Meet the 'geek squads' bringing transparency to Nigerian election

Story highlights

  • Nigeria's postponed Presidential election is slated to be held on March 28
  • Incumbent Goodluck Jonathan will face-off against former military ruler Muhammadu Buhari
  • Technologists and NGOs are working together to help voters prepare for the election

(CNN)Nigerians go to the polls on March 28 in a tight contest, which is getting extra attention after the original date was rescheduled at the last minute. Many voters will be holding their registration card in one hand, and their mobile in the other -- making democratic history with the help of tech.

In Africa's largest mobile phone market, programs to encourage citizens to get involved in the election have been gaining traction.
"Nigerians are looking for information," says Femi Longe, co-founder of Co-Creation Hub which meshes tech and social issues. "Technology is helping people get involved in the conversation around democracy and elections, which is very important, as the general interest in the air has waned since the voting date was changed."
    As incumbent Goodluck Jonathan prepares to face-off against former military ruler Muhammadu Buhari, Longe and his team have developed TechSQUAD -- a gang of geeks who work on web-projects that help citizens vote.
    Pre-Vote Prep
    One such project is Govote.ng, a popular website that is focused on the registration process -- that's crucial as in Africa's most populous country, with over 170 million citizens, the logistics can be staggering.
    "Most Nigerians have no idea where they are registered," explains Longe. "We want to simplify the entire election process, [and] make it responsive to users."
    People log on to the site to see whether they are registered with the Nigeria Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and, if not, they can find out how and where to register. TechSQUAD says approximately 10,000 people visit the site each day.
    Finger's Influence
    Other squads concentrate on the next step.
    Youth charity YIAGA has set up ThumbPower which gets Nigerians to "use your thumb wisely."
    Sections like "Who can vote" and "Where and When" set out the process in language anyone can understand. Interactive maps connect users to local activists and the countdown clock is a reminder that the new elections date is approaching fast.
    "The rescheduling of the election ... did affect the level of voter enthusiasm," explains YIAGA Program Manager, Cynthia Mbamalu. "While there are certain concerns about security and the guarantee of free, fair and credible elections, the interest in this election is founded on the belief that this time votes will count."