The United States Institute of Peace
Fig. 1. Courtesy of USIP, 2014.

The United States Institute of Peace released a brief PakVotes: A Social Media Experiment in Elections Monitoring authored by Nadia Naviwala. The report analyzes the effectiveness of PakVotes, an experimental project run by a Pakistani NGO and supported by USIP, that brought social media platforms together with a network of reporters to track violence during Pakistan’s 2013 elections.

About the Report

During Pakistan's May 2013 general elections and by-elections three months later, USIP supported an experiment called PakVotes, designed by the Pakistani nongovernmental organization Bytes for All (B4A) to increase the flow of information from "information dark" areas through a network of social media reporters. Information darkness referred to districts of Pakistan that are relatively remote, offline, conflict-prone and do not receive regular coverage by mainstream media. The pilot project was designed to correct for commonly identified vulnerabilities of social media reporting during major national events, particularly elections. This Peace Brief assesses the PakVotes experiment and suggests how it might provide a model for using social media to diversify and improve the quality of information around major national events. Nadia Naviwala is USIP's country representative for Pakistan. She leads USIP's Peace Innovations Fund for Pakistan and peaceful elections programming.

Summary

- PakVotes, a pilot project supported by the U.S. Institute of Peace (USIP), used social media platforms and a network of reporters located in areas outside of major cities in Pakistan to track violence during the 2013 elections.

- The project offers lessons that could guide future efforts to use social media to record and publicize conflicts and the use of violence during elections and other major events.

- The hashtag #PakVotes trended for several days around elections, serving as a popular alternative news source to the mainstream media, which was not as diverse in its geographic coverage, sources or story types.

About the Author

Nadia Naviwala is USIP's country representative for Pakistan. Nadia manages USIP's Peace Innovations Fund for Pakistan and oversees all USIP-supported activities in country. Prior to joining USIP, Nadia studied how foreign assistance can better support civil society in Pakistan and worked with The Citizens Foundation in Karachi. She has also served as Pakistan Desk Officer at USAID and a Legislative Aide on National Security for Senator Jim Webb. She holds a Masters in Public Policy degree from Harvard Kennedy School, where she was an International and Global Affairs Fellow at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, a Public Service Fellow, and an associate with the Carr Center Program on State-Building and Human Rights in Afghanistan and Pakistan. She holds a B.S. in Foreign Service from Georgetown University.

Download and read the full report here.