register, supporting a free voice hotline to allow voters to verify their details, and allowing for a longer exhibition of the voters register.

Secondly, the project has been launched very late in the day, after two days of the ten-day voter exhibition at polling stations has already been completed. Furthermore, there has been no public education on this new service and a lack of advertising. As it stands, voters are likely to be confused as to how to verify their Voter ID detail, that is whether to use the mobile phone text messaging method or visit their polling centers.

African Elections Project has established Ghana's first Social Media Tracking Centre (STMC) to monitor the use of social media during Ghana's 2012 elections. The center will provide a real time response mechanism on election irregularities, violence and other concerns by reaching out to key election stakeholders for immediate action.

In an e-press release received today, African Elections Project said:

Apart from all these tool deployed, citizens are now empowered to actively participant in the electoral process by simply sending reports free of charge to the SMS short code 7000 on MTN and 1902 on other networks by prefixing their message with ‘AEP'. Verified reports will be plotted on the elections instance map.

Recognizing the impact and ownership of mobile phones in the country, a mobile app christened ‘Jangbeeshi’ (delivering results in style) mobile app which will not only provide citizens with information about where, when and how to vote but also get citizens report to on irregularities at their voting centers during the elections just at the tap of a button has also been developed.

Other tools include the social media platforms such as facebook, twitter, online info and knowledge platform (www.africanelections.org/ghana), Google plus, Flickr and Twitpic for pictures and Youtube for videos.

African Elections Project (AEP) was established in 2008 with the vision of enhancing the ability of journalists, citizen journalists and the news media to provide more timely and relevant election information and knowledge while undertaking monitoring of specific and important aspects of governance

In March 2012, BloggingGhana community launched a social media initiative, Ghana Decides, to train stakeholders to use social media tools for election monitoring and reporting. GhanaBlogging is a group of bloggers in/outside Ghana who blog about Ghana.

Tomorrow all eyes will be on the two main Ghana's political parties, the ruling National Democratic Congress (NDC) and the main opposition New Patriotic Party (NPP).

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