Indonesian expatriate Ainun Najib was at home in Singapore with the flu when his countrymen went to the polls to cast their votes in Indonesia’s 2014 presidential election. It had been a vitriolic campaign between political outsider Joko Widodo, commonly known as Jokowi, and former general Prabowo Subainto.

With a sick day from his tech job, he for once had time to follow the news unfolding 1,300 kilometers away. But he was not happy with what he saw. As the vote count rolled in, both contenders declared victory. To Indonesians like Najib, it was a deeply frustrating outcome.

“After so many months of this nation being polarized, each side was so hostile, I just wanted to get this over with,” Najib tells TIME. “That’s what I was really, really hoping to see, and instead I was seeing prolonged conflict.”

So Najib and several friends sprang to action. They set up a group called Kawal Pemilu, or Guard the Election, to independently verify the vote count. They put out a call on Facebook for volunteers to help, and had 700 recruits within a matter of hours. Using a combination of raw data released by the election commission and cross-checked data from polling stations, the team began publishing updated vote counts every 10 minutes.

Their work was a hit with Indonesians who were seeking clarity on the results. The organization provided quick updates, pacifying Indonesians who had to wait two weeks for the country’s electoral commission to announce the official winner. The extensive data published by Kawal Pemilu was also the first time that social media and technology played an important role in monitoring the election process.

“It was an effort to give transparency, to shed some light on what was really the result of the election because a lot of confusion and doubt had been spread,” said Najib.

That effort appears to have worked. Since the 2014 election, Kawal Pemilu has been approached by several local election officials thanking them for their work.

“The public scrutiny and the public transparency has allowed them to say no to people who attempted to either bribe them or coerce them into changing the results. Because they say ‘Hey its pointless, even if i change it for you, its all out there, it’s already published by Kawal Pemilu,’” Najib say.

Now Najib and his online team are gearing up to monitor Indonesia’s current election, which with approximately …read more

Source:: Time – World


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Social Media Gets a Bad Rap in Elections, But Activists In Indonesia Are Using It to Boost Transparency

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