Americans register to vote through Messenger – just another show of what Zimbabwe won’t adopt

   

The United States is in the middle of its election cycle and on top of all the noise that the race for the US presidency creates for the whole world, tech is also adding something to American political cycle.

It has been reported that non-registered Americans are now able to register in the voters’ roll through GoVoteBot, a bot on Facebook’s Messenger service.

To register, a citizen types a greeting which will generate a response from the bot  in the form of a menu of options. These will include stuff like a polling location finder and registration options together with supporting links.

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Voters then select based on to their matched requirements before completing the registration. It’s not meant to be the only way to register but supports the traditional “offline” methods.

The bot is being powered by data pulled from Google Civic which is a data centre created by Google that carries important electoral information for the United States.

For the United States, this is the latest effort to increase voter engagement with a younger generation that has embraced technology through ubiquitous social media platforms.

In a world where everything can be done from the phone, it only makes sense to incorporate voter related tasks as well.

This also highlights the possibilities that can and should be explored even in Zimbabwe’s own elections. Facebook is already popular (it’s the second highest driver of broadband traffic in Zimbabwe) locally and bot creation and integration isn’t anything new in the local development space.

For now, though, the involvement of tech in voter issues, especially around the sensitive voters roll, seems to be a dream that won’t come true.

Other than the creation of a local election data repository, the biggest hurdle would be getting the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC  – the local body in charge of elections) to look at technology, especially social media, as a tool for driving fair elections.

As long as the government views technology as a political threat, the use of such innovation, which benefits everyone and increases voter participation is a Zimbabwean moon shot.

At the same time its solutions like this that the government should be focusing local tech development efforts on.


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