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Participation through Mobile Phones: A Study of SMS use during the Ugandan General Elections 2011
Stockholm University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Computer and Systems Sciences.
2012 (English)In: Proceedings of the Fifth International Conference on Information and Communication Technologies and Development, New York: Association for Computing Machinery (ACM), 2012, 249-258 p.Conference paper, Published paper (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

In this paper, we study the case of the Ugandan election 2011 and the non-governmental organization DEMGroup, who set up two SMS-enabled election monitoring platforms: 1) UgandaWatch, an open crowdsourcing platform for citizen election monitoring via SMS, and 2) a systematical election observation, deploying 6’000 trained observers for bounded crowdsourcing. By reaching out to the potential and the actual users of these two crowdsourcing initiatives, we examine the nature of the opportunities and challenges when using mobile phones for participation. In doing so, we will draw on theories of incentives for participation and crowdsourcing. The analysis relies on three different sources of data; 1) SMS-survey of a randomized sample of Ugandan mobile phone users; 2) SMS-survey of a sample of users of UgandaWatch; 3) SMS-survey of a randomized sample of election observers using SMS to monitor the elections. This study explains why people are attracted to open crowdsourcing platforms, the reasons for staying away from the service and the challenges in actually using it. In our surveys we asked questions such as preferred method for political participation, main challenges in using UgandaWatch and if users ever visited the website www.ugandawatch2011.org, where the reports were published. The key findings were; a) Citizen reporting platforms provides a useful channel in cases when citizens experience that there is nowhere else to turn, and when citizens need help; b) The major reasons for not using UgandaWatch was not having heard of the service and not having anything to report; c) The primary challenges in using the citizen reporting service, was fear of personal safety, the cost factor, and the perception of participation not having any effect; d) Using mobile phones for participation seem to attract groups of citizens not participating in other arenas, which suggest that this channel is contributing positively to political equality. Using mobile phones for participation seem to attract groups of citizens not participating in other arenas, which suggest that this channel is contributing positively to political equality. Drawing on our findings, we recommend; 1) Strategic and educational marketing: Inform the public why the service should be used and how to use it, and keep context in mind when choosing marketing channels; 2) Closing the feedback-loop and using the data: Decide how to use the crowdsourced data and communicate this to the users; 3) Using multiple channels: Combine a spectrum of traditional and ICT-enabled channels to increase accessibility and solidity.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
New York: Association for Computing Machinery (ACM), 2012. 249-258 p.
Keyword [en]
crowd, crowdsourcing, election monitoring, mobile, M4D, participation, SMS, SMS-questionnaire
National Category
Information Systems
Research subject
Computer and Systems Sciences
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-85429DOI: 10.1145/2160673.2160705ISBN: 978-1-4503-1045-1 (print)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:su-85429DiVA: diva2:583691
Conference
ICTD 2012, March 12-15, 2012, Atlanta, Georgia USA
Available from: 2013-01-08 Created: 2013-01-08 Last updated: 2013-09-03Bibliographically approved

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