22 February 2013

Kenya: Techies On Peace Mission With Election Apps

In the run-up to the March 4 elections and thereafter, mobile phone users and Kenyans with access to the internet will get simplified information on the elections, the new constitution, and the new system of government.

This has been made possible by web and mobile-based applications built by students that focus on such themes as civic education, parties and politics, lifestyle, resource monitoring and the electoral process. The apps and sites which will be improved on further were launched yesterday at the Stanley Hotel in Nairobi.

The students mainly gathered from Strathmore university developed the apps after an elections 'devfest' themed 'Software Solutions for Elections', an interactive three-day event organised by Strathmore University's iLab and sponsored by Google in partnership with IEBC and various civil society organisations.

The apps, namely Tukumbuke (Let us remember), Spotlight, Jijulishe (Inform yourself), Wenyenchi (owners of the country), Opinion Yetu (our opinion) and Rasilimali (Resources) seek to provide technological solutions to governance and the electoral challenges.

The Tukumbuke app depicts the worst images of the 2007-2008 post poll chaos. Users are advised to view the content with discretion. Spotlight which is mainly a website allows journalists to gather news from posts of users on incidents around the country.

Jijulishe is a civic education application that breaks down content on all the elective posts and roles of the candidates. Additionally it simplifies the constitution in an understandable language. The Wenyenchi app which is both mobile and web-based aims to promote social responsibility where users access information that will aid them to hold aspirants to elective posts accountable.

Opinion Yetu is an online opinion polling application that allows users to choose their preferred candidates for various elective posts.Rasilimali which is also web-based informs users on resource allocations to counties and their utilisation. Over time the app will analyse the extent to which the resources have been put to good use per county.

Mercy Orangi, one of the developers with team Jijulishe, said the apps are meant to relay bulky information such as the constitution to manageable portions that can be accessed from a mobile phone or the internet.

"We aim to provide civic education about the electoral process to every Kenyan, especially because most people don't have the urge to go through the whole constitution; it is pretty much breaking down the constitution," said Orangi.

Google Africa's manager on policy and government relations Ory Okolloh said that in the organisation's drive to promote generation of local content, Google is keen to assist ventures that ease access to information, especially on the electoral process.

"Google has been very active in promoting access to relevant information which is especially important in the electoral process. By supporting these students to create tools for engagement with this information, we hope to reach as many Kenyans as possible," she said.

The students' groups working under the mentorship of the Google Developers Group will fine-tune the apps to improve on their efficiency.

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