Improving Electoral Performance through Citizen Engagement in South Africa

Researcher: Clark Gibson

Location: South Africa

Project Description

mobile-salary-savings-afghanistanThis project pilots the use of SMS blasts to increase voter turnout in South Africa, as the first nationwide “Get out the Vote” (GOTV) experiment in a developing country. It tests whether African turnout reflects not just direct mobilizing efforts of parties and official electoral organizations but also social pressures to vote. The project will use SMS texting during the South African national elections in April 2014 to reach millions of citizens, making it larger than any GOTV experiment ever conducted anywhere. Many different kinds of civic and social norm messages using SMS issued by the official electoral body in the country, the Independent Election Commission, and their effect on turnout will be tested.

Preliminary preparations in conjunction with U.S. non-profit organization Democracy International were conducted in 2013. Preparations include meetings with the South African Independent Electoral Commission, key community organizations, South African academics, and telecommunications and survey companies to procure ICT support services. The assessment mission will allow the team to design a more realistic, robust, and cost-effective implementation plan that maximizes project reach and enhances its overall impact on Election Day.