Search engine giant Google has launched an election hub portal in Kenya’s capital Nairobi, for updates on campaigns, news and information related to the country’s polls slated for March 4, 2013.
The portal will assist voters in understanding changes in the electioneering process following the entry of new boundaries, elective seats and regulations after Kenya inaugurated a new constitution in 2010.
Similar portals have been tested elsewhere in the world, with Kenya becoming the third country in Africa to use the portal after Senegal, whose elections were conducted in the middle of last year, and Ghana late last year.
According to Google, there is demand for news concerning the elections on the Internet with Kenya’s electoral monitoring body the Independent Elections and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) being the top trending search in the country last year. Political bigwigs have also set up camp on most social media platforms, with Raila Odinga, Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto dominating the searches on the Net last year, as revealed by HumanIPO.
Google says it has also provided the IEBC with open-source technology that empowers its online voter tools by enabling features such as registration confirmation online and via SMS, mapping of polling stations and a developer application program interface API.
“We’re empowering voters so that they are not simply watching from afar, but participating in, engaging with and shaping the political process in a democratic way, through platforms like YouTube, Google Maps and Google+,” Google’s policy and government relations manager for Sub-Saharan Africa Ory Okolloh said.
The portal is similar to the U.S. portal used in the recent elections that provided voters with news, campaign programmes and videos of various candidates.
Earlier this year, Google trained journalists, political parties, civil societies on how to handle its applications to better use collected information especially during the general elections as well as how to interview political candidates using Google Hangouts.