MyCandidate is a web-based application that helped South African voters see which candidates were contesting in their ward for the 2021 Local Government Elections. This information was scraped from PDFs and had never been made so accessible before.
Leading up to the 2021 municipal elections, there were a lot of conversations on social media with citizens sharing their frustrations around a lack of information on the candidates running for their ward. Despite the short turnaround time of two weeks, the OCL team decided to fill this gap to make this data more easily accessible.
A web app was custom built by the OCL team. MyCandidate has a basic web frontend that allows users to input their address. Using geolocation, the app is able to determine what ward users fall into and then apply the ward candidate details. The name, age and political party they are representing are listed, along with all the wards in which the candidate is running. A Google search link was then attached to the candidate names so that users can read more about the candidates’ backgrounds and experience.
MyCandidate was launched very quickly and the call was put out on Twitter for users to test the app and give feedback. This feedback was incorporated to fix any issues and improve its overall usability. A blog post about the voting was written to explain the way local elections work and what the different ballots voters receive represent, and a link to this was included on the application.
There was an overwhelmingly positive response and MyCandidate was utilised by 118,000 unique users over a period of 10 days leading up to the election. There were a lot of conversations and debate generated both on social media in the media, with MyCandidate trending on Twitter over this period. The discussions on this and greater civic engagement around elections is a key step towards greater accountability and functioning of democracy.
This technology has the potential to be replicated in other countries, particularly across Africa, to improve citizens’ access to information that empowers them.
There is also an opportunity to create a similar application that monitors and tracks councillors’ contributions to their ward in order to hold local representatives to account.