"Storytellers are a threat. They threaten all champions of control, they frighten usurpers of the right-to-freedom of the human spirit - in state, in church or mosque, in party congress, in the university or wherever."

Chinua Achebe

Case Study (Digital Development & Data Discovery): Niger Delta Election Reporting 2019
Elections in the Niger Delta are a notoriously messy affair. The beating crude heart of Nigerian oil politics; dysfunctional, militant and emotional... demo-crazy.

Four years ago the 2015 elections significantly changed Niger Delta patronage dynamics. Patronage networks redistributed to a new equilibrium as two-party politics took hold for the first time since the onset of democracy in 1999. As candidates jostled for nomination, patronage flowed through competing networks lighting the fuse for a powder-keg 2019 election.

In preparation for this SDN, a Niger Delta focussed human rights organisation, trained 80 election observers to be deployed across three states, Bayelsa, Delta and Rivers as part of an election observation project to dig deep into the dynamics and proactively contribute to less fraudulent and violent elections. One of the key design challenges was how to collate, coordinate and centralise observer information to facilitate analysis and dissemination efficiently and effectively.

Working in partnership, Noctis and On Our Radar provided a solution by deploying a customised version of On Our Radar's Radius software to enable observers to send and receive messages in a safe and anonymous way in order to confidently report on the elections.

On Our Radar, a non-profit communications agency for unheard communities, works collaboratively to co-create solutions that tackle the lack of agency, connectivity or resources that prevents marginalised communities from sharing their knowledge and concerns. They specialise in using appropriate technology to develop solutions which bridge the communications gaps between unheard communities, who hold insight into some of the world's most complex issues, and influential audiences.

Designed with vulnerable and marginalised communities at its centre, Radius is an incredibly powerful insight technology, developed as a tool to amplify insight and the realities of a community's lived experience. It is deployed as a consolidated set of cloud-based tools and services that centralise two-way messaging, training & mentoring, community building, insight management & analysis and monitoring & safeguarding. Using these tools, communities can use any mobile handset to access communications training, report on local and personal news and receive rolling guidance and feedback using SMS, voice, or chat-apps, without the need for credit or data.

The customised version of Radius utilised a bespoke structured communication flow that enabled election observers to converse with the system, extracting key incident information to facilitate high quality reporting. Observer reports were automatically consolidated from these messages and visualised in real-time through a user-friendly dashboard that required limited browser resources for use in regions where connectivity is unstable, while being accessible anywhere in the world with an internet connection.

The dashboard enabled project analysts to centralise, coordinate and collate observer communication data (text, voice, image, video and geo-location), and tag information so that election reports could be easily structured into a central database while facilitating direct and group communication for clarification, verification and follow-up of incident reports. Once the reports were validated the data was exported and analysed using Tableau to produce weekly in-depth insights into election trends and dynamics as they emerged. All election insights and reports can be found here at SDN's dedicated election hub.
The Radius platform was a major part of our 2019 election observation mission. The Niger Delta is a very difficult context in which to gather information, but Radius enabled us to receive multiple reports from different sources across the region in real time. Having automated, centralised access to these made it particularly easy to export and analyse the data to try and work out what was going on, where, and to feed that information to those in a position to do something about it." (Kevin McCann - SDN Research and Policy Officer)
Just over 5,000 messages were received from election observers and consolidated into 568 individual election reports during the period November 2018 to March 2019 across Bayelsa, Delta and Rivers States. Noctis performed a high-level analysis of SDN's final dataset using the Tableau software package to analyse incident reports by date, geography and electoral risk factor during the election period.

The majority (74%) of incidents were reported after Christmas in the direct lead up and immediate aftermath of the elections. Christmas can be a relatively quiet period around elections as those living in cities take time off to travel back to their families and communities.

Total election incident reports: Month total (LHS) Cumulative total (RHS)

Rivers State reported 40% of all incidents while 34% and 26% occurred in Delta and Bayelsa States respectively.

Total incident reports by State (LHS) and Local Government Area (RHS)

Incidences around electoral preparations, procedures and standards represented 41% of total reports by election observers. More worryingly 23% of reports indicated incidences of violence. There were 115 fatalities reported with 60% of all fatalities occurring in just three Local Government Areas: Port Harcourt (Rivers State, 41 fatalities), Uvwie (Delta State, 20 fatalities) and Yenagoa (Bayelsa State, 8 fatalities).

Total incident reports by electoral risk (LHS)
Violence hotspots: Fatality numbers by Local Government Area (RHS)

This was a fascinating project working collaboratively with two organisations dedicated to enabling citizens to safely and confidently report on incidences around the election period.

We have a huge amount of respect for all of the election observers who reported tirelessly throughout the elections, often at great personal risk. Their dedication inspires and empowers a bold new generation of people towards a better future... we were proud to be part of this.
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