BUILDING ELECTORAL CONFIDENCE IN NIGERIA THROUGH THE USE OF SHORT MESSAGE SERVICES - SMS
Remi Kehinde Alao, University of Phoenix
Adero Allison, University of Phoenix; Chizoba Madueke, University of Phoenix; and Udoh
Maduemezie, University of Lagos
Confidence in Nigeria electoral process can be measured by the electorates’ feeling of being part of the process and their democratic choices unhindered. One way to secure increased electoral confidence is to enable them access to correct, timely, and unadulterated information. Short Message Service (SMS) is a form of direct information that involves the use of cellular telephones and other social media platforms to share information fast and direct. SMS has great potential in Nigeria with over 80% mobile phone penetration in 2013 and average of 51% literacy rate (UNESCO, 2012). Since smart and mobile communication gadgets have become a commonplace in the hands of over 80% of users, SMS messaging has the potential to reduce confusion that often accompany Nigeria elections as a result of poor access to relevant electoral information. The study was conducted to determine whether use of SMS by the Nigerian independent national electoral commission (INEC) as a direct mass information medium could foster confidence building in the organization. The study found that electorates confidence in INEC improved with the use of SMS as a source of direct electoral information. Further study is recommended to determine the vulnerability of the tool to abuse by political rivals.
PUBLIC AND ELECTORAL INFORMATION MANAGEMENT USING NEW MEDIA
Recent elections in Nigeria have been severely marred by multifaceted controversies precipitated by rivaling interest groups. Most recently, the Ekiti State elections were fortified by a sizeable Nigerian security personnel presence. While some commentators characterized the security presence as the over-militarization of a standard government process, others pointed to the rampant violence that accompanied election campaigns in the state and couched the military presence as completely necessary. Whether viewed as too much security or a much-needed presence, the heavy deployment of security forces during Nigerian elections (as witnessed during the 2015 national elections) is a clear indication that the electoral management body which in Nigeria is known as the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) should reconsider how voter information is disseminated to the electorates.
Since its independence in 1960, elections in Nigeria have been plagued by boycotts, unrest and lengthy litigations. Further, allegations of vote selling, Electoral Management Bureau (EMB) biases, falsification, deliberate disenfranchisement and other unimpressive election malpractices have become regular occurrences during selections. Although EMB is continuously pursing internal reforms aimed at strengthening its credibility and closing up the gapping loopholes that enable vote rigging and other electoral shenanigans, to effect long-term political accountability, all forms of electoral malpractices must be systematically thwarted. For example, vote buying is harmful to the national development, as both buyers and sellers rarely act in the public's best interest or even remotely focus their efforts toward creating sustainable development. Mirroring political clientelism—whereby material goods are given to members of the electorate in exchange for promises of support—vote buying will likely eclipse realistic measurement of public-good accountability. Furthermore, the vote-buying process weakens law enforcement mechanisms when cash and other goods are transferred to voters. And voters are less likely to make criminal complaints against political party operatives that have put food on their tables or given them new business leading up to an election.
Overall, voter confidence is negatively impacted by the myriad of problems inherent to the electoral process in Nigeria. Quantifying the impact of this continuing decline in voter confidence is nearly impossible as highly unscientific human factors, including poverty, greed, the quest for power and use of intimidation tactics, are at the root of Nigerian election practices. Thus, the need for implementing modern Information and Communication Technology tools (ICT) has reached a critical point following nearly 50 years without an election devoid of misconduct. Applying ICT will enable Nigeria, the most populous African nation and seventh most populous country worldwide, to improve the way it communicates, especially during elections. Internet-based ICT affords organizations the opportunity of instantaneously and ubiquitously transmitting information to stakeholders instantly.
The launch of mobile phone services in Nigeria in 2001 afforded both government officials and citizens widespread access to mobile communication, which has since morphed into mass networking across the nation’s social and demographic strata. Today, information circulation is a fairly painless process due to the reduced time needed for message dissemination and because of the versatility of modern mobile communication equipment. This ease of communication, generated by the mobile marketplace, has also improved the effectiveness of information management customization for different categories of users. While Nigeria’s class structure and barriers to information are quickly fading, customization and declassing of its society with regards to information flow and access is on a swift upswing.
E-GOVERNMENT AND SHORT MESSAGE SERVICE
Deploying Short Message Service (SMS)—the technical name for text messaging— establishes a key component of e-government, defined as using information technology to communicate with citizens, to support government operations and to provide government services. This digitalization of information and communication not only gives governments flexibility in data distribution, decision making, services and storage, but the efficiencies derived from the use of ICT are important incentives that motivate public sector leaders to offer constituents basic static information, including contacts, information about elected officials, and links to other agencies or government entities.
Similar to any other governmental undertaking, the need for controls and management of an election process supported by SMS is essential in building voter confidence. In Articles 2 and 162 of Nigeria’s Electoral Act, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) is empowered to conduct voter and civic education. Thus, it is incumbent upon the INEC, as a nonpartisan agency, to also build voter confidence since it holds the nation as a captive audience regarding issues that affect the voting process.
SMS is highly useful in election monitoring as non-partisan monitoring is typically aimed at defending citizens’ right to vote and ensuring that citizens realize their right to information about the electoral process. To achieve these goals, nonpartisan election monitoring organizations must provide citizens with a comprehensive and credible assessment of the election. This assessment requires gathering information from a representative set of polling stations, including those in rural and remote locations. Yet, some researchers note that election- monitoring organizations face significant challenges to their efforts.
Countries where the need for election monitoring is most acute, like in Nigeria, often have significantly limited infrastructure and communications systems. Furthermore, the parties with the most incentive to manipulate the outcome often have substantially greater resources at their disposal than do monitoring organizations and others charged with preventing such manipulation. Overcoming these challenges to guarantee effective citizen oversight of elections is at the heart of SMS reporting by mobile phone.
Primarily, election campaigns in Nigeria are conducted under the provisions of Part V of the Electoral Act of 2006. The Act empowers the INEC to establish s appropriate policies for electoral campaigns. The Act limits the period of public campaigning by political parties to 90 days before voting day and ending 24 hours prior to that day. The Act also states that police shall provide adequate security for processions at political rallies. Further, it prohibits political campaigning based on religious, tribal or sectional bias for the purpose of promoting or opposing a particular political party or candidate. Within the provision of The Act is no ban on applying electronic media for campaigning.
The right to vote is enshrined in Chapter 21 of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights (United Nations, 1948) and is widely accepted as a fundamental political right. But merely ensuring that Nigerian citizens have the right to vote is not enough. In order for this right to be meaningful, elections must be credible, free and fair, and their outcomes must reflect the will of voters. Citizens must be permitted to seek, receive and impart information on the election process in order to establish election credibility—which requires that the election processes be transparent and accessible to observers. Thus, it is only when the electoral process meets these criteria and when citizens have access to information about the conduct of the election that the electorate fully exercises its right to vote. For this reason, EMB must go the extra mile to defend citizens’ right to vote and their right to unbiased electoral information by deploying a mass information solution that is accessible to the majority of the electorates. Election observation not only exposes problematic elections, but also builds public confidence in the ability of the EMB to hold credible elections, thus establishing the legitimacy of the governments that the elections produce. Confidence in the election process encourages voter participation and increases the likelihood that all parties will accept the results.
There are several viewpoints regarding the contribution of digital technology to the democratic process. Cyber-optimists suggest that technology will broaden the scope of participation and improve the quality of elections. On the other hand, cyber-pessimists argue that digital technology will have a detrimental effect on voting in that it will increase the information divide between the rich and the poor and that the technology itself may make the discourse shallower. Cyber-pessimists also take the position that the use of technology could unrealistically raise the expectations of citizens who make use of it. As a result, citizens could believe they are communicating directly with elected representatives and look for immediate responses and actions.
Yet another group, the cyber-skeptics, believes there will be little change in voter participation—with the social divide mirroring the digital divide. They argue that offering new channels of engagement will have little effect on democratic renewal and that cyberspace will eventually become normalized as the place where the electorate expects regular political activity to be undertaken.
For digital technology to have an impact on the democratic process, the behaviors of both citizens and politicians much change. Citizens must begin to accept the fact that online and mobile consultations are worthy means of connecting with government officials. Similarly, politicians must begin to view e-consultation as more than a way of appearing to be part of the techno-modernity. They must fully embrace and integrate it into their engagement processes. Still, some researchers suggest that the ultimate measure of success of e-consultation will be the degree to which it leads to better government policy and practice. Concerns continue to exist regarding politicians using digital technology to further their own agendas, calling for the flow of information through an environment autonomous of public administrators. The same concern can be raised about the mobile telephony channel of communication during elections.
According to a 2006 case study regarding the use of SMS to encourage democratic participation among young voters at Leeds Metropolitan University in the United Kingdom, public administrations across Europe reported views that using digital media for consultation with citizens was helpful to increasing their democratic participation. In the U.K., the government encouraged local authorities to experiment with new electronic communication channels for the purpose of using digital media as platform for consultation with its citizens. Young people, in particular, appeared to be disengaging from civic involvement. The experiment examined the effect of text messaging on democratic participation by the young and the effect of this type of consultation on the processes of political administration.
Research confirms that mobile phones are used extensively by young people, especially for text messaging, and that mobile communication devices have become largely viewed as an extension of their bodies. In most cases, the mobile phone is wherever the youthful owner is, providing an almost immediate means of communication. Thus, the use of SMS is invaluable component of modern communications in a democratic process involving young voters.
SMS ELECTION REPORTING WORLDWIDE
In Indonesia and Palestine, using SMS as a tool for reporting election information was borne out of two independent exercises. Domestic election observers in Indonesia first used SMS messages to manage the high volume of calls from as many as 750 observers in four rounds of local elections, (Schuler, 2008). Then, in January 2006, the National Democratic Institute initiated a pilot project to test the usefulness of SMS to track the whereabouts of roving teams of international observers to the Palestinian Legislative Council elections. A key finding was that the national call center needed to be revised to rely more on cell phones than on land lines and cell phones—unlike landlines—have SMS capability.
Indonesia’s election officials determined that rather than have observers try to call the center repeatedly until they found an empty line, observers simply sent a text message using their Observer Identity (OI) to indicate that they were ready to report. In most countries, the recipient doesn’t pay for incoming calls or text messages and text messages are significantly cheaper than air time for phone calls. While the use of SMS in Indonesia developed from a problem looking for a solution, in the Palestinian elections, SMS was a solution looking for a problem (Schuler, 2006).
In America, two-thirds of mobile phone owners also send SMS text messages, and nearly all the phone networks they use can receive SMS. Thus, the widest audience can be reached through SMS, which has more active users than any other text-based communication, including instant messaging, Facebook and email. This is largely because SMS is not application based, does not solely rely on Internet availability and its function is located in the root application of mobile network services.
During the U.S. presidential campaign of 2012, the team of incumbent President Barak Obama did not deploy the use of SMS by accident. Rather, the campaign’s well-articulated and systematic use of SMS solidified its overwhelming victory in the 2008 presidential elections. Since 2010, understanding of the mobilizing power of cell phones over the age-old landline phones for election purposes has been a major factor that helped the winning team. These technology bloggers underscored that this overarching power is not based on voice calls or cell phones’ ability to access the Internet or applications, but that the real power of mobile phones is SMS.
Even as far back as the 2008 United States presidential elections, one political observer was quoted as saying that SMS was the one technology—beyond social networking, Internet- based fund raising, YouTube or Twitter—that was best positioned to determine winners and losers in that year’s election cycle. For the first time ever, candidates can pick up bonus votes on Election Days simply by reminding voters of campaign promises, using SMS. The use of (SMS) instant message help boost election turnout and has the potential of tipping the voting scales because mobile gadget is personal, mostly carried on by the user and in most cases always switched on for the user to be reachable. Thus, mobile phones and other mobile communication gadgets are the only instrument that can easily be used to sensitize and mobilize voters on the move to perform their civic obligations.
Internationally, information and communication media play a key role in ensuring free and fair elections by working with all stakeholders across board. The media can strengthen an electoral process by providing independent information through impartial coverage. Three important elements are necessary for facilitating independent and impartial coverage. These include access to information from the political process, the ability to undertake investigative journalism and to document experiences from the electoral process. Further, by using SMS, reporters and other content contributors can publish information directly to the web from their mobile communication gadgets.
Another important benefit of SMS for reporting is that it allows observers to report without taking them away from observation duties to make phone calls or to locate a supervisor. In the tiny island nation of Bahrain, the Bahrain Transparency Society’s (BTS) observation of its 2006 general elections was the first comprehensive election observation in the country’s history. The nation allowed BTS to deploy observers to all polling stations. BTS used SMS to track turnout and results in all 11 parliamentary and 16 municipal races, (Schuler, 2008).
Even today, the observation of SMS messaging service was massively deployed during Albania’s 2007 general elections for observation purposes. This include monitoring how electoral officers address voters concern, how they resolve voters and whether polling station have adequate voting material and other needed tools that enable them function properly
The results showed that SMS was successfully used to report critical incidents occurring on election day where observers were given a set of codes that corresponded to different types of critical incidents. To report an incident, the observer would send the polling-station number along with the appropriate incident code. The organization’s call center would then triage incident reports and call the observer for more information about the most egregious incidents. Observers in Albania reported 168 critical incidents by SMS. Incident reporting was greatly enhanced by SMS because it allowed observers to append additional notes to incident reports.
SMS reports were also useful in evaluating the quality and effectiveness of member organizations’ recruitment, deployment and training. Because use of SMS affords communication flexibility and frequent direct communication between observers and leadership, the organizational dynamics of these groups can be positively affected. Aside from providing updates on Election Day, members can be thanked and praised for their efforts—contributing to a greater sense of belonging among often recently recruited volunteers. Leaders can also gain valuable information regarding the conduct of the elections, including detailed accounts of any irregularities in reporting.
Researchers have determined that within a short time, SMS messaging has been proven effective in helping election-monitoring organizations address a wide variety of logistical challenges related to overseeing elections and safeguarding voters’ rights. SMS offers election observers the communication speed, flexibility and coverage needed to organize volunteers and to immediately respond to rapidly emerging election data. If coupled with a reporting methodology using a representative sample of polling stations, SMS reporting can provide further insight regarding national election processes and whether outcomes resemble voters’ views. As clearer information about the electoral process is offered to citizens and as they gain a richer understanding of the way their views impact election results, they will likely gain more confidence in the process and begin demanding even more accountability.
In particularly acrimonious elections, authorities can circumvent potential post-election skirmishes and rioting by commenting early on election outcomes. Armed with SMS technology, election observers can quickly identify violations of citizens’ rights and alert authorities in time to remedy problems on the day of an election. Furthermore, SMS has been used to safeguard the right to vote—including voter registration and education. SMS text messaging has also offered citizens a vehicle for lodging official complaints, submitting their election views and advocating for citizens’ interests. SMS can also be deployed between elections to alert observer of corrupt tactics used by police and government officials. Thus, this inexpensive, yet widely accessible tool can foster greater and more detailed government accountability.
According to the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), by the end of 2012, Nigeria had 83 million active mobile cellular lines. Through this ubiquitous use of mobile communication tools, the power of effective monitoring can now be in the hands of the people. It needs to be said that Nigerian people themselves are central to the process of electioneering, and technology is a facilitator for their participation. With the monitoring success recorded by Reclaim Naija and the rapid rate of mobile communication penetration in Nigeria, application of SMS to facilitate electioneering activities will be a useful tool in building electorates’ confidence. It will also aid in monitoring the presence of polling agents and micro-observers, use of video camera at the polling stations and the arrival and departure of polling equipment and materials.
Data collection for the current experiment involved field work that employed a random sampling process. One stipulation was that participants had to be at least 18 years old, which is the minimum voting age in Nigeria. The sampling procedure included the direct administration of a structured questionnaire to 300 participants. Since 285 completed their questionnaires, the sample resulted in a 95 percent return.
Participants answered Part One of the questionnaire before the test experiment and the second half was answered after the administration of the experiment. This followed a pilot test conducted by sending text messages randomly to some selected candidates prior to the application of the actual test. Analysis of the test was on cross-sectional influence based on SMS usage according to the determinant factors. Analysis of the experiment involved the application of parametric and non-parametric tools. Parametric tools assume that the data being studies has originated from some form of probability distribution and makes inferences about the parameters of the distribution. While non-parametric tools, make no assumptions about the probability distributions of the variables being studied.
The Analysis of Variance (ANOVA) measured at 95% level of confidence, Pearson and Spearman’s correlation measured at 85 % level of confidence, and Multiple Regression (R) measured at 99 % level of confidence were deployed to test the result of the experiment. The purpose of applying both Pearson’s and Spearman’s correlation is to enable clear measurement sure of the emphasis placed on each variable.
The tools measured the relationship between the users of Mobile Phones and the application of SMS through an organized Electoral Processes. The tests null hypothesis are: (i) Nigerian Users of Cell-phones cannot adopt to the usage of SMS in electoral system; (ii) There is no relationship between election confidence and the use of Short Message Service (SMS); (iii) Citizens cannot be motivated to participate in elections by using SMS for communication; and (iv) There cannot be strong electoral confidence in using SMS information system. In verifying these hypotheses, the principle of generalization was applied. Thus, any acceptance or rejection made, applies to all.
The experiment was analyzed in two stages: the percentage cross-sectional stage and at the test statistic level. Table 1 shows the distribution of SMS usage based on age group and participants’ current usage. From 285 respondents who answered the administered questionnaires 95 (33.00%) stated that they receive SMS messages 7-8 times daily. More than 95% (273) of the respondents possess mobile phones and 54 (56.84%) of them are between the ages of 18-33 years. Within the group, 117 (41.05%) of those that received SMS messages at various times are between 18-33 years old. While 84 participants (29.47%) did not receive SMS messages and 78 (92.85%) have mobile phones. Of the 285 respondents, 95% having mobile phones and all stating they use their devices, a strong case is made for their embrace of SMS as a viable means of mobile communication.
Frequency of SMS Messages Received and Influence by Age and Usage of Mobile Handsets.
|Independents||How many SMS messages have you received?|
|None||1-2 Times||3-4 Times||5-6 Times||7-8 Times||Total|
|34- 48 Years||33||13||17||13||30||106|
|Currently use mobile phone?|
Table 2 shows the usage of mobile phones and gender of respondents with respect to frequency of SMS alerts on their mobile phones. Here, 273 (95.79%) respondents use mobile phones with 163 (59.781%) being male and the rest being female. Also, 12 (4.21%) indicate that they do not use mobile phones. Female participants account for 58.33% of this number, while male participants make up the remaining 41.77% of non-mobile phone users. Male respondents were slightly more in number (170 versus 115 female respondents). A total of 84 (29.47%) respondents did not receive any SMS messages and 51 (60.71%) of them were male. Regarding the process of SMS application, the percentage of males and females stating they received election information notification through SMS at different intensities was nearly even, with 22 (59.46%) male and 22 (55%) female respondents confirming they received SMS alerts 1-2 times.
Female respondents received more SMS alerts than males in the 3-4 times frequency. There is no clear pattern as to why male and female respondents display slight and irregular patterns in the numbers of time they received SMS alerts.
Mobile Phone Users and Frequency of Usage by Gender.
|Usage of mobile phone?|
|No of times None SMS information was received by respondents|
Table 3 below shows a cross-tabulation of direct SMS information received by participants in the experimental presidential election. Here, 202 (70.88%) received current election information at diverse times. And, 31(15.35%) stated they did not receive any SMS or direct info for the current election; while 26 (12.87%) reported receiving SMS alerts 1-2 times, 32 (15.84%) received alerts 3-4 times, 22 (10.89%) were alerted 5-6 times, while 91(45.05%) received alerts 7-8 times.
Based on the use of mobile phones and portable devices, SMS has the highest probability of being utilized. Among the respondents that were not informed during the current election, 53 (63.86%) said they were neither informed nor alerted by SMS. This represents the probability ratio of 63.10% of respondents not alerted at all, even as 36.90% were currently informed but not alerted. Out of a total of 84 (32.56%) participants who did not specify any number of times they received SMS messages, 51 clearly indicated they did not receive any message, while 33 said they received SMS without being certain about the number of times. In all, 201(70.52%) participants received SMS at varying times and 84 (29.48%) did not receive SMS. From this number, 31 received some form of direct info about the election—probably through direct contact with other electorates that received SMS as secondary information source.
Times Short Message Service (SMS) was Received and Reception of Direct Information.
|How many times SMS information was received?||Reception of direct info?|
Table 4 shows the frequency cross-tabulation of SMS information received according to the rating of its usefulness to electoral developments along with the importance of electronic media as an information source. This reflects the use of Internet facility and, by the description, 181(63.51%) rated electronic media as very important. The combined strength of the participants who rated the increased number of SMS frequency as very helpful, helpful and averagely helpful was 258 (90.5%)
Irrespective of the frequency with which different participants received SMS notification, 276 (96.84%) positively rated electronic media including SMS as very important, more than average important or averagely important. No clear patterns exist regarding helpfulness, with 64 (35.36%) receiving SMS alert 7-8 times during the current election. And 78 (92.86%) out of 84 participants who stated they did not receive SMS information rated electronic media positively. Nine participants did not consider electronic media as important and 27 considered use of direct SMS as not useful for decision-making.
The Importance of Electronic Media by Frequency of SMS Reception and Helpfulness.
|Times SMS was received||Helpfulness of SMS|
|Very Important||Over Average||Average||Less than Average||Not at all||Total|
|Frequency Of SMS 1-2 reception|
|1- 2 Years||27||6||04||-||-||37|
|SMS help for Decision making|
In Table 5 below, various levels of educational achievement were analyzed for their usage of mobile phones. It shows that 273 (95.79%) participants with varying educational backgrounds declared they use mobile phones. A further breakdown of the group into categories showed that the bulk (133 or 48.72%) of those that use mobile phones possess a first degree or below. This group is followed by those with senior secondary school educations or less. And 66.67% of participants with no education said they use mobile phones, 86.95% of those with an education level of grade six use phones, 95.06% holding Senior School Certificate qualifications use phones and all those with qualification above first degree use phones. This table indicates that education or the absence thereof does not prevent participants from using mobile phones. Although one interesting pattern presented itself in that the increased level of education also reflected increase in the percentage of users of mobile phones.
Educational Qualification And Usage Of Mobile Phones
|Currently use mobile phone?||Current Educational level|
|None||Grade 6 or Less||SS3 or Less||First Degree or Less||Above First Degree||Total|
Table 6 shows the importance of SMS application for building election confidence in relation to specific predictors. Five predictors were used, including frequency of SMS received, age group, usefulness of SMS, educational qualification and gender. Each predictor exhibited varied sensitivity when subjected to Pearson’s and Spearman’s coefficients of determination. Observation of Pearson’s and Spearman’s ranked correlations result indicate a diversity in relationship between the level or frequency of SMS information received and the importance of SMS alerts. This divergent relationship is also amplified in the difference in the determinant of their effects. The frequency of information received via SMS is approximately 3%. On ranking of the importance of SMS application, te Spearman result indicated no correlation effect and has an approximate 3% effect on the factors in electoral principles.
For both Spearman’s and Pearson’s correlation and number of SMS received has no direct effect on election decisions. Measurement from both Pearson’s and Spearman’s correlation indicated that age has a direct relationship on the importance participants placed on use of SMS for electoral decisions. They both have a coefficient of determination above 1%. Helpfulness of SMS during elections has a weak, albeit positive correlation for both Spearman and Pearson. This indicates that use of SMS during elections as an electoral information channel can have a small and relative effect in either a positive or negative direction. As the study revealed in Table 5, importance of SMS grew with increase in educational level to a certain level, after which higher SMS usage has no further effect. Level of respondents’ education therefore indicates in general that respondents are not perplexed on the usefulness of SMS decisions based on usage.
With the combination of five predictors, part of the result exhibits an inverse relationship between education and decision making at both Pearson’s and Spearman’s correlation in elections. This is likely due to the effect of SMS alerts, which created awareness by breaking information barriers across different literacy levels and enhanced decision-making ability for those with little or no education among the population. Although educational level has the most significant effect on the respondents with 5-7% as shown by Spearman’s and Pearson’s correlation, this is not strong enough to indicate that education level has a direct effect on the behavior of respondents as against the usefulness of SMS in confidence building during elections. Decision making processes in electoral maps depend on gender functions as indicated by Spearman and Pearson. Both gender and decision making processes have a positive relationship and have a discrete effect in terms of general tendency during elections. With the component of regression, the values of some of the independent variables have no correlation effect close to the regression value. The generally accepted statistical indicator is that the closer the value of correlation and regression to each other the stronger is the relationship of acceptance.
Multiple regression measures 0.299 against the correlation responsiveness, indicating a weak acceptance of those predictors that are positively related. ANOVA at 95% confidence interval and 5 degrees of freedom gave a computed value of 5.48 and the value at Fisher’s table of measurement indicated 2.25. This implies that the alternative hypotheses are upheld. These alternative hypotheses stated that: (i) Nigerian users of mobile phones can adapt positively to the usage of SMS in an electoral system; (ii) There is relationship between election confidence and use of SMS; (iii) Citizens can be motivated to participate in elections by using SMS for communication; and (iv) There is strong indication of electoral confidence in using SMS information systems. It can therefore be accepted that application of SMS during electoral process by the election management body can assist in building electoral confidence among the electorates.
Generalized Table of Correlation and Regression Analysis
|Predictors||IMPORTANCE OF SMS ALERTS FOR ELECTION DECISION|
|P. Moment CC||Pearson’s C of D||Spearman’s Ranked CC||Spearman’s C of D||(R)Multiple Regression||(F) ANOVA|
|SMS info received||-0.165||2.722||-0.161||2.590||0.299||5.482|
Before the advent of the digital age, electoral information management was based on print and non-interactive information media. Digitalized communication has changed the whole process of electoral information management. The implementation of mobile communication technology has not only hastened the rate of information diffusion; it has created new possibilities of access to electoral information. Mobile communication systems are ubiquitous companions of both electoral management personnel and the electorates, and communication can take place through various channels while users are on the go. Today’s mobile phones are exhibiting infinite capabilities, including the ability to transmit voice, video, text and graphics to either individual or multiple recipients instantaneously or at preprogrammed times and sequences.
Whether information is accepted or rejected, the major focus is getting it to the receiver as quickly as possible. Using SMS as an information dissemination system is a great innovation based on its interaction capabilities. SMS is exceptionally important because it combines the strength of allowing messages to be disseminated in either text or voice and to be stored and retransmitted without extra efforts. A beep on the phone of the user or an envelope symbol on phone display attracts instant attention and sensitizes the user to read or react to the message. Mobile phone usage can determine the rate at which information will be disseminated to the end users and is not gender specific. Possession of mobile phones among the population in Nigeria ranges between 95% -96%. And since about 95% of the respondents have the highest concentration within the age group 18-33, there exists a high probability that that voting age is highly involved in the use of mobile phones.
This observation can be interesting for the Nigeria political process because the active voting age has the highest mobile phone possession and mobilizing them with SMS can be very promising. Nigeria’s population of over 160 million people is estimated to have about 66 million within this age bracket—the majority likely to be actively or passively involved in electoral information dissemination using mobile communication gadgets. If the use of SMS by the electoral management body to disseminate electoral information is extended to the majority of the population that use mobile phone, awareness is likely to increase, which can limit vote buying and clientelism.
Level of confidence is essential in an electoral process. Confidence can emerge with increased transparency and with the absence or reduction in violence—a hallmark of vote buying and selling in Nigeria. Confidence can be built through the use of SMS to create awareness and instantaneous information dissemination. SMS is fast, reliable and informative and, as the research has shown, the active voting age in the current research received SMS message at the rate of 7-8 times per day. In Indonesia, Bahrain, Senegal, the United States of America and Palestine, SMS systems were applied to collate election results into election information. If INEC could adopt large scale usage of SMS for electoral information dissemination, result monitoring and reporting during elections, this will likely increase the confidence of the electorates in Nigeria’s electoral process.
Use of SMS as an electoral information dissemination platform can remove a lot of confusion in Nigeria when instances of citizens losing their voters cards occur, when voters have wrong information regarding polling places, when names are missing from voters lists, when mixing up the names of candidates becomes a problem and even when citizens forget to vote on Election Day. SMS also has the capacity to reduce voting time and to reduce build-up of voters at certain times with as it can be used to stimulate flash mob-type occurrences. SMS can also be used to disseminate other information to the electorates—including election results, information about voting times and places, news related to tricks fraudsters use to beguile unsuspecting electorates and the types of punishment for involvement in election fraud. Using SMS messaging to disseminate direct information can be more reliable and trusted if the electoral body is involved, which can boost voters’ morale and potentially lead to more informed participation in the electoral process.
CONCLUSION AND RECOMMENDATIONS
The attitudes of electorates regarding election confidence are a function of several factors, including voters’ personal decisions about what builds their confidence. Voter attitudes are also a function of age, sex, social demographic factors, phone usage, reception and the solution provided by the particular information source.
Using SMS as an effective information tool by Nigeria’s EMB will require profiling of the electorates according to age, education, frequency of usage. It may also be important to configure any SMS massage with particular attention to location, strength and penetration level of service providers. Configuring electoral information according to age has a particular importance. For instance, young people are quick and always ready to read and write text messages, whereas older or busy adults read and write SMS messages mainly when and where necessary.
It may be advisable that managers of Nigeria’s electoral process embrace the use SMS as a means of disseminating electoral information for the sake of motivating and heralding the interest of electorates. In business, SMS is being widely deployed to send instant collaborative messages. It helps managers in making informed decisions and allows for instant feedback with the propensity to reduce errors and improve productivity. Similarly, in an election arena, SMS usage can be configured in different ways. It can be used either as a one-way information platform in which recipients are able to receive information, but cannot give feedback, or as a bi- directional platform which enables feedback from the recipients. Both options have their usefulness. For instance, one-way information systems prevent breakdowns in cases of unsolicited feedback.
Bidirectional platforms, on the other hand, allow for feedback and can be used for report sharing, complaint filling and record keeping. Technological improvements are needed to make mobile communication more responsive and to build increased user confidence. One such improvement will be geo-tagging of SMS messages sent from recipients. This will help election officials to know where the respondent is sending information from. Information about sender location can reduce fraud and can be a useful tool in assisting law enforcement or election management personnel in monitoring. SMS as a simple means of disseminating instant messages to multiple categories of users without inbuilt discrimination on demography is therefore highly recommended for use by Nigeria’s Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
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