The use of social media and crowdsourcing platforms is exploding across the African continent, especially via mobile networks and featured handsets. Over the last five years we have been developing new software systems and organizational processes to monitor social media (from Facebook to Twitter, Google+, Ushahidi, Mixit, and more) to help ensure free and fair elections in Africa. Our Aggie social media aggregator and monitoring software has been deployed during the Nigerian, Liberian, Ghanaian, and Kenyan elections. These real-world election experiences have demonstrated a number of strengths to our approach including: (1) Meeting the electorate where they are.
(2) Technological neutrality.
(3) The need for working software that can handle high volumes of social media inputs.
(4) And the value of embedding team members with core stakeholders, such as election commissions and security organizations.
We have shown that social media is routinely out front of traditional media, police, formal observer missions, and electoral commission offices in the identification of events and problems.
In the recent Ekiti state election in Nigeria we integrated the Aggie platform with our mobile phone based field observation technology, called ELMO. This allowed - for the first time - unified monitoring between social media and formal observers, enabled through a single platform. In this pilot project we demonstrated that formal observers and social media compliment each other in interesting and powerful ways.