By Eannes Ongus, Julie Okiro, Kevin Mudavadi and Natasha Nduhiu
Photo (c) American News X
Mobile phones are the best way to end voter ignorance. For years, gullible Kenyans have continued to believe the lies that politicians tell. You should take a politician’s promises with a pinch of salt. This is an unfortunate but known truth across the globe. Political candidates in particular are some of the best salesmen; they use charm, charisma and flowery words to build trust, which translates into votes during elections. In Kenya, the situation is no different. Politicians will resort to all measures to entice voters.
Today is an age unlike any other. Thanks to digital technology, and particularly the mobile phone, it is possible to reach and inform millions of people within seconds, regardless of their location. In Kenya alone, mobile penetration stood at 88.1 per cent in 2016, with 37.8 million subscribers up from 36.1 million the previous year.
This is the inspiration behind the proposed Radar Application, which will make use of mobile phone technology. It will have an edge unlike other forms of civic education: it can be carried everywhere, available via text message, automated voice, Android and iOS stores. The Radar App will provide the citizens with valuable information to evaluate their leaders in relation to their performance and office requirements.
Despite the cycle of grand plans and broken promises, few voters in Kenya are informed about the capabilities of political candidates. Politicians who fail to fulfill their promises can get away scotch fee, and yet be almost guaranteed of re-election during the following terms.
Voter knowledge is highly pegged on political campaigns, which are highlighted by television and radio features about the candidates of interest. When voters watch political debates, their political knowledge, policy alignment, and likelihood to vote for higher-quality candidates can be increased. However, due to the indexing theory, the media is often highly biased towards political powerhouses, which compromises their objectivity. What’s more, there are a number of citizens who do not look to even the television to get political information. Instead, they are educated by word of mouth, and remain ignorant on such matters.
This is a grave problem. In Kenya, voting patterns are based on ethnic alliances; and the two most successful political parties are founded upon ethnic ties. For years, politicians have made promises they have not kept, and held offices unjustly. Article 21 of the UN Declaration on Human Rights states that “everyone has the right to take part in the government of his country.” Government should represent the will of the people which is expressed in periodic and genuine elections. Participating freely and confidently in elections means understanding the implications of each vote. This is why activists and transparency organizations have made several efforts to educate citizens on their civic rights and duties as voters. But their physical efforts can only reach a few.
Photo (c) laurieayers.com
Radar App will act as a political fact-checker; it will list the promises made by political candidates and indicate the progress, or lack thereof on each one. The application is geared towards becoming a reliable guide and informant to allow Kenyan citizens to make confident and informed voter decisions. Its information will be gathered from campaign literature, press reports, radio and television ads, candidates’ speeches and candidate’s debates among others.
Photo (c) webmynesystems.com
In 1972, McCombs, Weaver and Shaw found that through agenda setting, the media tells audiences what to think about, shaping what they perceive as newsworthy or important. During elections, a theory known as priming (an offshoot of agenda setting) is implemented. When people have no knowledge or information about political matters, they rely on the information they obtain from the media. In turn, the media has large stakes on the candidates who are voted in.
Access to information has profound effects on the voting choices of constituents; voters become empowered to choose candidates with ideas and views that mirror their own. By highlighting candidate’s information and political viewpoints, the app will help constituents to understand their rights, the country’s political system, the political candidates, how and where to vote. Democracy means that voters understand their rights, are knowledgeable and informed. Radar Application is a fresh, savvy way to ensure meaningful participation in Kenya’s future voting processes.