LAGOS (Reuters) – Tech-savvy young Nigerians are gearing up to use BlackBerries, mobile phones and social networking services such as Twitter and Facebook to monitor polls in January, in an effort to stamp out electoral fraud.
Previous polls in Africa’s most populous nation have been so marred by ballot-stuffing and voter intimidation that election observers deemed them not to be credible. This time around, new technology could make some forms of rigging more difficult.
President Goodluck Jonathan, who has yet to declare whether he will stand in the polls, has said organising a credible vote is a top priority, although there is little time left for a badly-needed overhaul of the electoral register.
One group of developers called Wangonet — an acronym for West African Non-Government Organisation Network — is working on an application that records information sent by SMS, email or via Internet from mobile phones to plot a map of problem areas.
The Nigerian project was inspired by Ushahidi, a website first developed in Kenya to map post-electoral violence in 2008, and later used around the world including to help emergency teams after the Chile earthquake and floods in Pakistan.
The platform uses “crowdsourcing” — pulling together and organising data from public users.
“We believe by arming a new generation of Nigerians with social media and networking tools … the 105 million Nigerians under the age of 35 might be motivated to directly engage and interrogate the system,” said Wangonet founder Tunji Lardner.