Web tool to ensure “free and fair” elections in Afghanistan

August 20th, 2009 - 3:39 pm ICT by ANI  

London, August 20 (ANI): Thanks to a web tool, citizens of Afghanistan would be able to record incidents of rigging in the country’s electoral process by recording the episodes via text messages.

The second democratic presidential election in Afghanistan under the present constitution of the country is scheduled to be held today.

According to a report by BBC News, Afghanistan’s denizens can report disturbances, defamation and vote tampering, or incidents where everything went reportedly well, through the ‘Alive in Afghanistan’ project, which plots the SMS reports on an online map.

Their reports feature alongside those of full-time Afghan journalists to ensure the election and reporting of it is as “free and fair” as possible.

“We hope to enable people to report on what is going on in the country,” explained Brian Conley, who helped set up the project.

“In the rural areas, there are not going to be monitors, and it is questionable how much international media coverage there will be in these areas,” he said.

“Additional text and video reports will be added by a network of 80 reporters from the Afghan Pajhwok news agency,” he added.

Conley said that he hoped the results would be used by national and international media along with members of the international community.

In addition, they may also be sent to the Electoral Commission if there are reports of tampering or rigging, he said.

The system relies on two established open-source technologies to gather the election reports.

The text messages are collected via a free-platform known as FrontlineSMS, developed by UK programmer Ken Banks.

The system was originally developed for conservationists to keep in touch with communities in national parks in South Africa and allows users to send messages to a central hub.

It has previously been used to monitor elections in Nigeria, and has now been combined with a “crowd-sourced, crisis-mapping” tool known as Ushahidi, which plots the reports on a freely accessible map.

The system was developed in Kenya when violence erupted following the disputed presidential elections between Mwai Kibaki and Raila Odinga.

Since then, the platform has also been used to document anti-emigrant violence in South Africa and problems in the Democratic Republic of Congo.Conley hopes “hundreds of thousands of people” will use the system, which has been promoted by distributing “thousands of leaflets” and radio reports.

“I am confident that because of Pajhwok’s support we will see a good amount of content coming in,” he said. (ANI)

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