How text messages helped keep an eye on the Mali poll
By Daniel Nelson
OneWorld’s groundbreaking election monitoring initiative has again played an important role in checking the polls in Mali.
The initiative helped keep an eye on the fairness of the presidential election earlier this year.
Both rounds of the presidential election saw over 1,500 citizen volunteers monitoring polling booths all over the country and sending a stream of on-the-spot reports in the form of coded mobile phone messages to a "situations room".
The SMS data covered issues such as whether polling stations were open, voter turnout, the conduct of officials at polling stations, vote counting, violence, vote buying and acts of intimidation.
These messages were de-coded, verified, mapped and charted in real time. Where problem were spotted, election officials were notified so that action could be taken.
The data was also published on the Malivote site.
The whole operation and the technology performed well – even better than in the first round of voting,” said OneWorld’s Jeffrey Allen.
Ken Kitson of OneWorld said OneWorld’s “rapid-reaction platform” had been tested in previous polls in Sierra Leone and Senegal. The latter was described by the then US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, as "perhaps the most sophisticated monitoring program ever deployed in Africa or anywhere else".
In the November parliamentary elections, volunteers have again been monitoring the polling.
The significance of the operation was underscored by the number of top-level visitors to the situation room. They included the Danish, Dutch and US ambassadors, the head of UN Forces, the Minister of Interior and Director of Elections, and the head of EU and AU election monitoring efforts.
* OneWorld's Jeffrey Allen talks to Radio France International about the opening of polling stations around the country: "94% of polling stations opened on time." Listen:
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