Ghanaians hail new SMS-based info service ahead of Dec’s elections

Ghana’s International Institute of ICT Journalism, through the institute’s African Elections Program (AEP), has launched an SMS-based information service ahead of the elections in December, a move warmly received for its contribution to transparency.

The AEP is intended to “create awareness and stimulate citizens’ active participation” in the elections.

Users subscribe to the service by sending an SMS with the word “AEP” to 1945 for election news, updates and alerts on the elections. They can also use the service to share situational reports on their areas of residence with the other users nationwide.

“Incoming messages from the public go through stringent verification processes and are published on an elections’ incident map available onGhvotes2012.com. Messages with security implications are transmitted to an elections early warning system,” Sandra Mills, a representative of AEP, said while explaining how the system works.

For users on MTN network, the short code is 7000, while those on Airtel, Tigo and Vodafone should send their reports to 1902.

A number of Ghana’s political parties and independent observers, including Kojo Asante of the Coalition of Domestic Observers (CODEO), have hailed the technology for its transparency.

Kojo said his organisation “is partnering with [the AEP] project because we want as many independent observers as possible and this SMS technology will enable the ordinary Ghanaian, especially the youths, to have a role in the electoral observation process.”

Kumah Drah, an on-air personality at Ghana Community Radio Network (GRCN), said the SMS technology would help rural radio stations overcome the challenges posed by poor reception of phone and radio signals in certain rural communities that can only communicate via SMS text messages.

The project is funded by STAR-Ghana with financial backing from DFID, DANIDA, EU and USAID.

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