Advocate of the High Court and Supreme Court Fadzayi Mahere now has an online automated personal assistant that will be helping in her campaign to represent Mt Pleasant Constituency in the Parliament.
Shandu (short for shanduko -which translates to change), is indeed a shift from the norm when it comes to campaign strategy. Shandu is a bot that will respond to people seeking info about what Mahere will bring to the constituency if elected as MP during the upcoming elections. The bot can send you a PDF of Fadzayi’s manifesto containing what she intends to do if she gets the vote. Shandu can also assist users who want to volunteer to be part of her campaign along with those who want to donate to the campaign. Simple and straightforward.
For now, the manifesto will be downloadable in 2 languages: Shona and English. Knowing that there would be questions as to why there is no Ndebele version, Shandu explains how demographic data suggests that the majority of the Mt Pleasant constituents understand English and Shona. Oh, and apparently there is also an audio version coming in future. Shandu can be accessed on Facebook via this link.
The development side of things
I spoke to one of the guys on the development team and he explained that they have translators working on bringing other languages to the bots. Shandu can also handles bookings for programs such as Shanduko Huku Farmer’s training. He did note that right now the bot is still struggling with some of the slang it encounters but he also promised it will get better with time as it learns the habits of users.
More politicians should adopt similar ideas, especially if they want to draw the youth
Apart from Shandu, Mahere also introduced the CODE <MP/> initiative. Last year they hosted their first session and in April they will begin their second class. The initiative teaches coding skills to fifth-grade pupils in Mt Pleasant. Talk about actively impacting the community. I‘ve been invited to one of their April sessions and I’m honestly really hyped to see what the guys are doing so stay tuned for that.
Anyway, what was surprising to me is; Fadzayi is the first politician to have a bot that will automatically help anyone looking for information on her and what she stands for. As we get closer to elections you would assume that parties would want their policies and guidelines to be as easily available to anyone looking to make a truly informed decision on who to follow.
I run the risk of sounding partisan, but I think the time of politicians merely retorting “[insert name of politician] must go” should be coming to an end. I think other politicians and political parties in the country should follow suit and help voters make more informed choices.
I think these kinds of innovations will help increase politicians’ appeal to the youth in our current climate. Yes, other parties may have their manifestos on their websites but remember Whatsapp is the most widespread internet platform in Zimbabwe. To some Whatsapp and Facebook are the be-all and end-all of the internet experience. With this being the reality in Zim, political parties should embrace these platforms and connect with their followers as painlessly as possible.
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