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Open Source Tech Used To Monitor Afghan Election

samzenpus posted more than 4 years ago | from the free-as-in-voting dept.

Media 51

chrb writes "BBC News is reporting on how the Alive in Afghanistan project is helping to oversee the Afghan elections using open-source technologies. The site was set up by Brian Conley, who is also responsible for 'Alive in Baghdad', 'Alive in Mexico', and who was arrested for filming protests in China last year. The Afghan site uses FrontlineSMS and Ushahidi to process and visualize SMS texts from Afghani citizens, allowing reports from all over the country to be rapidly collated and re-distributed globally."

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51 comments

hope it works (1, Insightful)

thexdane (148152) | more than 4 years ago | (#29128821)

i hope it works, tho somehow i doubt it will do anything even if there is a lot of corruption

Re:hope it works (2, Funny)

sys.stdout.write (1551563) | more than 4 years ago | (#29128867)

Well, maybe Bin Laden will text "totes votin today u guys!" and we can finally close the curtain on that one.

Re:hope it works (1)

DigiShaman (671371) | more than 4 years ago | (#29128913)

Bin Laden will never be captured or killed. He's one hellava resourceful SOB. That, and he has prophet-like status among his twisted followers that will die for him.

Re:hope it works (5, Insightful)

causality (777677) | more than 4 years ago | (#29129029)

Bin Laden will never be captured or killed. He's one hellava resourceful SOB. That, and he has prophet-like status among his twisted followers that will die for him.

He makes a fine Emmanuel Goldstein.

Re:hope it works (3, Insightful)

KTheorem (999253) | more than 4 years ago | (#29129145)

Bin Laden will never be captured or killed. He's one hellava resourceful SOB. That, and he has prophet-like status among his twisted followers that will die for him.

He makes a fine Emmanuel Goldstein.

My first thought upon reading that was a pleasant "Wow. That's pretty insightful." Then I was revolted upon reviewing it and coming to the same conclusion once again. Well done (and screw you for bringing me down ;-) )

Re:hope it works (1, Insightful)

commodoresloat (172735) | more than 4 years ago | (#29129379)

Wait a minute - bin Laden's Jewish?

Re:hope it works (1)

clarkkent09 (1104833) | more than 4 years ago | (#29129805)

Must be, I hear he doesn't eat pork.

Re:hope it works (1)

SlashV (1069110) | more than 4 years ago | (#29131169)

Maybe, he just doesn't dig on swine :)

Re:hope it works (1)

MJMullinII (1232636) | more than 4 years ago | (#29158783)

What about dog?

Re:hope it works (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29136779)

Conspiricy Theory: Bin Ladin is dead, but by keeping him "alive" in the media, it allows the Futile War to continue as planned.

Re:hope it works (1)

EdZ (755139) | more than 4 years ago | (#29129383)

That, or Osama Bin Laden has become a Dread Pirate Roberts.

Re:hope it works (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29129605)

not captured alive anyway. one day a bomb will get him it's amatter of time, though it's likely we won't know it.

Re:hope it works (1)

V!NCENT (1105021) | more than 4 years ago | (#29130301)

I think he is traceable. There is no reason why the USA couldn't have killed him. But think about this, OK? -> If you were the USA government, and you would have killed him, wouldn't it not be extremely beneficial to keep that quite? I mean; no Osama, no war...

Re:hope it works (1)

TheDarAve (513675) | more than 4 years ago | (#29131259)

Because making a martyr of someone usually just helps their cause.

Re:hope it works (1)

DigiShaman (671371) | more than 4 years ago | (#29131475)

I mean; no Osama, no war...

Uhh..no. This is a war against Islamic terrorism, not just one man. The fact there are these cells all around the world acting independently nukes your theory.

Re:hope it works (1)

hot soldering iron (800102) | more than 4 years ago | (#29136215)

There's another reason. Please wait while I put on my conspiracy freak hat (looks like tin-foil). The Bin Laden family have a looong-time business/social relationship with the Bush family, going back a while (Grandad Bush did oil deals with Grandpa Bin Laden). The Bin Laden name wasn't spoken after 9/11 until Secret Service verified that every Bin Laden was in the air out of the country, and safe from vigilantes. Hell, just Google the whole friggin story.

Re:hope it works (1)

V!NCENT (1105021) | more than 4 years ago | (#29144721)

Or, ofcourse, Osama is still secretly allied with the USA and does something extremely patriotic xD, okey whatever... :P

Re:hope it works (3, Insightful)

Admiral Ag (829695) | more than 4 years ago | (#29129039)

The election is a farce, as is the Afghan government, which relies on the support of a federation of armed tribal gangs. Another fake election just like the South Vietnamese ones, held mostly to make our moron governments look good. The BBC in particular is pushing this line of bullshit, for which its members deserve to be abandoned in Afghanistan for the amusement of the locals.

Osama and his friends are long gone to Pakistan, it seems, and so the "coalition of the idiots" is now stuck in a country where every single attempt at military imposition of a government has failed, and where the largest ethnic group is more or less excluded from power (apart from Karzai, who is a puppet). The Afghans should be left to their own uncivilized devices, but that would be to admit failure (which is inevitable).

The story is that stabilizing Afghanistan is supposed to stop the terrorists from attacking us. What a pity they've all fucked off to a completely different country then. But since that's the only excuse our glorious leaders have got, we'll just have to keep hearing the same old crap, and it will go on and on until the coalition is forced to withdraw and the terrorists will have achieved their aim of doing to the West what they did to the Soviets.

Re:hope it works (2, Insightful)

tsa (15680) | more than 4 years ago | (#29130543)

You may have been modded Flamebait but I agree with you completely. The whole Afghanistan elections are a waste of time and effort. We should never have gone there.

Re:hope it works (2, Informative)

SylvesterTheCat (321686) | more than 4 years ago | (#29131219)

The election is a farce, as is the Afghan government, which relies on the support of a federation of armed tribal gangs.

Citation, please.
The Afghan Army and Police are far from perfect, however, they exist and, especially the army, are doing good work and are getting better. The police are less mature as a organization and have more problems than the army. I've been there, seen it, lived it. I will be doing all of that again soon. Can you say that?

The national government is capable of controlling both the army and police and have on occasion, reeled them in from doing stupid stuff before they do it. Again, I've lived it, seen it.

There are a number of big problems in Afghanistan, including corruption. No argument there. Your last paragraph is not too far off the mark. The problem is that if every neighboring country sees a weak Afghanistan as being in their best interests.

and it will go on and on until the coalition is forced to withdraw and the terrorists will have achieved their aim of doing to the West what they did to the Soviets.

So, what is your answer? Bomb the crap out every 5 to 10 years like we (the rest of the world) have been doing?

Re:hope it works (1)

Admiral Ag (829695) | more than 4 years ago | (#29133955)

No. The answer to 9/11 was to do what the Israelis did in the case of Munich. Clandestine hunting down of those responsible to capture or kill them.

If that involved putting small assassination teams into Afghanistan, then the Aussies, Kiwis and Brits were always happy to lend out the SAS, the world's finest special forces, to do it.

Re:hope it works (1)

Dr. Impossible (1580675) | more than 4 years ago | (#29162615)

So, what is your answer? Bomb the crap out every 5 to 10 years like we (the rest of the world) have been doing?

Yes.

Re:hope it works (1)

psnyder (1326089) | more than 4 years ago | (#29131513)

The story is that stabilizing Afghanistan is supposed to stop the terrorists from attacking us.

What about the idea of helping to stabilize Afghanistan for the purpose of stabilizing Afghanistan? I'd rather live in a stable country. Maybe there are some individuals in Afghanistan that feel the same.

Re:hope it works (1)

Denial93 (773403) | more than 4 years ago | (#29132609)

You know what? The Soviet invaders claimed to bring them exactly that: stability. And progress. And what they claimed was the most successful political system in the world. We call that attempt contemptible and foolhardy because we aren't Soviets or socialists, but to an Afghan, it was very much the same thing the US are attempting now. And the Afghans have rejected non-Afghan ideas of "stability" for over two millenia.

Alexander the Great claimed (and probably honestly believed) to bring peace, progress and prosperity. The Afghans would have none of it. The mongols brought the protection of their divine Khan. The Afghans would have none of it. They drove away the Turk kingdoms, the Arab kaliphates and sultanates and everything that came at them out of India. They humiliated the Red Army, the largest and most feared in the world. Even China, which annexed large parts of central Asia, knew better than to fuck with the Afghans. Now the US are making their attempt, and Afghans are simply chalking one up the list.

Trust me, if they were into buying any "stability", they wouldn't have been fighting this hard for over two thousand years.

Re:hope it works (1)

psnyder (1326089) | more than 4 years ago | (#29141495)

You may be right, and time will tell, however...

You're main argument is "Meet the new boss, same as the old boss." But 3 things keep me optimistic, Germany, Japan, and South Korea. The US still have military bases there but every decision for day to day living is up to those people. In all other examples throughout history, when countries have conquered, they have kept control. If you want to claim that Germany, Japan, and South Korea are just US puppets, go ahead, but I highly disagree.

The other point I'd like to make is that when even one individual is oppressed, that's one too many. When someone is not free to decide their fate, when someone else decides what they can or cannot do, they are enslaved, and that is not what I call "peace".

The only restrictions on an individual should be so they do not restrict OTHER people's ability to decide their fates. For example, if they are murdering or kidnapping others, they need to be removed from society as they are taking away the freedoms of others.

There is no nation on Earth that is perfect in this regard, but the Taliban's POLICY was to take away the freedom of anyone they disagreed with. Now many individuals in Afghanistan are still not free to decide their fates due to social stigmas, and this will take much time, but the policy has changed whether or not all de facto activities have. This allows them to slowly work towards having true control over their own individual lives, just as the people in 1st world nations are still working towards that goal.

Re:hope it works (1)

Dr. Impossible (1580675) | more than 4 years ago | (#29162673)

You're main argument is "Meet the new boss, same as the old boss." But 3 things keep me optimistic, Germany, Japan, and South Korea.

You can't compare them to Afghanistan. At all.

Re:hope it works (1)

psnyder (1326089) | more than 4 years ago | (#29171399)

Germany, Japan, and South Korea.

You can't compare them to Afghanistan. At all.

I didn't.

I compared what the US did (put power into the hands of the locals) to what other nations have done throughout history (keep the power for themselves).

Re:hope it works (1)

Dr. Impossible (1580675) | more than 4 years ago | (#29171587)

So why do Germany, Japan and South Korea keep you optimistic? Nothing is going to change in Afghanistan.

Even IF? ROFL! LOL! (0, Redundant)

denzacar (181829) | more than 4 years ago | (#29131335)

It will be a total sham and a waste of time.

Votes are being sold for $10 a pop, [csmonitor.com] nobody expects the elections to be fair [bbc.co.uk] so whoever wins election results will be contested, election ink safeguard is washable [guardian.co.uk] (then again, that may save some people's fingers [thesun.co.uk] ), 13-year-olds vote [twitter.com] , there are reports of people being hanged for voting [nytimes.com] and somehow Britney Spears is registered to vote [trueslant.com] .

But yeah. Sure...
A map and a bunch of anonymous SMS messages will SURELY fix all that.

Gordon Brown's TED Talk (1)

JuzzFunky (796384) | more than 4 years ago | (#29128929)

If you are interested in this sort of stuff, you might want to check out Gordon Brown's TED Talk [ted.com] on using technology to drive social change.

hilarious (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29128953)

How hilarious would it be if Afghanistan ended up with a more verifiable vote than the U.S. because they used open source technology to track the election?

The answer, 100% if you aren't a U.S. citizen. 0% if you are.

Re:hilarious (3, Insightful)

Jurily (900488) | more than 4 years ago | (#29129271)

How hilarious would it be if Afghanistan ended up with a more verifiable vote than the U.S. because they used open source technology to track the election?

It doesn't matter as long as people think a) two candidates are enough, and b) they can let the ruling elite choose those candidates.

Re:hilarious (3, Informative)

TheDarAve (513675) | more than 4 years ago | (#29131287)

I counted 6 presidential candidates last election and 4 different "major" parties. Also, I remember about 7-10 candidates for two of those major parties being DEMOCRATICALLY elected as the party's candidate by members of those parties. What election were you watching?

Re:hilarious (1)

Jurily (900488) | more than 4 years ago | (#29132213)

Show me one democratic country where the two biggest parties don't get 70+% of all votes.

Re:hilarious (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29131949)

5+ Insightful? Thanks for reminding me why I rarely come to slashdot anymore.

Re:hilarious (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29129353)

Hurf durf. Us yuropeeins is pretty hilarious, right gais?!?!?

Sorry to disappoint you, but... (2, Interesting)

denzacar (181829) | more than 4 years ago | (#29131379)

How hilarious would it be if Afghanistan ended up with a more verifiable vote than the U.S. because they used open source technology to track the election?

Unless women in USA start wearing chadors (and get to vote like that) it is highly unlikely. [afpax.com]

Did Britney even vote in the US election?

Yeah, but... (1)

SilverHatHacker (1381259) | more than 4 years ago | (#29129023)

I'll wait to celebrate until I know how the election turns out.

Re:Yeah, but... (5, Funny)

mrsurb (1484303) | more than 4 years ago | (#29129241)

Unfortunately a politician will win. They always do...

Re:Yeah, but... (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29129799)

Well if they didn't vote for a lizard, the wrong lizard might get in.

Results or election results? (2, Insightful)

lsdi (1585395) | more than 4 years ago | (#29129309)

I wonder if walls can protect castles of cards.

Re:Results or election results? (1)

mapkinase (958129) | more than 4 years ago | (#29130495)

Indeed. The sole lonely single exclusively singular one force alone that supports the puppet regime in Kabul are thousands and thousands of foreign troops from the most powerful countries in the West, with their top of the notch equipment, bombs, airplanes, drones, satellites, etc.

Yet, significant portion of the country is still in control of Mujahedeen, armed w/ Kalashnikovs.

What is the difference between those two hugely mismatched sides?

One side is not afraid to die, the other - is very much afraid of it.

One person loves his death, the only future event one can be 100% sure event, and his enemy loves his short pathetic life the most.

May Allah give victory to the Mujahedeen. Ameen.

Re:Results or election results? (1)

Dr. Impossible (1580675) | more than 4 years ago | (#29162597)

What is the difference between those two hugely mismatched sides?

One side is not afraid to die, the other - is very much afraid of it.

One person loves his death, the only future event one can be 100% sure event, and his enemy loves his short pathetic life the most.

The terrorists are winning because they have more popular support than the US military (read: the country is filled with insane and backwards religious fanatics who think living in the stone age and raping children is the hip thing to do), which is perfectly able yet unwilling to turn the entire country into a parking lot in order to kill the terrorists. Meanwhile, the terrorists don't give a shit about collateral damage, infrastructure or even their own forces, and they have an infinite supply of crazed fanatics to use as cannon fodder. The US is trying to turn Afghanistan into a respectable and modern nation without killing everyone, but this is impossible since it does not with to be a respectable and modern nation. That's why the US is losing.

It's no wonder Muslims have never accomplished anything since they're too busy killing themselves and everyone else.

May Allah give victory to the Mujahedeen. Ameen.

I'm sure Allah wouldn't want you to use an infidel site like Slashdot. So maybe you should just fuck off and go somewhere else.

And, on his return to the U.S. - (2, Funny)

painehope (580569) | more than 4 years ago | (#29129399)

He will be featured in either "Dead In A Seedy Hollywood Motel : Hookers And Blow" or "Dead In Detroit : I Met The Ethnic Equality Paradigm And Didn't Survive".

Does it (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29129425)

come with BombBlock Plus?

Alive in... (1)

nomad-9 (1423689) | more than 4 years ago | (#29130233)

Open-source software is great, but doesn't really matter when all politicians are corrupt and most of the country have other priorities than voting, like getting to feed their families and avoid being killed by one side or the other.

Used to Monitor? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29131355)

What are they running now?

Re:Used to Monitor? (1)

InsertWittyNameHere (1438813) | more than 4 years ago | (#29133085)

Windows 7 Election Starter Edition

It's limited to 3 candidates and the CALs for voters are sold separately.

Good Products (3, Interesting)

stoolpigeon (454276) | more than 4 years ago | (#29132827)

It's unfortunate that this entire thread appears to be about the politics of this situation and none about the tech. Ushahidi is the work of Erik Hersman [whiteafrican.com] and the folks at Afrigadget [afrigadget.com] . I've been fortunate enough to hang out with Erik some and he's a really cool guy with some amazing ideas around tech and the developing world (specifically Africa in his case but they are applicable in many other settings.) If you are on twitter he's worth following - @whiteafrican [twitter.com]
 
And FrontlineSMS has been getting great press lately as people have been getting more and more creative in its use. It is producing great results in first world countries as well as the developing world. What I find exciting though is that in the FrontlineSMS forums one meets developers that are helpful and even if they can't solve a persons problem, the code is all open and others are welcome to add the functionality they need. This is huge for the NGOs that they are able to get tools they need at little or no cost while at the same time not getting stuck with vendor lock in that limits their options. And it's a great tool.
 
Every so often we have an ask slashdot about how tech types can give back. FrontlineSMS and Ushahidi are two great examples of projects that are out their doing it in a big way and provide a great opportunity for geeks to get on board. If you are really hung up on worrying about Afghanistan, go to the sites of both and see all the other places they are being used in meaningful ways to make people's lives better.

article is overly optimistic (1)

belmolis (702863) | more than 4 years ago | (#29139247)

The article overestimates the effectiveness of this kind of monitoring. That's not to say it won't help to make the election fair, but it can only deal with certain kinds of problems, such as overt intimidation of voters at the polls. It has no effect on what takes place out of view: tampering with voting machines, throwing out ballots, false counting, false reporting of the count, intimidation of voters away from the polls, and intimidation of candidates.

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