Civic Technology, by harnessing big data and analysis, is creating powerful political campaigns with tailored communications, without which modern-day elections are impossible.
Fremont, CA: There are no elections without civic technology today. The digital tools used by local governments to interact with their citizens are used extensively in election campaigns.
The United States presidential elections of 2012 showed us its capabilities for the first time. The result: Barack Obama won the elections. Campaigners even focus on door to door efforts digitally. These tools are now at the center of the overall campaign strategy. Let's take a look at how civic tech tools help with election campaigns.
The initial aim of civic tech tools is to mobilize communities, communicate with citizens, get them organized, and hear their voices. They can help build efficient internal processes.
Platforms like Actionkit give ready-made tools such as email templates, fundraising processes, among other campaigns. Rally.org can organize fundraising in just a few clicks. CitizenLab enables parties to automatically organize contacts into various groups to communicate in a tailored way.
Local leaders and activists want their voice to be heard, and hence, they can be consulted using online votes, and be given opportunities to the extent of meeting candidates themselves.
Data collection and targeting
As much as big data is a part of contemporary digital businesses, elections have hugely capitalized on them. Companies like Cambridge Analytica can predict voting patterns accurately using personal data collected online. Social media enables parties to send voters targeted messages that influence their decisions, based on the data collected.
Thanks to Obama’s campaign team, as they created these techniques back in 2012. They are a lot more powerful now. They were active during the Brexit campaign, 2016 US presidential elections, and the 2019 general elections in India, where Narendra Modi once again rose to become the Prime Minister.
These campaigns also raised doubts about how personal data is used. Cambridge Analytica was shut down after a series of scandals.
However, companies like Callhub and Acronym make these techniques transparent. But these are expensive and complicated to implement without the right skills. It is also a challenge to campaign teams with experts as there will be limited time.
Theoretically, data collection happens on a voluntary basis. Candidates go to citizens to gather creative ideas for a political program, even from those who stay away from town hall meetings and assemblies. Citizens’ expectations and priorities are understood here, in accordance with their geography and demography.
Such real-time inputs aid policy decisions keeping specific groups in mind, such as senior citizens of a region having sentiment for public transportation and parents’ priority for green spaces. Civic tech tools automate this process, which also increases transparency and trust levels.
Civic tech is here to stay with long-lasting political impact. However, personal information can manipulate public opinion too. The responsibility of this lies with the electors.