Will social media curb electoral fraud in Zambia?

MEST, Tuesday September 20th 2011

We start our tour around the tech scene in Africa with some news on an interesting application utilising social media in Zambia.

Today Zambians are going to the polls to elect their next president, parliament and local governments. As in the past, there are fears of election fraud and violence, but this time there is an innovative mechanism in place to prevent misconduct. The secret is a crowd-sourced monitoring service, where citizens themselves report any irregularities they may see at the polling stations.

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How electorates use this platform
There are a number of ways electorates can report irregularities: (i) Voters simply send an SMS to a short code using their mobile phones (ii) Visit to report incidents online, or (iii) Tweet with hashtags #bantuwatch and #ZambiaElections. Reported incidents will be verified by official election observers, who can then act on the information quickly.

The service was launched last week and reports have already started coming in.

Bantuwatch is a service for crowd-sourced information built on the Ushahidi platform (more about them in the future, promise).

The initiative is run by Zambia's civil society and social media representatives under SACCORD (Southern African Centre for the Constructive Resolution of Disputes - Probably the Longest Abbreviation Around :)). The campaign is said to have been welcomed by the parties running for office, and hopefully it will help with maintaining a more peaceful and fair election day today. Fingers crossed….