Friday, January 3, 2014

VOTES APP: What say?

How would you inspire and mobilize India's youth to vote in the Indian General Elections 2014 using social mobile apps?

A year ago, if the same question were posed, I would have deemed it to be impossible. But over the past one year, the kind of response and social media mobilization the Indian politics has been seeing is unprecedented. Not only did people discuss, criticize and put forward their ideas in relation to the government, but also campaigned their favorite political parties and lead them to surprisingly good results. A good case in point has been Aam Aadmi Party, which initially mobilized the masses through its social media handles and thereon through mobile apps and cloud telephony using VoiceTree.

India has already reached a billion mark for the mobile phone users and right from the rickshaw driver to the CEOs, everyone has an access to mobile phones. With cheap internet packs and offline mobile apps, it would be a landmark move to see the voting process be undertaken via this medium. To mobilize India's youth to go a further step so as to vote in the Indian General Elections 2014 using social mobile apps, I think some of the following creative ways could help. This can be done by an app appropriately named Votes App, which has the following features:

Prerequisite: Aadhar integration: Each person while buying the sim of his or her mobile phone should give his aadhar number for the integration.

1. It's SMS based - Since we are talking about the General Elections, we should keep in mind that unlike urban areas, in the majority of India it is mainly the poor people who come out to vote. If we assume the voters among them to have a phone, it's unfair to assume them having an internet connection to use such an app. In such a case an SMS based app works the best. Through the census, we can already assess the number of voters under one family mobile number. Each voter can add the aadhar code through which he could send in an SMS to register his vote.

2. Has finger print scanning feature: One touchphone can be installed to cast votes in villages across India. Such an app can reach out to many people who otherwise are not accessible. Under the observation of one Election Commission member, this can have wide reaching effect, since finger prints are unique and thanks to Aadhar card, these are ingrained in the computer system as well.

3. Face recognition: For urban places, this can definitely work well.  Having a camera phone where face could be scanned and matched with Aadhar cards, this can enable people to cast their vote privately.

4. Simulating Democracy: Voting game apps: The best way to mobilize youth is to generate more interest about politics. The best way for that is to create apps which simulate democracy and include a campaigning method of online voting in that simulation, so that their minds can relate to the idea on a more personal level.

5. Tying up with news sites: Political news sites with heavy traction could be approached on a barter deal to create a quizzing app based on current affairs which mobilizes interest of people along with makes them lead into a technologically sound election system in near future - by giving them hypothetical questions about online voting.

6. A movement in favor of technology needs to created now: With brands like We-Chat thinking on these lines, they should utilize their gigantic userbase to popularize this idea. Also, by incentivizing the government to pilot run such an idea over the next few months is bound to create a sound result.

Frankly, it's quite difficult to make it a reality by 2014 since it requires both technological and policy changes, but I'm sure that by the end of 2019, both the advances in technology and the strengthening of government's technological prowess will enable this dream a reality.


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Hemen Parekh said...

Here is a suggestion to IIT-Bombay , to develop a voting app , to be called VotesApp. Highlights of VotesApp :

Ø An Android app which can be downloaded from Google Play / Android Zoom / GetJar and the official web site of Election Commission of India

Ø It will be pre-loaded on 220 million Aakash tablets which Govt of India plans to distribute to students

Ø It will also be pre-loaded on those Smart phones ( to be called, “ Dharati “ ? ), which Govt of India plans to distribute free to 400 million “ poor “ Indians , before 2014 National elections

Ø All tablet / smart phone manufacturers will be encouraged to pre-load VotesApp

Ø Using this app , a voter can register at Election Commission web site, where he will enter the same data which he has submitted for his Aadhar card, including Aadhar card number (Unique Identification No)

Ø All of these details will be verified by Aadhar database

Ø Obviously , those who have not obtained their Aadhar card , will not be able to use VotesApp . They will need to visit nearest polling booth

Ø Upon correct verification , Aadhar Database will permanently link the person’s Aadhar number with the mobile number from which registration is done, and issue a Password

Ø An under aged person will not be allowed to register

Ø A person will be able to vote only from that mobile number

Ø After login on first screen, user will be asked to select one option from > Panchayat Election > Municipal Election > State Assembly Election > Lok-Sabha Election

Ø Upon selection, user will be presented with the list of candidates contesting , from which , he can select only one by ticking a checkbox. There will be also a choice , labeled “ None “

Ø A long press on a candidate’s name will display details of his declared assets as also his criminal record

Ø After ticking / selecting a candidate, voter will click on “ VOTE “ button, whereupon his vote gets registered and VotesApp gets inactivated

Ø Once a voter registers on Election Commission web site , he cannot go to a poling booth and vote physically

Ø In less than one year , Govt of India will recover the cost of 220 million Aakash tablets and 400 million” Dharati “ smart phones , through this customized / personalized / shrinking of EVMs ( Electronic Voting Machines ) to a hand-held device. And imagine the millions of man-hours saved !

Ø And the beauty is , no one can capture this booth , or conduct exit polls ! What will “ experts “ discuss on TV channels ?

Ø What next ? Election Commission “licensing “ this App to other countries ?

With regards
hemen parekh
12 Dec 2012

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