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Illiterate Northern Kenyans Get Voice Information about Elections via Mobile


Jan 30 2013, Kenya [KE]

Illiterate Northern Kenyans are using a system that allows them to call a number to get more information about the Kenyan election through a voice menu. This makes it easier for them to vote.

About 87% of the people living in Samburu, Kenya is illiterate. Because people are not able to read or write they often lack information and have no idea what their rights are. This becomes particularly apparent in the run up to the election (planned for upcoming March 4th), when many Samburu citizens have the right to vote, but have little idea on registration procedures or what they are actually voting for. With the explosive growth of mobile phone usage in Africa, people now do have access to information. That’s why international organisations Text to Change (TTC), IICD and Kenyan organisation SEED Samburu, set up an Interactive Voice Response (IVR) campaign to educate the Samburu about their civil rights in the new constitution and on the upcoming elections. Via the TTC platform a toll free line is set up which guides callers through a menu by voice. Via this line callers can choose subjects and have questions answered and acquire more information.

Background Kenya’s elections

Kenya has a new constitution, signed by President Kibaki in August 2010. The new constitution provides that Kenya is divided into counties. The larger Samburu District will be one county with its own government. The devolution of resources to the counties as provided for in the new constitution gives a great opportunity for Samburu people to benefit. However the vast majority of the Samburu have little idea what is going on and what will happen. If the majority of the Samburu wants to benefit from the privileges of their county, a strong civic voice is absolutely needed to have good governance of the county. Therefore civic education is very necessary. Otherwise only a few people will benefit from the new democratic possibilities and new budget available at the Samburu County level.

The SEED Samburu program

Samburu women in Kenya. Photo: Anne Marijke Podt










The Interactive Voice Response project is part of a larger programme where Dutch organisations IICD, Edukans and Tekst to Change (in the Connect4Change consortium)  cooperate with local organisation SEED Samburu to use traditional and modern information and communication technology to educate underprivileged Samburu in rural areas. By means of this project, the Samburu are getting information which empowers them to fight for their rights and to achieve sustainable development.

The IVR project targets at least 11,500 Samburu, which includes an estimate amount of 6.000 calls per month. Through free publicity by radio programmes, civic education facilitators and other stakeholders SEED Samburu will spread the message about the IVR system and the other civic education activities. With this service Samburu citizens will be empowered by information without any party or candidate bias to make informed decisions on who gets their vote on March 4th

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