This is a guest blogpost by Julie Owino and Archippe Yepmou, some of the team members behind Wonzomai.
The Ushahidi platform was deployed during the first round of the presidential elections in Côte d’Ivoire which happened on 31 October 2010. Implemented under the name of Wonzomai (Sentry in Bété, Ivory Coast Local language), the project gathers teams from Ivorian NGO Akendewa and from the French NGO Internet Without Borders
The purpose of the project was to give a space of expression to Ivory Coast citizens where they could give a glimpse of the general atmosphere surrounding the vote, and help prevent sensitive situations: in fact this presidential election is considered crucial for a country that faced 10 years of a war which ended officially with the Treaty of Ouagadougou (4th March 2007) that prepared the ground for the electoral process.
Technically, the platform was deployed using the mashup google maps and Frontline SMS. For reasons related to local network, we had 3 SMS Numbers functioning and encountered a few difficulties to gather information received by SMS on the platform. But this was tackled.
As a first experiment in Ivory Coast of a citizen based reporting of elections, the result is interesting and highlights the importance of developping presence of francophone African citizens in the cyber world.
One of the most interesting contribution of the platform is that the latter has been since its launching a real catalyst of twitter conversations surrounding Wonzomai itself, and the elections in general through #wonzomai #peacevote and #civ2010. These hashtags were created by different members of the project team. On 3rd November 2010, #wonzomai already Counted 514 Tweets. The same day, our main hashtag counted more thant 1000 tweets according with this tool
The real challenge during the second round of the presidential election, which will be held on 28th November 2010, will consist in the coordination of the different international institutions and national public services involved in the election : for instance Electoral monitoring mission.
Another lesson for the second round, and probably for further elections in the region, was learned through this first use of Ushahidi; in fact, in addition to political tension, there is a culture of defragmentation and dissemination of rumors via SMS. The challenge will be to transform this participation through the SMS channel in a positive piece of information. A beginning of response was given thanks to the platform as citizens could send Messages fostering a peaceful vote and those were received on Wonzomai and re-disseminated.
But finally beyond technical aspects of the deployment, what is interesting is that the community of Ivorian Twitter Users in the screening of the information. This consciousness created an emulation of projects around the question of presidential elections : For instance the
Peace Vote Project which is a website where peace messages can be sent to Ivory Coast citizens ; Or this website where an attempt to present histograms of the results of the first round.
All this shows in conclusion the necessity to adapt the Political Science, studies trends and results, to tools which aim at a better understanding and apprehension of these results. To be more accurate, sometimes an ethnic vote would be interpreted through the results of a ballot; a mapping of results would corroborate or invalidate such an assertion.
Internet Without Borders