A host of websites creating awareness among voters and giving poll information have come up recently

THE 2009 LOK SABHA ELECTIONS will go down in history as the one when a host of organisations used technology to create voter awareness.

Websites like IndiaVoting.com, VoteMatters.com, Indian-Elections.com, IndiaNumbers.com, Jaagore.com etc are cases in point. Even web giants Google and Yahoo have chipped in with dedicated portals for the elections. The sheer volume of information from these websites is testimony to the man-hours and monetary investment behind them with apparently no direct tangible financial return on investments.

Progress in the IT field has thrown up many inventions between the last Lok Sabha elections, in 2004, and now, and these are now being employed by websites. The awareness creation that is now happening is on a scale that Indian elections have not seen before.

“I have seen three US presidential elections and the use of Internet for awareness. Voting by net-savvy youth and professionals has often changed the direction of expected results in the US,” said Philadelphia based IT entrepreneur Mandar Joglekar, who started VoteMatters.com, which also provides information about Indian elections. The website provides statistics on all general elections in the past along with profiles of candidates for the current elections. It also allows virtual voting among the contesting candidates.

“A 20-member team worked on this website for three months. This is a non-sponsored, ad-free portal and we only want to create awareness about voting, in the hope that it will make a positive impact,” Mr Joglekar said. VoteMatters will also focus on assembly, municipal and gram panchayat elections.

Joining Mr Joglekar is Ankur Jain, a California based IT professional, who has started IndiaNumbers.com, that aims to provide statistical data about the general elections. Delhi resident Shashi Narain owns and maintains Indian-Elections.com, which also has elaborate information. Both Mr Jain and Mr Narain could not be contacted.

Tata Tea and Insite Digital are among the corporates chipping in to create voter awareness. Tata Tea’s website jaagore.com, created in 2007, assisted in new voter registrations for the current polls. Insite Digital, a digital marketing company, recently launched IndiaVoting.com, an edutainment portal on Indian politics, providing quiz, cartoons and social networking groups. The company has tied up with the Kerala Cartoon Association and the Indian Institute of Cartoonists for designing the cartoons. “We created this site in December and around 75,000 man-hours has gone into it. We plan to launch Marathi and Hindi sites ahead of the Maharashtra assembly elections later in the year,” managing director Amit Tripathy said. Sanjay Rammoorthy, the political editor of the portal, said: “We will reach out to around a million voters through an outreach programme Vote Yatra, which will travel to more than 100 constituencies. It will use a combination of quiz shows, magic, mimicry, cartoon shows to create voter awareness.”

Adding to these efforts are Google and Yahoo who have set up dedicated portals for the elections.

Taken From “ The Economic Times” 15 April 2009