Mobile meets citizen reporter in Mozambique

In this, the twentieth in our series of FrontlineSMS guest posts, Marcelo Mosse – Executive Director of the Centre for Public Integrity in Mozambique – talks about their use of the software in promoting citizen engagement in monitoring their national elections, and in their efforts to promote transparency in government

“The Centre for Public Integrity of Mozambique (CIP) is a not-for-profit, non-partisan, independent organisation, endowed with legal status, and with administrative, financial and patrimonial autonomy. Our general objective is to promote integrity, transparency, ethics and good governance in the public sphere, and to promote human rights in Mozambique, and we use our website to launch campaigns, document events, and publish case studies and reports on Mozambique’s political process.

In 2008, local elections took place in Mozambique and the CIP decided to try using SMS to collect events reported by citizens. We implemented FrontlineSMS and launched a press campaign aimed at making the public aware of the opportunity to report and comment on events on the electoral campaign, and events at the voting posts.

Telephone lines were made available and FrontlineSMS was installed and used by CIP staff in charge of coordinating the publishing of text messages on our website. Response from the citizens was considered satisfactory – with mobile phones in use over most of the country and accessible to almost all economic level layers, citizens showed they were eager to contribute.

Later in 2009, during the general elections in Mozambique, we increased the number of available lines for the public and launched a more comprehensive campaign (newspapers, television, and radio). The outcome was considered very satisfactory with SMSs being received right from the beginning of the electoral campaigns. FrontlineSMS was also used to get instant reports from the CIP’s correspondents placed at the 43 municipalities all over the country.

Thanks to FrontlineSMS we were able to compile reports on party and candidate practices during the electoral campaigning, citizen’s reactions and opinions on the electoral process and anomalies at the voting posts.

User experience from those using the software was positive. It was easy to understand and operate, to add phones, and manage and classify messages received. The CIP intends to continue using FrontlineSMS on other campaigns where we believe citizen contribution can be valuable”.

Marcelo Mosse
Executive Director
Centre for Public Integrity Mozambique

54 thoughts on “Mobile meets citizen reporter in Mozambique

  1. giantpandinha says:

    I’ve been working in provincial Mozambique on and off over the past three years, and just spent some time there post-election.

    I do have some questions about the impact of such a project in Mozambique. No doubt, CIP is the best (and only?) NGO of its kind in the country, and nobody would question that they are innovating and doing their best under quite large constraints.

    The real question is not so much whether to set up a system like this – but how to stimulate interest and demand for it in a country where the ruling party has effective structures down to the village level and is synonymous with Power itself. How can an initiative like this become truly demand-driven, and not merely supply-driven (some bold NGO in the capital city experimenting with ICTs)?

    What is the incentive – except maybe a kind of catharsis? – for denouncing irregularities or intimidation via SMS when you live in a world where there is no real viable alternative? (See this Global Voices post for an idea of what I am talking about

    And, just to push things a little further – I always like to provoke – does publicizing this project at such an early stage actually promote in admiring outsiders a sense that there is transparency and competition where in fact things are much more bleak?

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