Monitoring the Kenyan Consitutional Referendum

Just hours ago, voting concluded on the constitutional referendum of Kenya. And as is increasingly the case in elections around the world, the crowdsourcing information-gathering Ushahidi platform was again used to monitor the event., (uchaguzi is decision in Swahili), a collaboration of various civil society organizations and over 100 volunteers, synthesized over 1,000 SMS, e-mail, and Twitter reports during the election, sent in by certified monitors and citizens alike. 452 reports indicated “Everything Is Fine,” while “Tensions High” and “Security Issues” were reported a combined 434 times. Over 75% of all reports were verified by official sources. Check out Uchaguzi’s end-of-day report for a full briefing.

With dark memories still burning of the 2007 post-election violence, in which over 1,300 people died following a disputed election count, security at today’s vote was intense. 60,000 police officers were stationed throughout the country, with an additional 10,000 election observers spread out over the 27,000 polling stations, according to the Election Observation Group’s (ELOG) Facebook page.

But perhaps the most important eyes watching over the referendum were those of the 10,000+ viewers world-wide who actively engaged with Uchaguzi through the Internet and the mobile Web. Early this morning, for example, project manager Erik Hersman posted to the Uchaguzi Situation Room blog, asking viewers to help the team update 13,000 polling stations’ data. This allowed people across the planet to participate in today’s Kenyan referendum monitoring process.

Although all signs point towards a peaceful, well-covered vote, Ian Schuler cautions against writing it off as a success too soon, reminding us via Twitter that “reports in 2007 at this point would have been positive too. Trouble was w/ tabulation.” So while all looks good with Uchaguzi, perhaps the real test of its influence will depend on the election’s outcome. What’s guaranteed is that, as was the case today, mobile phones and connectivity will play a crucial role in the coming days.

While you’re waiting for the votes to be counted, check out Jonathan Shuler’s terrific video introduction to the Uchaguzi project and these behind-the-scenes photos of the Situation Room . Also, read up at BBC and Christian Science Monitor for essential background info on Kenya’s constitutional referendum.