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The electoral process is an ideal and integral part of the democratic process, therefore elections can be considered as a benchmark of democracy. The citizens depend on free and fair exercise of the vote because fundamentally elections have a legitimate purpose and are important for citizens. In this regard the citizens do need information of various sorts to determine their choices. Indeed, the media allow the population for assessments of the activities of government and assist in bringing public concerns and voices into the open by providing a platform for discussion. Openness and transparency in elections is critical, but access to information through a strong and independent mediascape within a society facilitates all aspects of good governance. Therefore when there is nothing to hide and much to improve independent media are like a beacon to the society.

The electoral history of Sri Lankan has been spoiled with many notorious interferences affecting electoral integrity. Currently there are various services for monitoring Members of Parliament, monitoring election violence, and monitoring of polls, but a detailed information on the election process informed by advances in data science is lacking in Sri Lanka. Data analysis may identify large scale fraud in elections, and can help focus detection, monitoring and arrest of fraud. In addition, shortcomings in voter registration may also be brought out. As the quality of the information an individual is able to access will greatly influence his or her ability to participate in the political process, all of this is of particular importance for marginal and vulnerable citizens, expatriates and refugees who have citizenship rights.

“Election” is an infinite topic analyzed from different disciplines, as it has a direct impact not only on politics, but economics, social and legal sphere and also part of international law. Good governance cannot only exist on paper, and the silence of the public makes things worse for themselves. In a recent press conference the commissioner of Elections noted the responsibility of all to ensure the integrity of elections and invited contributions. He also noted that the Department of Elections shall not undertake statistics on the results of elections.

As there is a need for deeper analysis of the elections data from the perspective of the public, we intend to meet a need for data analytics in Sri Lanka, and we have launched an Internet gateway labelled as “Sri Lanka Election Analytics” in view of supporting citizens of Sri Lanka with relevant information, and contributing towards fair elections. We are reachable through our website (http://slelect.net) and accessible in all three languages; twitter account (https://twitter.com/slelect); Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/pages/Sri-Lanka-Election-Analytics/999618176738357?ref=hl) and Mail chimp subscription link (http://eepurl.com/buGd_v).

The work here is undertaken by a multi-disciplinary collective of volunteers and is coordinated by Z.L. Mohamed. Our volunteers and advisors are skilled in data management, statistical analysis, spatial and time series analysis, geographic visualization and IT based delivery mechanisms. Our work is supported by a cast of Sri Lankan data science experts (list of names, titles and affiliations are given in SLElect.Net). Thus we shall remain non-partisan, honest and rigorous in undertaking our analysis; and hope that similarly minded folks shall join us in this enterprise. We have started this work with an immediate focus on the current elections. While contributing insights to question of public importance, we anticipate this work to be educational and motivational for students and others, and hope to cover other areas that are in the public interest.

We believe our work would not only challenge and transform the way of thinking, but would also help to get an opinion on good governance. We are especially keen to have inputs from translators, journalists, programmers, video editors, and social media monitoring experts (Contributions can be sent to slelecta@gmail.com and more details are provided in our website).  We envision that we shall continue to sustain the work after the elections on a lower key and hope that our work and engagement in the long–term shall contribute to fair play.

ZL Mohamed
zilm@mail.com

 

 

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