2023 Nigerian Elections: Innovation, Transparency, and Voter Impact

The 2023 Nigerian elections were a significant moment for the country’s democracy, marked by innovation, transparency, and an unprecedented third-party candidacy. As voters held their breath on February 25th, hoping for their voices to be heard, the emergence of a third-party candidate, Peter Obi of the Labour Party, took everyone by surprise, generating excitement and anticipation for Nigeria’s democratic future.

Despite several electoral issues, such as ballot box snatching and alleged electoral fraud, many citizens showed renewed hope and commitment to enforcing transparency and innovation. One of the primary issues was that experiences at certain polling stations did not match the stories being told afterwards, prompting a need for credible election reporting.

Innovating Around Elections

As technology advances, it’s changing electoral processes globally. Crowdsourced monitoring is becoming more popular, where regular citizens can use social media, apps, and websites to report on things like voter fraud and other issues. This means more people can be involved in monitoring elections, alongside the official observers. But, it’s important to keep in mind that there’s a risk of fake news being spread, as there’s not always regulation on the information being shared.

Private individuals and organisations, such as Stears and Collate Africa, have worked to improve voter-candidate interactions and address opaque electoral practices. As Joachim MacEbong of Stears noted, “After decades of adapting to a Bring Your Own Infrastructure (BYOI) model across Nigeria—providing your own water, electricity and security—Nigerians have now begun collating their own election results.”*

Using crowdsourcing to improve elections monitoring

At Retna, we believe in empowering citizens to take ownership of the narratives surrounding our continent, including the democratic process. In response to the well documented challenges historically faced during Nigerian elections, we developed the Retna Elections platform

The platform allows citizens to upload images and descriptions of events and updates in real-time, creating a reliable and accessible media library that highlights both the positive and negative aspects of Nigeria’s democracy.

To enhance the platform’s usability, users can filter posts by date, state, local government area, and polling unit. This feature allows for easier navigation and access to information specific to the user’s needs. The platform is designed to solve for the proliferation of fake news on social platforms like Twitter in recent years and provide a credible source of crowdsourced election tracking.

Launch Day

On the morning of March 18th, we finally launched the Retna Elections platform, and little did we know we were in for a surprise! We received over 200 uploads from all 36 states of Nigeria, as well as the Federal Capital territory, Abuja, within hours of launching. 

From pictures of ballot sheets to images of alleged ballot snatchers, the response was incredible! It’s remarkable to think that we ideated and developed this product in less than two weeks, and here it was making a significant impact.

We were thrilled to see that even prominent influencers on social media gave us favourable shoutouts.

But that’s not all. We also partnered with StoryMi, an impact-led media training organisation, to get accredited photojournalists to share their images of the elections. This partnership further strengthened our mission to provide a reliable source of truth.

This launch day proved that platforms like Retna Elections, Stears Elections, Collate Africa, and others empower individuals, community groups, governments, activists, and organisations to rapidly collect, manage, and analyse crowdsourced election information, serving as powerful tools for creating more credible, free and fair elections. We’re excited to see how these initiatives will continue to shape the future of elections in Nigeria and beyond.

The Future 

As we look towards the future, Retna Elections is continuously expanding the types of data it can collect, including videos, to improve its ability to monitor, analyse, and visualise elections. The platform is unbiased and doesn’t feature any advertising, political or otherwise. Our goal is to become a reliable source of truth for years to come, not just for the 2023 general elections but also for subsequent election cycles in Nigeria and other African countries.

By prioritising transparency, innovation, and voter empowerment, we can ensure that ordinary citizens’ voices are heard and taken into account. Retna Elections wants the world to see the true outcome of these elections and many more to come, captured from the people’s perspectives on the ground – unfiltered and uncensored – allowing for a more accurate and complete understanding of the election process. 

Continued innovation and transparency are crucial to strengthening democracies across Africa. Despite the challenges and pending petitions at the electoral tribunals, the unprecedented emergence of a third-party candidacy and the voting polity’s commitment to transparency and innovation are positive signs and we hope the 2023 Nigerian elections can go down in history as a turning point for the country’s Fourth Republic, marking a new era of democratic growth and progress.

Platforms like Retna Elections empower individuals, community groups, governments, activists, and organisations to rapidly collect, manage, and analyse crowdsourced election information, serving as powerful tools for creating more credible and fair elections. 

We’re excited to see how these initiatives will continue to shape the future of elections in Nigeria and beyond.

Further Reads- What are Peter Obi and Atiku’s chances at the Presidential Election Tribunal? 

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