As the buildup to the 2023 general elections in Nigeria gathers momentum, a Fintech company, Wardchat, has introduced a non-partisan social network aimed at ending voting apathy and helping Nigerians make informed electoral choices.
The developers told PREMIUM TIMES that they purposely built the network with Nigeria’s electoral structure covering 36 states and the FCT, 774 local governments, 8,000 wards, and over 176,000 polling units in mind.
Although released just in time for the general election, which is ten months away, Kunle Lawal, Country Lead, Wardchat, said they created the platform with a long-term vision.
“We are happy this is coming at the right time for the 2023 elections for a peek into what the product can potentially become,” said Mr Lawal.
“We do not want to change the way people vote. Instead, we want to facilitate and create relationships among voters that will enable them to influence each other and collaborate for more informed electoral choices.”
Mr Lawal said developing rapport and trust among voters at the ward level is a critical aspect of persuasion to end voter apathy and unfriendly debates in the country’s electoral space.
“Therefore, we plan to connect voters from the same polling unit, ward, local government, and state using the smallest Electoral unit as a determinant during registration.”
He said the significant insight that informed the app’s development was the realisation that every polling unit is a community of voters that should connect and interact more as voters, no matter how dispersed they may be.
The developers also said Wardchat creates connections by matching users’ electoral profiles, helping to foster engagement among voters that lead to better electoral outcomes, targeted audience conversations, and ward-centric conversations.
Because fraud, violence, and systemic failings often mar Nigerian elections, the developers said they plan to deploy a feature to allow users to report results from their polling units.
They say they will collate and report these on a dashboard available for all users of the platform to see.
They added that the plan is to encourage a sizable number of voters to use the app features for incident reporting, election monitoring, voter education, random polling, and political campaigns at no cost to them.
In her presentation on the features of the app, a team member, Faith Ariori, explained that during the app development process, the company realised the need to address some concerns already prevalent in the social media space. Some concerns bordered on data privacy and the protection of users from hate speech and any form of harm.
She added that they also deployed usernames and not full names for sign-ups, so users can remain anonymous if they wish.
‘‘Phone numbers are optional. On the spread of fake news and hate speech, built within the app is a newsfeed of respected, trusted, and reputable online media. We also have flags and blocking mechanisms so users can flag abusive posts,’’ she added.
Mr Lawal said they hope to play in the social media space alongside the likes of Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, and Opera News hub.
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