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Global Knowledge Network On Voter Education - learning from each other

Role of Information and Communication Technology for Voter Education and Feedback

The session IV in the Conference focussed on ICT role in voter education. Philippines, Fiji and India gave the country presentation besides Experts Ms Najia Hashmere, Regionalist Specialist of UNDP.

Philippines shared how they implemented automated elections for the third time in 2016 with the objectives being credibility and enhanced voting experience for the voters. They stressed how it was important for them taht besides the election results being credible, they should be perceived as credible as well. Philippines selected a few areas know was as Key Result Areas which were judged by a scorecard or report card. The elections saw an increase in voter turnout reaching approximately 82%. Organising the Presidential Debate led to increased excitement and interest amongst the population which led to greater voter turnout. After using technology to organise the debates which were more geographically spread out and sufficiently accessible by means of social media etc, the country witnessed the greatest number of voters in its history. Steps were taken to familiarise the voting population with use of voter machines with hands on experience. Special effort was taken to ensure presence of audio support for people with disabilities. Another innovation in the process using information technology was through declaration of results through a results website where all the results specific to different regions and all over could be audited by the voters themselves to ensure transparency and full disclosure. Philippines also enhanced their election services by implementing accessible polling service, legal assistance in partnership with Philippines Bar and medical assistance.

Fijian Elections Office had adopted a ‘545 sms-ing’ platform for the fast dissemination of information for the 2014 elections. By messaging a unique voter ID number to 545, an instant message was received by the voter, with the details of the polling station of the voter. The voting day was reduced from seven days to one day and implemented through precinct voting and increased polling stations, hence, reducing the number of votes from 4,000 to 500 per polling station. It was recorded that 90% of the votes cast consisted of voters who had acquired information from the messaging service. Along with it, the Call Centre received around 38,000 calls. The percentage of invalid votes was record breaking with just being 0.75% and the voter turnout being 84.6%.

Ms Najia Hashmere, Regionalist Specialist of UNDP shared that UNDP has adopted an ‘Integrated approach’ to support ‘Inclusive Political Processes (IPP)’ to improve citizen participation. She stressed on the examples of the Arab countries and highlighted the case of Tunisia where information technology has been used for improving voter turnout. Media like Twitter, YouTube were utilized to spread awareness and incite interest amongst the population especially the young voters. Similar social media guided initiatives were taken up in other countries like Libya and Jordan. Mrs. Najia went on to clarify that she was not proposing the idea of voter education through information technology in isolation but it was imperative to give it considerable importance considering that a large population of the voters, especially young voters are active on such platforms.

At a global level, UNDP had launched several online courses on ‘Electoral Results Management’, ‘Sustainability in Electoral Results Credibility’ etc. She stressed the on three aspects of voter education:

  1. Know Your Voters: this entails understanding what they want.
  2. Real Time Information: the role that social media plays in disseminating information as and when it happens.
  3. Sustainability: maintaining the use of information technology in voter education in lieu with the financial and human resource implications it accounts for.

India talked about the recent elections held in May 2016 to share the advent and mass usage of information technology in the electoral process. Because of mobile and internet penetration, there was a two-way communication established which provided the Commission with continuous feedback. The electoral roll was computerized completely and the local services were added to cloud. The search system of the voter list was simplified to verify if a voter’s name was there and Google Pattern Search was enable which allowed for micro second search for names. Google Translation service was utilized to cater to the multitude of languages that are spoken in India. Each street was mapped in the state of Tamil Nadu which could guide the voters to their respective polling stations. A feature to change voter ID picture after a comprehensive and efficient system was included as well. SMS-messaging was also utilized to disseminate information about a voter’s information in case there was no data connection available to that voter. A live Twitter chat through Periscope was also used considering there are 22.2 Million Twitter users in India. Facebook Live was also used for press conferences as well. Memes and quizzes were also developed to cater to the young audience. One of the most important activity comprised of setting reminders on Facebook for the election day which was received by all Facebook users in Tamil Nadu along with constant updates in the News Feed. Many infographics endorsed by celebrities were also uploaded regularly. Live updates were invited from people from the polling stations. In Uttar Pradesh, all electoral data was uploaded in an E-Book format which could be accessed by a Kindle or a Tab as well. There was the creation of a special Youth Corner and special hello tunes were also enabled to be provided. Another unique application that was developed was ‘Election Watch’ which monitored the proceedings that were going on to ensure everything was done properly and ethically. PULSE was used for uploading any complaints where all those involved would be tagged and this problem would be redressed. Another feature was the ‘Queue Management System’ where every voter could calculate their waiting time in relevance to the people in the queue.