Citizen reporting in Kenya via SMS and Twitter
August 11th, 2010

“Long queues of voters waiting peacefully.” “Needy voters assisted.” “mp agents going round poll stations influencing people 2 vote no.” These are some of the 1,230 tweets and text messages sent out by citizen monitors of Kenya’s referendum last week. The platform enabling this crowdsourcing of on-the-ground election reports is called Uchaguzi, which means “election” in Kiswahili. Uchaguzi is a spinoff of an earlier platform called Ushahidi, meaning “testimony,” which was developed during the violence after Kenya’s 2007 presidential election, and has since been used to map damage from the BP oil spill, earthquake victims in Haiti, and xenophobic violence in South Africa (and has been blogged about many times on right here on Smart Mobs). Both platforms follow the same model: set up a special SMS shortcode, Twitter hashtag (#uchaguzi for Kenya’s referendum), or e-mail address, publicize it, and solicit reports from ordinary people. And voilà: Kenyan citizens self-organize a robust citizen reporting system, a classic case of smart mobbiness, in a country with seemingly more camels than cellphones. “‘It’s something very new for Kenyans to know that they can instantly report an incident to an independent monitor far away who will guarantee to investigate,’ says Charles Kithika, a website fix-it guy at Uchaguzi. ‘It will discourage the bad people from doing things they used to think they could get away with.'” And in fact, although 166 “Security Issues” were reported, there were none of actual violence. Plans to bring similar platforms to other East African countries with impending elections are in the works. Click here to read the original article.

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