Human rights groups use technology to map and monitor Zimbabwe elections
Kubatana.net is the second Zimbabwean human rights group to use Web 2.0 technology to monitor and report on the elections and the third in Africa following the Ushahidi project on the Kenyan elections started in January.
Elections are a process, not an event, and the same applies to rigging: the scene has been set for unfree and unfair elections on March 29th, and the conditions on the ground have been developed through many months of non-compliance with regional electoral standards.
The events and incidents mapped on the Zimbabwe Election Watch map represent a small sample of the breaches identified under the project since we started monitoring the government’s non-cooperation with regional standards in July 2007. All the information logged under Zimbabwe Election Watch is derived from media sources.
Kubatana.net works with Zimbabwean civil society organisations to strengthen the use of email and internet strategies and provides an online resource on human rights and civic information. Using Frontline SMS, Kubatana set up an sms election service for subscribers to receive up to date election information and results. They have also been running a campaign “What would you like a free Zimbabwe to look like?” Ken Banks, creator of Frontline SMS explains how it works…
Zimbabweans have been incredibly responsive, with many people saying that the question gave them hope in uncertain times. According to Kubatana:
“It’s also been a real learning experience for us, reminding us that ordinary Zimbabweans have a wealth of good ideas to contribute, and our political and civic leadership must work on building a more participatory environment”
A combination of SMS and email were used in the initiative, with text messages such as “Kubatana! No senate results as at 5.20 pm. What changes do YOU want in a free Zim? Lets inspire each other. Want to know what others say? SMS us your email addr” sent out to their mobile subscriber lists. FrontlineSMS was used to blast the messages out, and then used collect responses which were then distributed via an electronic newsletter and on the Kubatana Community Blog
Ushahidi, Sokwanele, Kubatana and the NNEM (Nigerian election reporting project) have all shown the power of Web 2.0 and mobile phone in the hands of civil society in Africa.