Project/Organization Name: SMS Campaign by Election Watch Software (EWS)
Initiated by: Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR)
About the project: The SMS campaign enabled by Election Watch Software (EWS) is an application that provides citizens of India unbiased facts and information regarding candidates they vote for in Parliamentary, State Assembly and other elections.
The information is based on the sworn affidavits filed by contesting candidates with the Election Commission (EC) of India, and are collected by ADR and its NGO partners via the EC website. ADR displays this information to allow a citizen to better understand a candidate’s background, so they can make informed decisions.
The application is active for four to six months during the elections; however, the background information of many candidates is only available only for a week to ten days before the election date. Users send and receive this information through SMS. ADR managed to compile and disseminate all the data through a web application developed by Webrosoft Solutions Ltd, further streamlined by EWS. This application ensures the authorization, authentication and quality of the data a person receives. Users with mobile devices can send an SMS specifying the name of their constituency, or their pin code, to obtain details of local contesting candidates. There is toll free helpline 1-800-110-440 to provide information to the users who do not operate mobile phones. When the server receives the SMS, it responds to users via SMS with candidates’ background information such as criminal record, financial situation and/or education level.
Scope of case study Since the first launch of the project in Lok Sabha elections of 2009, over 6,00,000 people have used the service. There has been a gradual rise of popularity in using the system and, until now, the SMS campaign has been applied in various State Assembly Elections. The aim of ADR is to help disseminate information regarding candidates to increase transparency and accountability in India’s political and electoral systems.
Value proposition: In order to spread voter awareness through SMS application in the handsets of citizens, this project allows quality information on candidates and leaders which is vital for the growth and development of our country. People of low literacy in rural areas can call through a toll-free helpline 1-800-110-440.
Characteristics/uniqueness : This application provides useful information to 700 million voters of India during Parliament and State Assembly elections.
- Unbiased facts about candidates to the voters from their own sworn affidavits filed with the Election Commission of India is compiled and disseminated by ADR and its partner NGOs across the country.
- This helps voters to make an informed choice when they go out to vote.
- The application is utilized by voters through SMS and Web interfaces.
Learning from the Project The SMS campaign is active throughout the country. Any citizen of voter around the country can get information on candidates or their Neta (leader) by just sending an SMS.
This campaign is being mobilized by all State Election watch Committees in various states during and after elections. It has proved to be very successful method to disseminate information about all candidates standing for elections in a limited period of time.
Issues & Challenges: The biggest issue with EWS process was to deal with the short time duration between the availability of the affidavits and the voting day and the exercise increased by double time when the candidates’ affidavits are too voluminous. This all require extreme care as a very small typing error can have huge ramifications.
The main challenge was to quickly provide finalized information (from about 10 days earlier the voting day) without compromising on the quality of reports so that the as much time as possible was available for the dissemination of these reports among widest possible number of voters.
Another big challenge especially during Lok Sabha Elections 2009 was that 35 States and Union Territories were to go to polls almost simultaneously and coordinating the data entry and reporting processes using MS Excel at so many different locations at the same time looked impossible.
Project/Organization URL: www.adrindia.org