FrontlineSMS, media, and the Malawi elections
It doesn’t quite make the headlines in the same way as elections in Nigeria, the DRC or Zimbabwe, but today the people of Malawi are awaiting the results of a general election which many are saying is too close to call. A peaceful and orderly outcome is crucial. Malawi has one of the fastest growing economies in the world (although it is starting from near-bottom, admittedly) and continued stability is vital if progress is to continue.
Access to balanced and unbiased election information is often a key problem at crucial times like these. The logistical challenges of running nationwide elections is often compounded by a lack of election-specific knowledge among local media, which can often lead to misreporting, misinformation and – in worse-case scenarios – civil unrest. The availability of ICT tools for local journalists can also be problematic, compounding the problem yet further.
The African Elections Project (AEP) Malawi focuses on developing the capacity of the media through the use of ICTs, and mobile-enabled AEP Malawi team members are working across the country, using voice and SMS to stay in touch with a central newsroom based in Blantyre. This newsroom is equipped with a copy of FrontlineSMS, which is helping manage incoming and outgoing SMS to and from newsroom members, and helping auto-manage and disseminate news via SMS to subscribers.
FrontlineSMS is free software that turns a laptop and a mobile phone into a central communications hub. Once installed, the program enables users to send and receive text messages with large groups of people through mobile phones.
To receive regular election updates and certified results from the Malawi Electoral Commission, log on to www.africanelections.org/malawi. Malawians can text “subscribe” to +265 884 583 980 or email their mobile number to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Updates are also available on Twitter by following @malawivotes2009
The African Elections Project (AEP) Malawi is co-ordinated by the International Institute for ICT Journalism working hand in hand with key partners, with funding from the Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa (OSISA) and Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA).