GotToVote! a project of Code4Kenya is a concrete example of how open data can contribute towards enhancing the quality of life of ordinary citizens.
Code4Kenya was launched in July 2012 by the African Media Initiative (AMI) as a means to revolutionise the way that African journalists and civic activists use data. Code4Kenya has worked so well, that AMI has committed funding towards the core team of developers for a further 12 months. They will evolve into a jAccelerator lab that will help fast track data and digital experiments in African newsrooms, much like they did with GotToVote!
GotToVote! (GotToVote.co.ke) came to life when Kenya’s Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IBEC) released a voluminous document containing all the voters’ registration centres for Kenya in connection with the forthcoming general elections. The Code4Kenya team immediately realised that the information trapped in the PDF was just too important to ignore. So, Code4Kenya’s lead developer David Lemayian and one of the project’s data Fellows, Simeon Oriko, got to work. Information was liberated by scraping the data from the PDF into an interactive spreadsheet and the simple GotToVote! website was built on top of it.
The development of GotToVote! took just 24hrs from start to finish, however the results speak for themselves. Over 2,500 people visited the website within hours of it going live, using it to find out where their nearest voting centre is and where they should register for the elections. And traffic to the site continues to grow as word about the resource spreads. Simple but powerful!
AMI is now engaging local media houses to give maximum visibility to the project by running links to GotToVote! every single time they run an election related story. They are also being encouraged to run a registration countdown, urging voters to register by flagging the number of days left before the December 18 deadline.
For AMI’s Chief Digital Strategist – Justin Arenstein, GotToVote! is an example that technology innovation needs not be costly or time consuming. Arenstein is also excited by how data-driven tools can help media audiences act on the news they read, watch and listen by finding out how a national event such as the elections affects their personal lives or local communities.
‘This is a sterling example of how technology and media can be harnessed to advance civic participation as many Kenyan voters can now through mobile phones, computers and other handheld devices easily find their registration centre and participate in the crucial 2013 Kenyan general election” commented Amadou Mahtar Ba, AMI’s CEO. Ba also mentioned that AMI is committed to replicate this project everywhere in Africa where elections are going to be held.
GotToVote! is currently developing an integrated awareness and action campaign which will leverage the power of its website, social media platform as well as traditional media outlets.