As Nigeria Decides (5)

By now, everyone probably knows that Nigerians will, tomorrow, begin the process that will decide who the next set of National Assembly, Presidency and State-level leaders will be. Beginning with the National Assembly elections, the Presidential election follows next weekend (April 9) and the process will end with the Governorship/State Assembly elections on April 16. It’s also not news that EiE Nigeria is promoting ReVoDa, the mobile app that will allow Nigerians monitor the elections from their respective polling units.

Earlier today, I was joined by Emeka Okoye to discuss ReVoDa on Network News channel, NN24. Emeka needs no introduction as a mobile developer, but I must commend him for helping translate the idea of the mobile app into reality. The entire ReVoDa ecosystem has also benefited from a lot of volunteers, and I hope to tell the complete story of the development sometime soon. During the interview, which will be on air from this evening, we talked a lot about the opportunity that anything mobile presents for Nigeria (and developing countries) and the beauty of creating innovative products based on evident need. We also talked about the mobile app, how it works and how information will help make the 2011 elections more creedible.

Anyone who has ReVoDa installed on their mobile phone will be able to send reports after creating a profile that will map them to a location and then identify their polling unit and name each time they send reports. That way, we know who is sending the report and that helps with credibility and follow-up, if required. The beauty of ReVoDa also includes the opportunity to send location-specific messages to registered users about their area. If there are multiple reports that need critical verification, we know the who and how of taking care of the challenge. For example, registered users received a text message this evening reaffirming the fact that they can use mobile phones at polling units – and can stay back (after voting) to report results.

This became necessary because of a now-denied pronouncement by Nigeria’s Inspector General of Police, Hafiz Ringim, that mobile phones will not be allowed at polling units. Also, the National Security Adviser has been quoted as saying that voters should not stay back after voting. Of course, they’re both wrong – and the general feeling is that no one will take them seriously. Rather, their pronouncements have been interpreted to hint at possible attempts to rig the elections in the favour of the ruling party – something that Nigeria’s security machinery has perfected over the last 3 elections.

The reports from the mobile app will be monitored for situations that require immediate attention, and incidents will also be shared with media partners who can help make information available to the general public, when required. During the elections, tomorrow, live reports will be shared with NN24 TV and City FM radio station while progress report will be shared during a live BBC program. On Sunday, we will also share report conclusions with popular Nigerian news channel, Channels TV. Meanwhile, it’s exciting to see so many technology-driven election monitoring platforms, and I’m glad that teams of volunteers have taken up the challenge of aggregation.

As expected, there was increased interest in the mobile app today, with hundreds of downloads recorded within the first few hours of announcing a direct download link. And if you have not been to the ReVoDa website sometime after 12 noon today, please do so as there’s now a new homepage design that reduces the gap between potential mOnitors (or, how else does one write the short version of Mobile Monitor) and downloading the app. Publicity continues for ReVoDa via radio jingles (see below), television spots (see animation in YouTube clip above), targeted Facebook ads, flyers that are being distributed as I write this (see flyer above), and many other channels.

EiE Nigeria’s #ReVoDa Radio Jingle

Tomorrow is the first massive test for ReVoDa, and as the system improves through the entire 2011 electoral process, I see a future that may include citizen participation in the monitoring of good governance via manifesto promise delivery, government projects, corruption reports, and many other problems that Nigerians have almost come to accept as human. It will be interesting, for example, to see which state has the largest number of reports on corruption, which regions have the worst road networks and which location is the darkest on Nigeria’s map (as made possible by the hugely unliked Power Holding Company of Nigeria). Fortunately, Nigeria has elections in states such as Anambra, Edo, Ekiti, Ondo, Osun, etc, between 2012 and 2014, so ReVoDa will be way better in time for the 2015 elections. While I can’t predict the exact future of ReVoDa, I have some exciting thoughts that I’m sure other members of the team will love to pursue too.

As Nigeria decides, one way to help is to get ReVoDa on every mobile phone around you. ReVoDa is not just a mobile app, it’s a statement from the electorate stating clearly that this is 2011 (not 2003 or 2007) and our votes will count!

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