As 7th December Ghana elections 2012 draws near, many stakeholders are in constant demand for reliable, factual and timely information. In order to enable information and knowledge exchange around the elections, Penplusbytes’ Africa Elections Project www.africanelections.org/ghana
with funding from STAR-Ghana has established an innovative SMS elections information service to enhance citizen participation in the electoral process.
All mobile phone users can subscribe by sending AEP to 1945. Once subscribed to the service, one will receive regular elections news updates and alerts before, during and after Ghana’s Elections 2012.
In addition to keeping subscribers updated via SMS, the service is also interactive and citizens can contribute content to the system by reporting incidents around the elections from all parts of the country through the shortcode 7000 if they are using MTN and 1902 if they are on Airtel, Tigo or Vodafone. All messages sent must start with AEP, followed by the message.
According Sandra Mills, Programme Officer at African Elections Project, “the incoming messages from the public go through stringent verification processes and are published on an elections incident map www.ghvotes2012.com. Messages with security implications will be linked to an elections early warning system and relayed to the elections security apparatus for the necessary action to be taken.”
Speaking on this innovative SMS system, Kojo Asante of CDD/CODEO said “the Coalition of Domestic Observers is partnering this project because we want as many independent observers to the electoral process as possible and this SMS technology will enable the ordinary Ghanaian especially the young to have a say in the electoral process and freely send their observations to the platform.” He added that “the service will also enable the electorates be educated about the process and make informed choices through the regular content that will be sent to them”.
“This can only be a win-win situation for both the electorates and the nation as it will promote free and fair elections and bring about credibility in the results and the elections as a whole as all will have the chance of participating in the process.” Kojo Asante Concluded.
Kumah Drah of the Ghana Community Radio Network (GRCN), couldn’t agree more and says “we are happy the GCRN is involved in this innovative SMS system. It will serve our network very well as it will solve the problem of not hearing callers to our radio stations in some communities as a result of bad phone network and the only avenue is text messages. So this SMS platform will enhance dissemination of information to and from our partner radio stations”.
Kwesi Amankwah, a subscriber to the SMS platform from Fiapre in the Brong Ahafo Region endorese the project and stated that “now I can easily text what I see happening around me about the elections campaign and I receive regular information about EC and I got to know about the ongoing voter register exhibition through the SMS sent from AEP for instance. This is good and all citizens should subscribe to it”.
One of the objectives of this SMS platform is to transform the electoral process where the politicians dominate the political environment to a system where citizens are provided with a platform to send their views and also be updated with the necessary information and alerts about the upcoming elections free of charge.
African Elections Project (AEP) www.africanelections.org @africanelection
AEP was established in 2008 is coordinated by the International Institute of ICT Journalist (Penplusbytes) and covers elections using Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) across the continent. AEP have successfully covered elections in Botswana, Namibia, Ghana (2008), Guinea, Cote d'Ivoire, Mauritania, Mozambique, Malawi, Togo, Niger and Liberia.
STAR-Ghana www.starghana.org @STARGhana
STAR-Ghana is a multi- donor pooled funding mechanism (Funded by DFID, DANIDA, EU and USAID) to increase the influence of civil society and Parliament in the governance of public goods and service delivery, with the ultimate goal of improving the accountability and responsiveness of Ghana's government, traditional authorities and the private sector.