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Vote Report, Sudan-Style

BY Nancy Scola | Thursday, April 15 2010

Credit: Sudan VoteMonitor

The latest in crowdsourced election monitoring projects is Sudan VoteMonitor, which got started as a project of the North America-based Sudan Institute for Research and Policy and the Khartoum-based Asmaa Society:

Sudan VoteMonitor is a pilot project led by the Sudan Institute for Research and Policy (SIRP) and Asmaa Society for Development, in collaboration with other Sudanese civil society organizations, and supported by eMoksha.org and Ushahidi.com (technical partners). The purpose of this initiative is to utilize information and communication technology (ICT) to support the independent monitoring and reporting of the election process and results. Over the last three years, civil society organizations (CSOs) in several countries have succeeded in using ICT tools to support the conduct of fair and credible elections.

According to organizers, mobile penetration is actually fairly decent in Sudan -- which makes election monitoring through mobile technologies in the spread-out country a reasonable bet. Over on Global Voices, SIRPs' Fareed Zain explains how the project came about:

Sudan Vote Monitor is a concept that came out of the Sudan Institute for Research and Policy (SIRP), which is the organization that I'm part of. I head the technology committee in this organization. Last September I was looking into utilizing ICT to facilitate knowledge about Sudan and contribute to its development.

I came across Ushahidi. Ushahidi, the word itself, attracted me because I know what it means. [Note: "ushahidi" means "testimony" in Swahili.] It's in Swahili but it's the same word in Arabic so I immediately began to look into it. The more I learned about it the more I was fascinated by the concept and how grassroots people can get involved in the political process and promoting transparency and open participation.

I got in touch with the Ushahidi team first here in the United States. David Kobia and Patrick Meier responded and they were very supportive and very interested. Back in September the election was still far away so we began to explore the idea and develop kind a concept. I put together a proposal and submitted it to the board of SIRP, and it was approved.

Some oversight is much needed; the elections in Sudan have been plagued by confusion and logistical woes, and were extended from three days to five as a result.