Yesterday my colleague Steve Wyshywaniuk addressed how Citizen Media might assist Egyptians and the international community to bear witness to the upcoming election in Egypt. If the current ban preventing international observers continues, Egyptian citizens will be the only ones with the potential to ensure the validity of the election. After thirty years under Hosni Mubarak, and a sum total of 57 years of totalitarian rule, Egyptians can hardly be expected to ensure a transparent, accurate election. Despite these limitations, its certainly possible Egyptians can follow the example of other organizations attempting to ensure democratic elections through citizen observation, from Lebanon to Afghanistan, and as Josh Mull mentioned earlier this week, they already have some experience.
I founded Small World News with Steve Wyshywaniuk based on the assumption that, while technology is increasing the accessibility of the tools of democracy, that access is so far primarily limited to developed nations and the wealthiest citizens of lesser developed nations. There are simple tools such as OpenDataKit to create mobile-based election monitoring forms, or even more simply, using simple SMS forms to rapidly send in election updates from monitors in the field.
However, these tools and techniques are only accessible where they are known to local citizens and monitoring organizations. Other tools, such as digital cameras that are now so affordable as to be practically disposable still cost a large percentage of a citizens income in Egypt or many other countries. Even where affordable cameras exist, too often citizen journalists lack the knowledge of basic production techniques to improve the impact of their firsthand access to urgent events.
-Brian Conley, Co-Founder
//photo by Al-Ahram