The International Institute for Journalism, based in Ghana, has launched the first ever elections project for Malawi. The president of the institute, Kwami Ahiabenu, says it's designed to promote the use of Information and Communication Technology tools (ICTs) in generating election information. "For any elections, people … want to know how they can participate effectively in the democratic process. We believe that [by] using … ICTs, we can actually help the flow of information, and [provide] knowledgeable elections both on-line and off-line," he says.
Ahiabenu says the project will train senior editors, journalists and reporters and develop and distribute an election guide for the media. It will also provide election coverage using SMS (Short Message Service) text messaging and an Online Portal (www.africanelections.org/malawi).
He says mobile phone users in Malawi will be able to access election news updates and certified results through a short code service number (2009) provided by local mobile phone network provider Telekoms Network Malawi (TNM). Observers can also subscribe to e-mail newsfeeds.
The coordinator of the project in Malawi, Victor Kaonga, says it will open Malawi's electoral process to the outside world. "I think generally the world is now looking at how Malawi will perform at this election. The project will contribute towards sharing of information and … to the generation of information here in Malawi. I guess the world will be monitoring whatever is happening and will [help improve democracy in the country and] also the democracy of the Internet." he says.
The Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa is funding the project, which has also been launched in Ghana, Ivory Coast and Guinea.