The Digital Face of Malawi’s Elections

May 6, 2014

When Malawians go to the polls on 20 May 2014 to elect a president, members of parliament and local government representatives, at least a million text messages are expected to have been processed by a new Mobile Voter Verification System.

The system is one part of the Hivos-supported Malawi Election Information Centre’s (MEIC) digital arsenal for the 2014 elections.

The MEIC, launched in March 2014, is a multi-stakeholder initiative that comprises various civic organisations with the co-operation of the Malawi Government.

It was created as an ‘Election Situation Room’ (ESR) which is ‘aimed at enhancing the holding of free, fair and credible elections’, primarily through the use of new media tools for collecting and disseminating information.

The centre of their online activity is a website that contains links to the various tools that are being deployed. The site explains the workings of the ESR, answers frequently asked questions and explains the various initiatives of the MEIC.

The Mobile Voter Verification System is one of the main tools of currently being used before the elections take place in under two weeks. Voters from across the country are using the system to check if they are on the voters’ roll.

According to Levi Kabwato, MEIC Project Manager for Media and Publicity, just a month after the project launch, “Over 425,000 SMSs have so far been handled by the mobile voter registration platform and over 80,000 people have verified their voter registration status.”

The MEIC has also reached out to the power of citizen journalism to help gather incident reports around election campaigning, voter registration and the voting process itself.  A mobile application and a blog enable Malawians to send in reports of events in their communities related to elections, turning them into the eyes and ears that will hopefully make this election the most transparent in Malawi to date.

The MEIC will also work with observers around the country, recording and publishing their reports in realtime.

Finally, the big one; the actual voting results. Here the MEIC will tally results from Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) polling stations and compare these to official results. These results will be published on their website as they come in so that Malawians and other people can keep track of them.

This will be the first time that the people of Malawi (population 15,91million) vote for their local government, members of parliament and President in a single election. There are a total of 12 presidential candidates, including the current president Joyce Banda, who has led the nation since April 2012.