Elections in Nigeria
Data analysis generated from the Elections DemTool allowed the Nigerian Transition Monitoring Group to independently verify election results and hold officials accountable.
African technology challenges are increasingly being solved by Africans. TimbaObjects, a small and innovative technology firm in Nigeria led by Tim Akinbo, originally developed what has become NDI’s most widely used election data management system, the Elections DemTool, for the 2011 Nigerian polls. TimbaObjects has continued improving and iterating the system; last year NDItech open-sourced the Elections code and created a new DemCloud software-as-a-service platform that has been used today in over a dozen observation programs.
This year, Nigerians again went to the polls to choose their president in a tightly contested election between the incumbent, President Goodluck Jonathan, and retired Major General Muhammadu Buhari. It was a tense time for Nigeria; the rise of Boko Haram, corruption scandals, and crashing oil prices had dramatically ratcheted up the stakes and the dangers around the polls. NDI supported the work of the Transition Monitoring Group (TMG), a Nigerian citizen election observation group conducting a parallel vote tabulation (PVT), an election observation methodology employed by nonpartisan citizen observers to independently verify election results and gather statistically valid and representative nationwide data on an election process. The outcome was a largely peaceful transition of power between the ruling and opposition parties, and technology played a key role.
On election day, TMG’s observation deployed citizen observers to a representative random sample of 1,507 polling units at which there are 849,460 registered voters with sampled polling units in every geopolitical zone, every state and 774 local government areas of the country. Like 2011, the independent collection of credible data on Nigeria’s 2015 electoral process leveraged the Election DemTool. TMG observers used cell phones and standardized checklists to provide near-real time data to the system on key aspects of the voting and counting process, including the opening and closing times for polling stations, presence of appropriate electoral materials, deployment of new biometric authentication technology, adherence to the electoral code, while also enabling impartial citizen observers to independently estimate election results within a margin of error.
Unlike other observation groups in Nigeria that were receiving SMS from observers on one single question, the Elections DemTool enabled TMG to collect data on over 80 individual question per SMS through coded text messages. This allowed TMG to collect and analyze over 125,000 data points on election day.
In 2011, the cost for building an election observation system in Nigeria was $70,000 and took six months to implement. In 2015, the site was running in 15 minutes at virtually no cost. Elections observations are resource intensive efforts, and the reduced technological costs meant that the Nigerian team was able to invest $10,000 into further improvements of the database - now accessible to future elections - with core functionality already taken care of. More importantly, TMG could invest critical time and resources into the more difficult and important work of training observers and organizing a national communication strategy.
TMG’s observation analysis generated by the Elections DemTool verified Nigeria’s Independent National Electoral Commission’s (INEC) official result: Buhari had a clear victory over incumbent Jonathan. TMG was able to verify the official results for the presidential election because of their independent, systematic and representative observation. However, TMG’s Quick Count analysis generated from the Elections DemTool strongly indicated that INEC’s reported turnout was inflated during the collation process in four states of southern Nigeria - and was able to call on INEC to immediately investigate the fraud and evaluate its impact on the elections before announcing official results.