No one can doubt the impact of technology on practically every aspect of our everyday lives. In this case, the use of various technologies on politics is worth noting particularly in Zimbabwe (and obviously in Africa). The ongoing elections saw the use of many kinds of technologies to inform, instruct, reach a wider audience or just for sport. This has necessitated me to enumerate 4 technologies (or services made possible by technology) which I think made an imprint this election.
Drones, synonymous with being used in actual warfare were deployed in political battles. Only that the drones I’m talking about are not weaponized. Aerial filming was made affordable ( considering that in the past you needed helicopters) by the use of drones. The last rally conducted by MDC Alliance saw the use of a drone, filming almost every corner that had a crowd.
Also at one time, the police flirted with the idea of using drones to monitor election campaigns but I never heard if it practicalized the idea.
USSD and Bulk SMS
Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) utilized the USSD to let voters query their voter details. The USSD was convenient as it saved time for people by enabling them to check if their details were correctly entered from anywhere in the country and using any kind of phone. This was way better than the past method that wasted time by asking people to physically visit polling stations to verify their details.
Bulk SMS service has become the most prominent way to send information due to the high popularity of mobile phones. And this election it seemed bulk SMSs came of age, with not only Zanu-Pf utilizing them but also Zimbabwe Electoral Commision using them. ZEC used bulk SMSs to provide information on voter details, polling stations, and instructions. And by far the most notorious example of using bulk SMSs came from Zanu-Pf which sent unsolicited bulk SMSs canvassing for peoples votes.
Due to the increasing saturation of high-speed mobile networks and smartphones, as well as the increase in home broadband access, live streaming has gone mainstream. Live streaming election events allowed politicians to broadcast speeches, and commentary without the need of a ‘gatekeeper’, thus TV networks to edit anything. Accordingly, this time political parties used live streaming to have direct access to the viewing public without the ‘gatekeepers’ of the mainstream media playing any role. Manifesto launches and press briefings were delivered to people via live streaming.
Social Media platforms
The use of social media in politics including Twitter, Facebook, and WhatsApp has dramatically changed the way campaigns are run and how Zimbabweans interacted with their aspiring candidates The prevalence of social media in politics has made aspiring candidates to be more accountable and accessible to voters. This time we saw all political parties opening up Facebook pages, Twitter account, WhatsApp accounts etc just to connect with their followers. Even people (ED Mnangagwa) who were least expected to have social media accounts, they opened such accounts.