⇓ More from ICTworks

ICT Enabled a Safe and Clean Constitutional Referendum in Kenya

By Dinfin Mulupi on August 25, 2010

ict in kenya referendum

The relative calm surrounding Kenya’s constitutional referendum held on August 4 is a stark departure from the violence that marred the infamous 2007 general election. The proposed constitution would limit presidential power and institute land reform, among other changes. One factor that may have contributed to the peaceful vote was the use of information and communications technology.

Officials used e-mail, the internet, and SMS text messages in all phases of the referendum process – voter registration, campaign and actual voting. Such technology has helped contribute to the perception that the process and results were fair, unlike in 2007, when disputed results sparked violence. It also helped officials take swift action against hate speech.

Exceeding Goals for Voter Registration

Kenya’s Interim Electoral Election Commission sought to create transparency in the referendum process. For the first time ever, it conducted the electronic registration of voters in 18 pilot constituencies across the country. The 10-day exercise targeted more than 1.8 million voters in 1,400 registration centers. By sending an SMS text message with their identification card or passport number to 3007 from any network, Kenyans received a text message response confirming that their registration was valid.

Electronic registration helped the election commission surpass its target of registering 10 million people. At the close of the registration exercise,12,656,451 citizens registered to vote. Prime Minister Raila Odinga described the electronic voter registration as revolutionary compared to the old manual system of voter registration. The old system, he said, was “susceptible to abuse by partisan electoral officials.”

The proposed constitution was distributed widely in an effort to reach as many citizens as possible. The group that drafted the constitution, the Committee of Experts, made their e-mail addresses public and would occasionally receive questions from the public seeking clarification on certain clauses.

In the run-up to voting, Kenyans used the internet and mobile phones to spread the draft constitution, known as a Katiba. To see the apps developed for the constitution, click here.

Monitoring Hate Speech

Nearly 4,000 people were deployed across the country to monitor the circulation of hate messages and the use of hate speech in public. These “peace committees” were formed as part of The Uwiano Platform for Peace, a joint initiative of the National Cohesion and Integration Commission (NCIC), PeaceNet Kenya and the National Steering Committee on Peace Building and Conflict Prevention.

Red and green voting factions

The peace committees used voice recorders and mobile phones to monitor and relay information to a 24-hour station at the NCIC offices. The NCIC received thousands of SMS messages reporting incidents of violence, hate speech and other activities that threatened peace. The committees created pages on Facebook to spread the message of peace.

Comments made by politicians in political rallies were also monitored as were leaflets asking some ethnic communities to leave certain areas. Some of the leaflets retrieved contained threatening messages telling some communities to “leave in peace or leave in pieces.”

One government minister has been suspended for allegedly using hate speech. President Mwai Kibaki took action against Dr. Wilfred Machage, the assistant minister for Roads, pending the determination of a hate speech case in court against him. Machage was charged with four counts of incitement to violence and was accused of uttering inciting words likely to stir ethnic hatred on June 10.

Machage is accused of saying: “Wa Maasai chenu hakiko Rift Valley, mashamba yenu yote yataenda kwa serikali.” (“You the Maasai, all your land in Rift Valley will be repossessed by the government”). The Rift Valley is an area where violence flared after the 2007 election.

Steps Toward Credible Voting and Election Results

The election commission monitored the registration and polling using Blackberries donated by the United States Government. The Blackberries provided field personnel with telephone, SMS and e-mail access to headquarters from any location in Kenya. The built-in global positioning system capability was supposed to accurately map all registration and polling locations throughout the country.

Eager to know results of the polling, Kenyans have been keeping in touch with the tallying by texting to 3007. Eighty percent of the constituencies were expected to convey their results using a new Electronic Voter Tallying system. Out of 27,689 polling stations, results from 21,000 stations were transmitted electronically to the constituency tallying center and the national tallying centers. To ensure that the relaying of the results runs smoothly, 210 ICT officers have been deployed across the country.

As of this writing, the constitution looks to have passed and peace seems to have won out against violence.

This article was originally published by AudienceScapes as Kenya’s Referendum Shaped By Technology. AudienceScapes publishes research and reporting on media and communication technology in developing countries.


Get ICTworks 3x a week – enter your email address:

Filed Under: Solutions
More About: , , , ,

Written by
I am journalist in Kenya looking to connect with entrepreneurs and investors.
Stay Current with ICTworksGet Regular Updates via Email

One Comment to “ICT Enabled a Safe and Clean Constitutional Referendum in Kenya”

  1. Thanks for this posting and I can not agree more with the meaning of the title but if you write an article on the role of ICT during the Constitutional Referendum in Kenya I think you should also mention the effort done by:
    Uchaguzi, you can read more on it here: http://www.uchaguzi.co.ke/ and
    Ushahidi read more: http://blog.ushahidi.com/index.php/2010/08/03/uchaguzi-kenya-video-and-press-release/