[Guest blog post: Fareed Zein is the Project Leader for the Sudan VoteMonitor project and Research Associate with the US-based Sudanese Institute for Research and Policy (SIRP). Email: email@example.com.]
Sudan VoteMonitor was announced April 1, 2010 as a pilot project led by the US based Sudan Institute for Research and Policy (SIRP) and Sudan based Asmaa Society for Development, in collaboration with other Sudanese civil society organizations (CSO’s), including the TAMAM network, the Civic Forum, and Justice Africa. They deployed over 3,000 independent local observers throughout the 15 northern states. These observers continuously reported back what they witnessed at various polling stations across these states, using standard paper reporting forms.
The purpose of the initiative was to utilize the Ushahidi platform to compliment the paper-based independent monitoring and reporting of Sudan’s first multi-party election in 24 years by Sudanese CSO’s, and offer them and the public at large a new online platform for the first time in Sudan’s history. This technology was particularly useful in Sudan, Africa’s largest country, where long distances and inadequate infrastructure posed a significant challenge to CSO’s. The spread of mobile communications throughout the country in recent years offered a unique and feasible opportunity to utilize SMS to overcome this challenge.
The site went live Aril 10, 2010 with web and SMS reporting in Sudan in English and Arabic to coincide with the start of the elections held April 11-16, 2010. Response was quite strong both inside and outside the country. A total of 564 online reports were received (or translated from paper-based forms) from 419 locations, covering 26 categories. It attracted wide interest from citizens, a variety of international organizations active in Sudan, as well as the local National Telecommunication Commission. The site was blocked inside Sudan for two days before it was permitted again, during which time the Ushahidi community worldwide was extremely supportive in maintaining reporting activities.
SuNDE and SuGDE are two other Sudanese CSO’s who conducted paper-based election observation. Their work was similar to our primary partner Asmaa Society and their TAMAM network who received thousands of paper-based reports from their observers. Due to logistical and financial limitations not all observers were equipped and able to submit their paper observations to Sudan Vote Monitor (SVM). The most important point here is that SVM was never intended to replace or compete with domestic CSO programs, but rather compliment and offer them and the public at large a new online platform for the first time in Sudan’s history. For that we are very proud of our work.
The project team is currently evaluating the experience and looking to leverage the Ushahidi platform to help support Sudan’s Civil Society Organizations in their work on future elections and civic initiatives.