Uganda: Electoral body joins social media wave

Ugandan voters can now instantly find out where they will vote from and also verify their registration status using a mobile phone.

The Short Message Service (SMS) launched by the Electoral Commission (EC) just 24 days to voting day, will cost between Shs120 and 220, depending on which service provider one uses.

For MTN and UTL subscribers, the service will cost Shs120, Shs220 for Orange and Warid and Shs160 for Airtel customers.

The service is however free for the first one million messages starting January 24 and voters are free to send up to five free messages to cater for other family members.

At least 13 million Ugandans have registered to vote in the February 18 presidential and parliamentary elections.

Launching the service in Kampala on Monday, EC Chairman Badru Kiggundu said the commission recognised the role of modern communication in the electoral process.

Voters can text their voter ID number or the 17-digit hand written number on the Voter Registration Receipt (for new voters), to 8683 on any of the mobile telephone networks and receive a confirmation of their polling station.

Mr Kiggundu said, “This service aims at increasing voter awareness and preparedness for the coming elections, as well as enhancing transparency and voter confidence in the electoral process.”

The SMS service is an addition to other existing technology-based platforms created for voters.

In 2010, the EC launched an online voter register where voters can check their details via the internet at www.nvr.or.ug. Voters can also find out their registration details by calling an EC toll free number, 0800 200071.

However, concerns were raised on whether the majority of voters, especially those in rural areas, were technologically competent to use the service.

Addressing the concerns, EC Secretary Sam Rwakoojo said that those who can use it could easily help those who cannot.

“Sending an SMS is not new to Ugandans; but if you can do it, help your brother, sister or neighbour,” Mr Rwakoojo said.

There at least 11 million mobile phone users in Uganda, according to the Uganda Communications Commission.

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