Monday, 21 January 2013

Kenya Election Monitoring Activation

The Standby Task Force is officially deploying in response to a request from Ushahidi to assist with monitoring the Kenyan General Election from March 1st to March 5th 2013 (the election itself is on March 4th, and the key dates for monitoring are March 3rd-5th).

The deployment will use the Uchaguzi platform that the SBTF trialled during the Kenyan by-elections in September 2012.  All SBTF teams (except the Data, Task and Satellite Teams) will be involved in this deployment, and we are expecting a large volume of information, so we are also using this as an opportunity to include new technologies to make team tasks easier (e.g. microtasking), train each team on these technologies before the deployment, and train new team and deployment leads.

For the moment, we need people to sign up for the deployment so we can start organising teams and training, and start finding and organising data (e.g. SBTF already has some GIS data available on Kenyan polling stations from the September 2012 deployment, but this needs updating). The deployment leads are Justine Mackinnon (justine (at) standbytaskforce (dot) com, Skype: fidget01) and Keera Pullman (keera (at) standbytaskforce (dot) com; Skype: blueiz): if you have any questions, please don't hesitate to contact them.

The sign up sheet for the deployment is located HERE.

The information that we have, so far, from Ushahidi on the upcoming elections is:

On March 4th 2013, Kenya will hold its first general election since its new constitution. Trouble is expected. Ushahidi, which is based in Nairobi, Kenya, and started with the post-election violence in Kenya in 2008, has requested that the SBTF build on its 2012 work with Ushahidi and the Uchaguzi platform, and activate a full SBTF deployment (Media Monitoring, SMS, Reports, Verification, Geolocation and Analysis teams), working on one public and one private map (as per the Libya 2011 deployment).

There will also be people in Kenya working on the platform, who will be part of the deployment and following SBTF practices.  These are Ushahidi and iHub staff based in Nairobi who participated in a September 2012 SBTF training session and simulation, who form a core group of people on "the ground" who understand both the technology and the SBTF methodology. In addition, Ushahidi is also running an extensive campaign in the run up to the election to recruit Kenyan-based volunteers for the deployment, and will also train these volunteers in SBTF methodologies.

The Uchaguzi project ( aims to contribute to stability in Kenya, by increasing transparency and accountability through active citizen participation in the electoral cycles. Rather than introducing a new concept or organisation, the project seeks to leverage on existing (traditional) activities around electoral observation, such as those carried out by the Elections Observer Group (ELOG) in Kenya. Uchaguzi will assist in the creation of a more rapid reporting and alert system in traditional electoral monitoring, as well as bring in the voice of citizens as a new dimension in electoral monitoring through crowdsourcing of data.  Ushahidi has already deployed for the Kenyan post-election violence in 2008 and the 2010 Kenya Constitution, and has built partnerships with local civil society organizations, official NGOs, governments and PACT (local election monitoring groups.).

The deployment will target ordinary citizens, using whatever technology they have available to them (internet, sms or voice phone) to send real-time information on election-related issues from different parts of Kenya. The vast majority of this information is likely to be sent by SMS: Ushahidi has a dedicated shortcode for this deployment that will be publicized widely before the election. People will also be able to send in messages by web, email, social media and through Ushahidi’s smart phone applications.

The overall goal of the deployment is to have a free, fair, peaceful and credible general election in Kenya on 2013. Ushahidi’s plan is to inform and provide situational awareness to partners, community organizations, government organizations and citizens. Timely and verified information is key to this mission. Uchaguzi will be used as a source of information to assess the freeness and fairness of the election process as well as for picking out incidents requiring urgent action from electoral, humanitarian or law enforcement agencies. The incentive for citizens to send in messages is therefore not only the promise of adding a voice to the overall assessment of their own election, but also the promise that serious incidents will be relayed to those who can act upon and solve them.  This is exceedingly important especially on election day as the country goes to the polls. Information will be received in real time from citizens and partners. We anticipate several of these messages will be critical incidents that need immediate attention from law enforcement agencies, humanitarian agencies and the electoral commission.

It is very hard to estimate the number of messages we will received. The Communication Commission of Kenya’s latest figures show mobile telephony penetration at 75.4 per cent in an industry with a total of 29.7 million subscribers. What this means is that nearly everyone between 15 - 65 years old (the most likely to own a mobile phone) is connected. Ushahidi and its partners in Uchaguzi will be rolling out an extensive advertising campaign to let the public know about the deployment and how to send in information. As an estimate, on election day, we might process 50,000 different pieces of information, and in the days leading up to the general election perhaps 5,000 - 10,000 pieces of information.

We look forward to working with you.

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