CIO East Africa (Nairobi)

Kenya: Uchaguzi to Use Technology in Elections Monitoring, Awareness

In three weeks time, Kenya's general election will come under the global spotlight. The memories of the flawed electoral process of 2007 and the violent aftermath still linger on. Hence, Uchaguzi.

Uchaguzi's aim is to help Kenya have a free, fair, peaceful, and credible general election. Uchaguzi's strategy for this is to contribute to stability in Kenya by increasing transparency and accountability through active citizen participation in the electoral cycles. This strategy is implemented through building a broad network of civil society around Uchaguzi as the national citizen centred electoral observation platform that responds to citizen observations. Uchaguzi is coordinated through an ICT platform, which enables Kenyans to keep an eye on the vote and provides avenues through which they can report, with any technology available to them, any incidences significant to the election. For the purposes of Uchaguzi the electoral process is perceived as a permanent and recurrent cycle, in which every stage, and not just the Election Day, counts.

Uchaguzi facilitates unprecedented collaboration between wananchi (citizens), election observers, humanitarian response agencies, civil society, community based organisations, law enforcement agencies, digital humanitarians etc. to monitor elections in near-real time. The goal is to extend the common practice of traditional election observation by engaging the mwananchi in election monitoring, as they are a valuable source of information.

While there are several reasons to be optimistic for a peaceful political transition in 2013 as much has been achieved in Kenya since 2007, such as a new constitution, many of the grievances most responsible for the breakdown in the electoral process in the past continue to plague citizens. The March 2013 election takes on more significance, as it is the first election since the adoption of the new constitution. Kenya 2013 will be Uchaguzi's largest deployment ever.

"With the tools and information available, the Uchaguzi platform transforms every Kenyan into an election observer; in turn, election observers will be able to verify the information, depending on the locations," said Wambua Kawive, Executive Secretary, Constitution and Reform Education Consortium (CRECO).

"By amplifying the voices of ordinary citizens, Uchaguzi allows citizens to continue to play a positive role in elections before and after voting. Uchaguzi mobilises citizens to be directly involved in protecting their vote and electoral process. Together with our partners we have measures to verify information we receive, measures to escalate information that needs a response, and measures to monitor that response," says Daudi Were, Projects Director at Ushahidi.

Information received will be uploaded on www.uchaguzi.co.ke and the public will be able to send information to Uchaguzi via text on 3002, Twitter: follow @uchaguzi and use #uchaguzi and through the Facebook page: facebook.com/UchaguziKenya2013. Smart phone users can download the official Uchaguzi app for free from the iTunes App Store and Android store.

"Uchaguzi seeks to expand the space for free expression and freedom of speech and to strengthen citizen engagement as essential ingredients for an open, democratic and pluralistic society. This is important to Hivos and we believe important for Kenya," says Gregg Mwendwa, Coordinator, ICT Election Watch Africa, Hivos

Uchaguzi is building partnerships with civil society, the electoral commission, election observers group, peace networks, youth networks, the global humanitarian digital volunteer community through the Stand By Task Force. Uchaguzi will also engage with the law enforcement agencies, international organisations and diplomatic missions based here in Kenya.

Uchaguzi's aim is to help Kenya have a free, fair, peaceful, and credible general election.

Uchaguzi, is a joint initiative between SODNET, Ushahidi, CRECO and Hivos Foundation with support from Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA).

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