Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Following The Month-long Elections In India (Link List)

Beginning tomorrow, India is going to take a month(!) to decide the new composition of its Parliament, the Lok Sabha. 700 million voters will decide on about 500 seats in a series of elections that begin on April 16 and end on May 16, 2009.

We spend an awful lot of time in this country talking/worrying about China but for my money, the real player over the next 20 years is going to be India. Whether you agree with that assessment or not, India is definitely going to be important and watching the Indian political process unfold and estimating the future trajectory of India's policies based on the results makes a good bit of sense.

It is going to be a complex operation, though, and, in the past, these votes were marred with all sorts of bribery and other shenanigans. Fortunately, there are a number of online tools that will allow Indians to more actively take part in (and the rest of the world to watch) these elections.

I would start with the Wikipedia article on the elections. It provides a nice overview with a massive number of links and other data. Particularly interesting is the discussion tab on the Wikipedia page. It gives some insight into a number of the behind-the-scenes issues and arguments with respect to this election. Another good general overview comes from the BBC in their special report on the 2009 elections.

The University of Maryland's (Baltimore County) Ebiquity Research Group has also put together a very nice website that will track news and other data emerging from the elections as they take place. Likewise, the blog Google Maps Mania points to a joint Hindustan Times/Google effort to track the elections as well.

Google Maps Mania also points to my personal favorite: Vote Report India. Using the innovative Ushahidi platform, Vote Report India will allow people all over India to email, text, tweet or otherwise report violations of India's electoral code. The site is already active and already getting hits (See image below for recent reports of violence).

This tool has the potential to provide an unparalled transparency to the electoral process. While it will inevitably have many of the flaws of any "tip" line, it also holds out the promise of some really interesting HUMINT on the elections.

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