This year will be one with new highs for the Internet in Africa and the continent will witness its citizens drive democracy which is expected to be the dominant themes of 2015 through the online world. According to a social media survey conducted earlier this year by a Think Tank based in Pretoria South Africa, it was noted that Nigeria’s presidential election this month will bear testament to digital democracy. By definition, “Digital democracy is the ability for political parties, candidates, and voters to be able to talk with each other in real-time through social media.” A top market for Twitter in Africa, Nigeria has so far unleashed more than 10 million tweets related to the elections as compared to Tanzania’s 890,000 election-related tweets, though the latter’s Presidential and parliamentary elections are scheduled to take place in October this year. Tanzania fall in the top 10 main markets for the micro-blogging platform in Africa according to the latest data.In Nigeria’s this month election, crowdsourcing information online has been the highlight so far, as demonstrated through the elections campaigns as well.
Communities and volunteers have gathered online and are following up by physical meet-ups. The Internet has truly helped democracy to materialize in Nigeria.Google Nigeria data shows that in comparison with the previous elections, the amount of election-relates searches went up by approximately 52 percent.Through the use of memes and other creative content, Nigerians have proved that they were “content creators with awesome potential.This means that Nigerian government could continue harnessing the power of social media as a place to drive efficiencies within the government even after elections.Besides live updates and public discussions, the government could use the platform to spread important information, such as emergency alerts such as terror attacks, flooding, disease outbreaks etc.Through my experience in several countries, I do know that Twitter data can also be used to paint a picture of the wisdom of the crowd.African governments could utilize online tools, from video calls to chatrooms, to establish two-way communication with citizens. Also, they can use this to get input from people and leaders should engage with people to generate ideas.
Social media campaigns in Nigeria has reflected the importance of first-time voters, which would remain as a powerhouse even in the next elections given Nigeria’s youthful demographics.In Tanzania and Uganda which will hold election in February 2016, social media campaigns are courting younger voters and is a grand strategy shared by all those campaigning. Mentions and other related content on the Nigerian elections has seen two-thirds of the interaction come from people aged 24 years and younger.The younger people earlier did not feel connected with politicians and now have an opinion and are serious about it. Social media companies are also learning the importance of localization and knowing the pulse of the markets in Africa.Experts and industry watchers in Africa I’ve spoken to, are expecting a positive year because the African Internet space is glowing brighter, and attracting eyes from across the World.And as the Internet industry grows, the 4G technology availability would prove to be essential for digital democracy, because without good, reliable and fast access, growth would be hampered.