Berkman Center for Internet & Society Luncheon Series
Power in Our Hands: Adapting Social Media to Promote Credible Elections in Low Countries
Oluwaseun Odewale, Berkman Center Fellow
December 11, 12:30pm ET
Berkman Center for Internet & Society, 23 Everett St, 2nd Floor
RSVP required for those attending in person via this form.
This event will be webcast live at 12:30pm ET.
Armed with little more than a modest smartphone (mostly even ordinary phones) and an Internet subscription that will permit only a fair access to the mobile GPRS/EDGE, Nigerian young people went into the 2011 elections with a new wave of enthusiasm and interest.
This was the fourth consecutive elections since the reemergence of democratic governance in 1999. And until then , none of the previous elections received positive review in the aspect of credibility – or freeness, or fairness. Now, with the appointment of a new leadership and growing influence of technology in fostering more accountable processes, Nigerians optimistically anticipated a marked improvement in the April 2011 elections over past discredited experiences.
It is even more significant that more attention were paid to the 2011 elections as it portended to be the most expensive electoral experience for Nigerians. A leadership change had recently been effected in a tensed political climate and the elections management body (EMB) had set a plan for the costliest elections ever.
In light of the renewed hope and confidence, and the desire to get things right, several civil society organizations established election monitoring platforms via SMS, twitter, websites, blogs, facebook, telephone lines etc. One particular organization recruited volunteers and got itself embedded within the INEC systems to promote a “two-way communication between INEC and its stakeholders”.
What evolved was a media-tracking centre established to assess the robust blend of traditional and new media during the election period. It was an interesting trend to see how social media, for the first time, was adopted and, quite interestingly, adapted, to ensure credibility of the electoral process.
During this presentation, I intend to showcase the Nigeria experience, highlight what worked and what didn’t; specific instances of how social media interventions prevented rigging; how the elections has helped the growth of use of social media, the patterns of usage during and after the elections; and, how traditional media has adjusted to social media practice.
I hope the audience will share their experiences and proffer recommendations to revamp the innovation for a more institutionalized adaptation in promoting good governance in Nigeria, as I continue to explore this in my present research work.