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Text Messages Used To Monitor Elections

Zonk posted more than 7 years ago | from the getting-the-word-out dept.

Communications 42

InternetVoting writes "The upcoming historic Nigerian elections are going to be defended by an army of observers armed, not with guns, but with text messages. Every one of the observers will be outfitted with a cell phone to report vote tampering. The volunteers are a part of the Network of Mobile Election Monitors, and they use freeware to do what they do. From the article: 'NMEM is using a free system called Frontline SMS, developed by programmer Ken Banks, to keep track of all of the texts. Originally developed for conservationists to keep in touch with communities in National Parks in South Africa, the system allows mass-messaging to mobile phones and crucially the ability to reply to a central computer. It has already been used in countries such as Zimbabwe as a way of bypassing broadcast restrictions and distributing information to rural communities.'"

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SQL (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18821843)

I'll put this in terms most Slashdotters will understand:

select quote_text from quote where author like 'benjamin%' and quote_text like '%vigil%';

Additional information (3, Funny)

Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) | more than 7 years ago | (#18821849)

This is the number to call if you'd like to report a fraud during the Nigerian election : 1-888-GO-419

You'll soon get called back by voting official Dr. Adewale Johnson, who incidentally also has a lot of money locked up in a bank account and needs your help.

4-1-9 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18821855)

the system allows mass-messaging to mobile phones and crucially the ability to reply to a central computer

Cue the 4-1-9 jokes in 3... 2... 1...

Working well (3, Funny)

The Bungi (221687) | more than 7 years ago | (#18821909)

In fact I just got this on my inbox:






Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18821923)

Can I get a what? what???

Doing it all wrong (4, Funny)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 7 years ago | (#18821973)

Its too simple. You guys don't know what you are talking about. Doing it all with one computer and an SMS modem? You can't future proof it that way. I want to see some mention of CORBA and SOAP. How can you have a system without middleware? I keep searching for contractors using your keywords and nobody is coming up.

Can you use dot NET? Everybody uses that these days. And what if I want to use it when I am already on the phone. Can't it have a WAP interface as well? Listen, I don't give a shit that the thing works. I want to sell a thousand copies of this thing and nobody is going to pay a million bucks for something which doesn't use a single cutting edge technology.

And don't get me started on your engineering practices. Last month this POS stopped working and you attached it to a different power circuit and a came right up. You can't make any money off maintenance that way. You need to network at least three computers with 12 daemons which have to start in a specific order, and have it crash from running out of memory at least once a week. Fault calls are where the real money is made. Lets see some forward thinking thanks.

Re:Doing it all wrong (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18822061)

anon because i'm drunk...

all praise for th e most literate troll i've read in sooom etime.

Re:Doing it all wrong (1)

Curmudgeonlyoldbloke (850482) | more than 7 years ago | (#18822815)

But SOAP's so last year - and CORBA's last century! What about an AJAX front end (from a mobile phone, of course) with an link to Google Maps?

Also, why can't we send ballot papers to the polling stations via the Internet? m []

Re:Doing it all wrong (0, Troll)

alienmole (15522) | more than 7 years ago | (#18825475)

You forgot to use the words "mashup" and "Web 2.0".

Re:Doing it all wrong (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18829677)

Not everything has to be cutting edge. Very little is. Is your work cutting edge?

Say WHAT?! (0, Redundant)

Fizzl (209397) | more than 7 years ago | (#18822003)

Cell phones used for communication! How terribly clever! What will they come up with next?!

Ron Rivest has the answer (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18822067)

The way you eliminate election fraud is with a simple method from the "R" in RSA: 3ballot. []

Re:Ron Rivest has the answer (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18822893)

3ballot is cool, but unfortunately it has some serious flaws [] .

Makes me wonder when election campaigns start to a (1)

melted (227442) | more than 7 years ago | (#18822099)

Makes me wonder when election campaigns start to apply the actual science to elections. There are fairly robust natural language processing techniques available for what is called "sentiment classification". You define a set of topics and a machine can analyze, say, local newspapers and blogs to gauge with fairly high precision whether the candidate is getting praised or lambasted on certain issues, and how strongly. Since most of the stuff is on the web, analysis could be done in near-real time. This could then be used to place geotargeted election ads in the area (in papers, or even on Google if it decides to support ip-based geotargeting) crapping onto the other candidates and creating an impression that your candidate isn't as bad as papers portray him. All you need to do this today is one or two PhDs and a small compute cluster. Having seen the results of recent attempts at sentiment classification, I could even say that you could elect a complete turd if you use it creatively and have enough money to buy ads. You will simply _know_ what people want (or don't want) to hear.

freeware of free software? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18822105)

I can't see a mention of freeware. Perhaps it's free software?

what's the point (1)

Bastard of Subhumani (827601) | more than 7 years ago | (#18822187)

Not that it will do any good. Observers != enforcers.

Re:what's the point (1)

Reidsb (944156) | more than 7 years ago | (#18822345)

Yes, but then the results from that area can be kept off the final tally until a fair re-vote is held there. The problems will arise if they have volunteers who can be bribed.

Re:what's the point (1)

Rinkhals (930763) | more than 7 years ago | (#18822717)


That's not how it works in Africa

The election monitors are there to endorse the winning candidate.

Some rural areas in Zimbabwe's last election had a 110% voter turnout.

If I tell you that the voters must oftentimes cover 10-20 miles on foot in order to vote, you'll see how preposterous that figure really is.

The bulk of the election monitors endorsed the election as "Free and Fair".

Re:what's the point (1)

Gription (1006467) | more than 7 years ago | (#18822677)

Not that it will do any good. Observers != enforcers.
I know when I am working as an "enforcer" I usually use a cell phone as my weapon of choice!

Now that I think about it, why didn't Doom have a cell phone as a weapon?

Re:what's the point (1)

RockDoctor (15477) | more than 7 years ago | (#18835643)

Not that it will do any good. Observers != enforcers.

Silent observer = WOMBAT [note] = NULL
Vocal observer = CORPSE.

[note] Waste Of Money, Brains And Time

How to volunteer (1)

thekrafter (952887) | more than 7 years ago | (#18822191)

I'm about to vote in an hour. How do I become a volunteer? Are the text messages supposed to be in a specific format?

Re:How to volunteer (1)

thekrafter (952887) | more than 7 years ago | (#18822781)

UPDATE: Attempting to send a message gives the error "Check operator services". I guess the government is more powerful than I thought.

Re:How to volunteer (1)

GnuDiff (705847) | more than 7 years ago | (#18823433)

Alternatively, it could just mean that the service is flooded with messages.

Happened first couple of times we used SMS-based voting for TV shows here in my country.
Also happens occasionally on New Year's eve etc.

SMS service generally has capacity that presumes only a fraction of users will be sending an SMS at any particular moment.

You Voted? (1)

ChimaObialo (756964) | more than 7 years ago | (#18825563)

Hmm... How many Nigerian Slashdotters are there?

Excellent! (2, Funny)

jez9999 (618189) | more than 7 years ago | (#18822249)

Hopefully, this technology can take Nigeria a step closer to being as free, open, and peaceful as Zimbabwe.

Re:Excellent! (1)

wganz (113345) | more than 7 years ago | (#18823225)

an army of observers armed, not with guns, but with text messages.

If they only have cell phones and no way to physically back it up, they're just a self important cluster phuque with cell phones. Once they are done with their self congratulatory phase, they will go back to their nice safe homes and leave Africa to return to the state of barbarity into which it has settled. It is best described by the quote from the movie 'Hotel Rwanda', "You're not even a nigger. You're an African."

Sad to say, Everyday I see more the reason that the Founding Fathers put the Second Amendment into our Bill of Rights. Note that one of the first things that Mugabe did in Zimbabwe was first register all the guns for 'safety of the children' and, then, he sent soldiers around to pick them up.

Re:Excellent! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18829723)

Sorry, but aren't these Nigerians doing Nigerian election monitoring? Which homes are they going to go back to? It's funny how people are always so quick to condemn. And Africa is a very large continent, not a single country. I think you might be pleasantly surprised how peaceful and beautiful most of it is. Which African countries have you been to to have formed such a view?

Would this work in the USA ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18822955)

I was just thinking it would be nice if there were an honest election here for once.

Somebody needs to kick these mafia thugs out of Washington DC... The whole lot of them. Maybe bring back the gallows from France... but some of these people, and their war crimes, maybe hangings too good for them... Be glad to hand over Bush/Rumsy/etc to a free Iraq after a swift withdrawal...

Even better (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18823421)

I'll do ya one better: []

Re:Would this work in the USA ? (1)

DrRevotron (994894) | more than 7 years ago | (#18825917)

...Let me put this in a way you'll understand. sed -e 's/free Iraq/doomed Iraq/' sed -e 's/swift withdrawl/swift surrender/'

Niggeria? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18823045)

is that the country where the niggers come from?

you F4il it (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18823143)

Text messages Used To Monitor Electrons (1)

Verte (1053342) | more than 7 years ago | (#18823263)

Not settling for attaching a cubit of information to each electron, Nigerian scientists have found a way to attach an entire 255 character text string. The system uses a network of Mobile Electron Monitors, made out of pixie dust, who's existence was predicted by Jamie Zawinski's Theory of Open Source in 1999. Originally developed for conversationalists to keep in contact using their thumbs, the Simple Message Service allows electrons to share a significant amount of information all at once and the ability to communicate with the scientists using the familiar cell phone network. SMS is already in use by a large number of gregarious teens to bypass note passing laws in many western classrooms.

Half-assed use of technology (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18823347)

It's nice that they're applying technology to the ancient idea of voting, but can't we go altogether modern and implement open source government [] systems? Something like the Metagovernment [] would be even more effective at fighting corruption in Nigeria -- and every else.

Why do we keep having leaders, when we are perfectly capable of governing ourselves?

Re:Half-assed use of technology (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18828197)

Rule ourselves? But that would be hard!! Waa!

In the usa texting cost a lot (1)

Joe The Dragon (967727) | more than 7 years ago | (#18823495)

With prices of $0.10 or more for each text coming and going yes you pay for incoming texts.

Re:In the usa texting cost a lot (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18832061)

In the USA yes, in the rest of the world no. The USA has one of the most backward cellphone practices on the planet - paying to receive calls and texts is criminal. Paying $1 a day to just KEEP a pre-pay number is criminal. What's wrong with the American consumer??!?

this is so freakin ingenious! (1)

passionfruit (1091373) | more than 7 years ago | (#18825187)

w?ow cellfones to monitor elections! what will they think of next? maybe jojo the boatman is gonna be oone of the monitors?

"Sunshine is the Best Disinfectant" (1)

rewinn (647614) | more than 7 years ago | (#18825849)

It's easy, natural and fun to look at this effort with cynicism, but it really does represent a great application of information sharing in the service of freedom.

Cell phones are relatively cheap, ubiquitous and easy to use. If the procedures promoted in the articles really do make if more difficult to manipulate elections, they should be exported to my own country.

I know... (2, Funny)

number1scatterbrain (976838) | more than 7 years ago | (#18826423)

Can we hack the Nigerian election and get W elected President of Nigeria?

Did anyone else.. (1)

Kangie (975603) | more than 7 years ago | (#18826767)

Read the title as "Text Messages used to monitor Electrons"?

I Need to stop reading slashdot five minutes after I wake up.

This was tried in Cambodia a few weeks ago (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18830199)

Disclaimer: I'm a volunteer in Cambodia whose terms of engagement prevent me from voicing opinions of a political nature. Hence the AC post.

An "independent" (as far as anything in Cambodia is independent) NGO called NICFEC set up an SMS monitoring and reporting system for the countries local commune elections over the first weekend in April. Local elections in Cambodia take place every 5 years and are a national event.

3 days before the polls opened, the ruling Cambodian People's Party (CPP) arranged for the country's mobile cellular network to be shut down under the auspices that text messages could be used to violate campaigning rules: candidates are forbidden from campaigning on the day preceding voting day as well as the day itself. This was the first time recorded in the world where mobile phone technology had been targeted in such a way.

Most people (locals and foreigners) believe the CPP cares little for the campaigning rules (every candidate flouts them) and instead wanted to hamper the election observers.

I realise this is only slightly related to the original story. I truly hope the Nigerian implementation works as well as it should. For Cambodians however, the experiment served only to remind us how much power the CPP wield in this country.
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