[DEBATE] : The Americanization of African elections
tintinyana at gmail.com
Sun Dec 30 18:37:11 GMT 2007
> COMMENTARY – DAILY NATION
> DIGITAL WORLD: How electronic technology helped to boost election
> Story by ANDREW LIMO
> Publication Date: 2007/12/29
> The just-concluded General Election was fought using cars,
> helicopters and electronic applications as well. The results should,
> therefore, tell us the impact of the use of electronic technology on
> the voter.
> Shortly before Christmas Day, I received a call on my mobile phone
> from a source that did no reveal the number. A deep but courteous
> voice greeted me in Swahili: “Jambo?” to which I naturally answered.
> He went on: “I am Mwai Kibaki. ...” After a few minutes, he
> concluded, “May God bless you”.
> Indeed, it was the President asking for my vote personally and before
> I realised that it was a recorded political campaign message, the
> thought of the Head of State calling me was quite perplexing. Does he
> know me? Who gave him my number?
> Most people received the same message that was broadcast to numbers
> which must have been randomly selected by the PNU campaign team.
> THE ELECTIONS INTRODUCED AN ingenious use of technology in the
> campaigns, making it quite different from all others Kenya has had in
> the past.
> In 2002, mobile phones were not as common gadgets as they are today.
> There were no creative advertisements on radio and TV such as was
> seen and heard this time round.
> Digital technology allows for the compression of graphics-video, audio
> and text into smaller files which can then be easily manipulated on
> the computer with amazing results. It means, therefore, that what used
> to take ages to compose will now be put together in just a few
> All media houses have invested in new technologies that help to reduce
> the time between recording and transmission. When it is not “live”
> coverage, it is always nearly so.
> Most TV stations use satellite transmission such as those mounted on
> the outside broadcasting (OB) van or smaller devices like BGAN
> (Broadband Global Area Network) which makes it possible for the TV
> cameraman to record, edit and transmit pictures using broadband
> internet from remote locations to the studios.
> The clips could be dropped into a digital server that is easily
> accessed by the transmission crew who air it immediately.
> Through the OB vans, we were able to watch the campaign rallies live.
> It was exciting and the viewer was the real winner.
> SMS was widely used as well. The mobile phone was used to spread
> propaganda and also, regrettably, hate messages. The cellphone was
> also very important to politicians.
> You could see ODM presidential candidate Raila Odinga’s wife sharing
> new text messages with him as they sat at a public rally.
> ODM Kenya’s Kalonzo Musyoka, on his part, promised to be the most
> accessible president, saying that he would give his phone number to
> Kenyans to call him if he wins.
> It was interesting how the media houses collected and disseminated
> There was competition and the expectations of viewers for election
> updates were high. Some stations set up databases for election
> results for a quick analysis and presentation.
> Again the mobile phone was crucial in the whole process.
> Media houses provided election results via SMSs at a premium rate in
> addition to the breaking news services they had been offering.
> I wondered if someone would be smart enough to build a customised
> database to be accessed on the same short code numbers.
> It would have meant a user querying specific results of a polling
> station or a constituency. You can imagine the number of hits
> Lang’ata constituency, which generated immense interest, would have
> attracted in such a system.
> ALTHOUGH IT IS COSTLY TO USE, the mobile phone is creating a big
> appetite in people for the immediacy of information. Kenyans can
> hardly settle for anything less than live coverage.
> But it is only quite recently that communication allowed all this
> here-and-now culture to flourish. Things were different in the 1980s
> and ‘90s.
> In those days, President Daniel arap Moi would occasionally want to
> talk to someone on phone.
> Since there were no mobile phones, the Telkom team would quickly
> construct a line to the home of that important person who must talk
> to the President.
> Then they would go to Mr Moi and say: “Mzee, we have found him”. Most
> likely the line went “dead” thereafter until next time the President
> had a word for the person again.
> I cannot imagine the frustration Kenyans would have gone through to
> get results for the hotly contested polls if there were no
> technologies like the mobile phone.
> Or maybe the elections would not have been hot if we did not have the
> mobile phone?
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