As my colleague Joel Cherkis recently shared in a blog post, we’ve been deeply involved in providing new technologies to engage citizens, provide forums for debate, and in general, help inform the democratic political process leading up to the 2012 U.S. presidential election in November. In his post, Joel points out that, more than ever, technology is playing a growing role in government elections in the U.S. and around the world. Arguably one of most visible and important elections in recent history showcasing the role of technology is in Egypt.
Since the significant social and political upheaval that took place in Egypt in 2011, the country has been in the process of forging a democratic political system. Perhaps one of the most critical aspects of this effort has been, and continues to be, transparency and citizen engagement. To help support this process, Microsoft, in partnership with ElectionMall, teamed up to create a forum for Egyptian citizens to stay informed with accurate and reliable information, and to express their opinions on the election process leading up November 28, 2011, the country’s first parliamentary election since the previous regime had been in power.
The centerpiece of this initiative was “Egypt Votes,” a website built on Windows Azure that was launched in conjunction with ElectionMall, Egyptian news portal Masrawy and MSN Arabia. With transparency as the main goal, the site included a variety of features:
• Interactive maps integrating Bing to guide first-time voters to their local polling places
• Immediate access to published official election results
• A breakdown of election outcomes by governorate via Bing Maps as Egyptian authorities released results
• An online platform for Egyptians to share their experiences via social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter after voting
• Accurate and timely information surrounding the election and candidates
“Egypt Votes” gave Egyptians the tools they needed to make their voices heard and to cast their ballots. It engaged voters around the issues and the election process, fostered online discussions around the historic election, and served as a stepping stone to a future of lasting democracy. The site is a great example for other fledgling democracies around the world, and I encourage you to check out these ElectionMall slides, which offer a more detailed case study around the project.
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