Once again, social media has played a central role in a national election. During Kenya's recent ballot initiative to adopt a new constitution, citizens used Twitter, along with Facebook and a new breed of monitoring technology, to help eliminate the voter intimidation, bombings, and deadly violence that marred the struggling African country's disastrous 2008 election. Here, a quick guide:
How was social media used to monitor the election?
Voters reported any intimidation issues at the polls by posting Twitter messages with the hashtag #uchaguzi (the Kiswahili word for "election"), or sending SMS messages to a specially designated number. A group of volunteers tracked the messages and alerted local officials when necessary.
Besides Twitter, what other technologies were used?
A Kenyan-developed platform called Uchaguzi helped aggregate all reported problems, documenting incidents by location and type (security issues, hate speech, ballot issues) so that anyone with Internet access could get a quick overview on the Uchaguzi site. It's very new for Kenyans, Uchaguzi's Charles Kithika tells The Christian Science Monitor, to see that problems are being reported and investigated, effectively "discouraging" troublemakers.
What makes Uchaguzi more effective than Twitter alone?
Accessibility and ease of use. "You don't need a user name and password to take part on the Uchaguzi platform," Erik Hersman, creator of Uchaguzi's technology, tells Fast Company. "Anyone with a mobile phone [roughly 50 percent of Kenyans] can send a report into the system, and receive alerts of things happening around them. That's powerful."
So what happened?
Despite intense opposition, Kenyans overwhelmingly and peacefully voted to replace their British colonial-era constitution with a new document, according to preliminary reports. "Kenya has been reborn," Kiraitu Murungi, minister of energy and supporter of the new constitution, tells the Associated Press, after "20 years of painful labor."
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- Watch out, China — America is working on dogfighting drones
- How liberals are unwittingly paving the way for the legalization of adult incest
- How to be the most productive person in your office — and still get home by 5:30 p.m.
- 43 TV shows to watch in 2014
- How the Simpsons/Family Guy crossover revealed the worst of both shows
- Why the Chinese military is only a paper dragon
- Why America won't have enough money to battle ISIS
- 6 things the happiest families all have in common
- The troubling persistence of eugenicist thought in modern America
- Libertarianism's terrible, horrible, no good, very bad idea
Subscribe to the Week