I recently interviewed Ken Banks, the creator of the software used to monitor the recent Nigerian elections. Ken just sent me a copy of the Nigerian Election Monitoring Report (PDF), compiled by the Network of Mobile Election Monitors (NMEM). It’s a fascinating read, primarily because it’s a grassroots story and one that you would not normally hear from the press.
Traditionally Election observers and monitors deemed credible are often foreign diplomats, bureaucrats and professionals who are sent to visit as many polling stations as they can and inform the world of their impression of the polls. Their effectiveness is limited to the number of places they can visit in a just one day: in a country as vast as Nigeria; without maps or road signs to use in Navigation, these Foreign observers often limit their activities to Abuja (the Nations Capital), Lagos and a few major State Capitals. Places like the Niger Delta with its reputation for violence and kidnapping of Foreigners are no go areas.
A sample text message sent to NMEM:
“Almost all result sheets diverted by PDP stalwarts and INEC ad-hoc staff on the way to wards polling stations in Nsukka Enugu State. By Raph. A. N.”
This type of election monitoring is ground breaking in Africa. I wouldn’t be surprised if it continued to be a case study for future monitoring efforts around the continent – it perfectly showcases how technology can be used to circumnavigate government and organizational inefficiencies by going directly to the people. Make sure you take the time to read this paper. (download the PDF)