When Palestinians went to the polls in January, nearly every one of the 1,008 polling stations in the West Bank and Gaza had been mapped using Global Positioning System satellite technology. Thanks to a pilot Geographic Information Systems (GIS) project conducted over the past year, NDI created a "smart map" of the West Bank and Gaza that allows users to search, edit and analyze observation information and election results at polling stations throughout the Palestinian territories.
NDI used this information to document voting irregularities such as police officers or campaigners who violated election regulations by operating inside polling stations. The Palestinian Central Election Commission applied the data to produce maps of official polling stations.
NDI is also employing this technology in Serbia and Bangladesh, where digital mapping is helping observer organizations identify constituencies with unusually high turnout rates for particular candidates.
In addition to its usefulness for elections, GIS mapping holds great potential for political organizers. In Serbia, for example, NDI’s digital maps allow political parties to plot their levels of support in precise geographical regions, helping determine where resources should be allocated.
In Bangladesh, political parties plan to use GIS maps to more effectively plan their political outreach ahead of the 2007 parliamentary elections. "This technology is particularly exciting as a tool for parties to connect with citizens," says Ian Schuler, who led the technical implementation of the NDI project in the West Bank and Gaza. "By showing party leaders where they’re strong and where they need to work harder, GIS technology encourages political parties to reach out to people and inspire participation."
Published on Mar. 8, 2006