CIO East Africa (Nairobi)

Kenya: Google Rolls Out Kenya Elections Hub

The country's litany of technology issues might not be featured directly on most of Kenya's presidential candidates' promises but tech will indeed play a big role in the upcoming 2013 elections.

Technology might not be a major issue in the country compared to other major challenges but Google use it to help Kenyans track elections' information through a hub. It employed the use of Fusion Tables among other Application Programming Interface (APIs) to ensure transparency and easy access of this information.

Speaking during the launch of the Kenya Elections Hub at the Sarova Stanley Hotel in Nairobi, Ory Okolloh, Google's Policy Manager for Africa said that the organization's role is to organize elections information and not to provide an opinion.

The hub provides voters, journalists and campaigns an easy track of news, trends information related to the elections. With so many constitutional changes including new boundaries, new elective seats, and a new voter registration, it is more important than ever to help keep Kenyans informed about the elective process.

She mentioned that Google has previously engaged in such undertaking for Ghana and Senegal and the intention is to empower voters so that they are not simply watching from afar, but participating in, engaging with and shaping the political process in a democratic way, through platforms like YouTube, Google Maps and Google+.

"For instance, we had an experience in Ghana where candidates were captured on YouTube promising what they are going to deliver to the people when elected", says Okolloh. The hub will display how Kenyan politicians are using social media platforms during the election period.

The Internet is playing increasingly an important role in transforming the way citizens participate and engage in the elections across Africa. Now its Kenya's turn, and expectations are high both for a peaceful transition and a deepening of democracy under the new constitution. Voters are already turning to the internet for information: according to Google Zeitgeist, the IEBC (Independent Boundaries and Electoral Commission) was the top trending search in Kenya in 2012, and all the major candidates have a strong presence across the various social media outlets.

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