In the run up to the elections (from announcement through the last day of polling), iVote works in the form a campaign which encourages and helps voters to exercise their right to the ballot.
How do you do this?
One is the traditional method of creating campaigns, reminding people that voting is a duty, sending out mailers to private companies exhorting the HR departments to allow people an hour or so off so they can go vote, and so on and so forth.
We will use the support of our tech partners (social media companies) to do this. But we also hope to interest our media partners to help evangelize the casting of ballots.
No. Not just that. iVote will have bots on Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp and text which will respond to queries by voters.
Say for example you text the bots with your real name and EPIC, you get back the (Google Maps) location of your polling booth, a brief about the candidates in the fray, contact details of the returning officer and other helpline avenues you can call on if they need further help.
This interaction builds up an active user base for iVote.
On the election day, if a voter faces voter obstruction, s/he can use the same system to report that problem. We will 1) our interns trained in election day norms will try to help the voter by answering his queries 2) in case of unsolved queries or bigger problems like violence, picketing etc., we will alert the returning officer (or a suitably higher Election Commission official) about it. An escalation procedure will be built into the system to keep track of unresolved issues.
Why do you need these different bots? Why not make a website out of this?
Because India is not a country of laptops or desktops, it’s a country of mobile phones. You want to weave iVote into things they already do – like texting, tweeting, posting, calling etc. and not make them go through yet another process or move to yet another platform.
Do you have a specific demography in mind?
First time voters, 18 to 22 years of age. Not only because that age bracket works well with our internet / smartphone based model of work, but also because older voters usually know where they have to go, and first timers are the ones who are more in need of help and information. The idea is to make it as easy as can be for voters to vote and make that a habit.
In case you didn’t notice the clever trick we played with the name—iVote means “I” first person singular do the act of voting. Ha ha…get it? Ok never mind.
This is a great idea and a first of its kind in India. And it needs all of India to contribute.
Wait wait…what’s in it for iVote? Altruism alone?
India lacks collaboration in the news space. Everyone’s competing with everyone and its created a delirious race to ‘break news.’ Evryone’s fighting everyone else for the same pool of eyes and ears. And it erodes the value of news in the eyes of the people.
Collaboration instead of mindless competition is what will build a better ecosystem of news gathering and reporting. A better ecosystem works for everyone, including upstarts like iVote.
So it’s a onetime event for iVote?
No. Not quite. The exercise will generate a new kind of data – one about how smooth really is this process called the world’s largest election – a body of information that has not been built till date and can be later used to formulate policies for making the elections better.