Days before the upcoming elections in Kenya, an entrepreneur took a wise step to keep the nation informed. We’re talking about an app that is about to revolutionize the information systems and how voters get news from and follow the election process.
Personal communication is currently dominated by messaging apps like WhatsApp and Telegram, making them very interesting and powerful tools that you can use in various ways. Of course, the main function of these apps is to put people in touch with each other and provide an effective, clean and fast mean of communication.
With their well-established base of users and incredible worldwide reach, it is no wonder that companies have used these apps as tools of communication. But reaching a large number of people on a personal messaging app is only possible with the help of clever, automatic bots.
What Are Bots on Social Media?
Bots are automated algorithms that are programmed to do a certain task. On social media networks, you can find a variety of bots that will generate content, react and interact with real users, and so one. They may or may not be presented as bots, so it is quite possible that an account that you thought is coming from a real person is just an algorithm doing its job.
As with most revolutionary new systems of communication, you can use social media bots good or evil. The definition of a bot is straightforward and simple, but what can be done with it can range from functional applications like updating the news feed to deceiving strategies that might trick you into trusting a bot that is only hunting for your credit card information.
George Waweru and The Social Media Bots
George Waweru is a Kenyan developer that thought of a very useful and clever way of applying the advantages of social media bots. With elections coming very soon in Kenya, he has developed a Telegram bot that can perform fast and reliable election polls all over the country.
According to Tuko.co.ke, Kenyan elections are dominated by numerous stereotypes, making it difficult for market research companies to understand the typical voter profile accurately.
Another problem is that election polls have been long dominated by market research companies like Ipsos Synovate and Infotrak that collect data through computer-assisted personal interviews. That means that a lot of people have to be reached face-to-face. This polling method is expensive and time-consuming and, of course, it has a certain margin of error. For this year’s elections in Kenya, the two mentioned companies have already provided contradictory results.
So How Does Waweru’s Telegram Bot Make Polling Better?
The first big advantage that George Waweru’s Telegram polling bot has is the exponentially lower cost and a significantly reduced amount of time. Classic data collecting methods involve traveling, operators that carry out the interviews, logistics to centralize the data and other smaller expenses. The Telegram polling bot eliminated all these human resource-related costs and only needs the personal communication platform to do its job.
It also makes things easier for the respondents, encouraging them to participate in the polls. Some people might be intimidated or manifest mistrust when being approached by a human interview operator. Other people just don’t want to give out their political views to a stranger, face-to-face. Anonymity is very important to a lot of respondents, and the classic methodology only provides it in connection to the company itself. But talking to a real person might deter respondents to trust the privacy engagement that data collection companies have.
George Waweru explained that his election poll bots guarantee the privacy and anonymity of their respondents by identifying them through their Telegram usernames and not their phone numbers. That way, the real identities of the users remain undisclosed.
What Does the Election Bot Provide for Its Users?
George has developed one bot for each county in Kenya, the number of his bots reaching 96. Some popular constituencies are included as well for relevant results, so you can also find separate poll bots for the Makadara, Westlands or Starehe constituencies.
The bots use actual data from the IEBC (the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission) and provide options for different election positions: presidential, senatorial, and others.
To participate in the poll, you must be a Telegram user, then find your county’s election bot on the app. To search your county bot, use the county or constituency name with “2017bot” appended to it. You can check here a full list of the bots to make sure you are searching for the right one.
The bot is very simple and intuitive to use, as it provides clear lists and instructions for each election phase. You simply have to push a few buttons and follow the instructions, and the bot tells you what to do next. You can also choose not to participate – immediately or at all – in the Telegram election poll and just see the real time results.
From a user’s point of view, election bots are much friendlier and relatable than the classic face-to-face interview polls. The interface is easy to use and protects the user privacy. The results are easy to read and very easy to share with other users, even users from other platforms. That encourages participating to the poll and gives the respondents an immediate result of their action. A very nice addition to George’s election bot is the possibility to share messages of peace and unity in the context of elections.
What Does He Plan on Doing with This in the Future?
For now, George’s election bots have reached about 1000 users. The main pollsters – Ipsos and Infotrak – have reached between 4000 and 5000 users so far, but the bot’s numbers are impressive, considering it is the first testing in a real election scenario and it is still a new thing.
George is optimistic about how his bots can change the future of election polling, and he wants to get even further and use the collected data to target the right people in political campaigns.
This initiative is a great way of discussing the future of polling and, in an extended way, the way in which companies or institutions will be able to reach their public in a fast and effective way.