TECH TALK: Technology and the Indian Elections: Campaigning

We will examine how technology can influence elections in India from three angles: during the pre-polling stage (campaigning), during the results declaration stage (counting), and after the elections (governance). We will also look at the various entities that are involved in the elections the candidates, the political parties, the constituents (voters), the media and the winners (government), and discuss how technology can help each of them.

The election process starts with the filing of nominations by various candidates. They are either affiliated to national or state political parties, or in some cases, contesting as Independents. One of the most important requirements for every candidate and political party should be to have a website. For the candidate, the website should provide a profile, wealth declaration of the candidate and the family, current legal and criminal cases (if any), position papers on various issues the candidate considers of important, and a calendar of events as part of the candidates campaign. In the event the candidate is an incumbent, the website should also provide details of the promises made in the previous election and the current status in the fulfillment process. For the political parties, the websites should have profiles of the party leadership, the party manifesto and a list of its candidates with links to the candidate profiles. In some ways, this is analogous to the filings and disclosures that the stock exchanges expect the companies that are listed to do.

In addition, as the campaign progresses, the candidate and party websites should provide updates on the speeches made transcripts or audio/video recordings should be made available. It is also possible to provide pictures in near-real time with digital cameras and camera cellphones. Technology exists to easily record and upload files to the websites.

The organisation of the website can thus have two components an About Me/Us section which provides the background, and a Whats New section which has a weblog-like look which showcases the recent events and developments. This section should also have an RSS feed to allow interested people to subscribe to the updates.

The next layer of information availability comes from aggregation. Each constituency should have a website which provides demographic information (which can be sourced from census data and the electoral lists), along with details of the contestants with links to their respective websites. In addition, there can be historical data, which shows the past winners, voting percentages and other statistics, which can found in the Election Commission archives. The information should be available both in HTML form on web page, as well as in database form for analysis by those wanting to delve deeper. This aggregated information allows citizens to easily find the information on the contestants and make informed choices. This will also help in ensuring more people turn out to vote in most cases, the lack of desire to vote stems from ignorance of the candidates.

Tomorrow: Campaigning (continued)

TECH TALK Technology and the Indian Elections+T

Published by

Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.