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Improving Electoral Performance Through Citizen Engagement

Institutions & Governance South Africa

This project piloted 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 tested whether African turnout reflects not just direct mobilizing efforts of parties and official electoral organizations but also social pressures to vote. The project used 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.
The platform had six channels through which South Africans could engage in our project, which worked across smartphones, feature phones,standard phones, and web users. Using these channels, the project sought to reach as many an as representative of the South African population as possible. The project was run as a campaign called “Voting is Power: Voice” (VIP:Voice) with Livity Africa, who has broad experience in engaging citizens, especially the youth, in various social issues. It evaluated uptake and engagement experimentally. The team found mobile strategies allowed for high absolute numbers but low percentage of long-term uptake and engagement by citizens.

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