Youth-designed election app bridges communication gap

Posters of candidates have been put up on lamp posts, vans calling for support flanked by supporters occasionally make rounds in neighbourhoods and the National League for Democracy (NLD) souvenir shop is doing brisk business.

For the 33.5 million Burmese voters who head to the polls on 8 November — many of whom will be first-time voters, choosing from more than 6,000 candidates, is not an easy task.

To help voters, a local software developer have created a smart phone app that provides people with everything they need to know about parties, candidates and even the process of voting.

The MVoter 2015, created by Team Pop Stack, a group of five students from a computer science institute, won an election app contest sponsored by a Rangoon-based technology organisation that encourages social innovation and clinched the opportunity to launch their creation.

Organisers were quoted by local media as saying the app which formally debuted on 4 October was chosen for it’s “simplicity and easy user interface”.

“Many young people are interested in these elections. I hope we can share knowledge and provide facts they need by using this mobile app. Everybody is using mobiles. There is still room for improvement in this app though,” said Phyo Min Thu, 18, one of the app creators.

Around 400 people have downloaded the app which is available for Android and IOS users, and have also provided the creators with feedback on how to improve features.

The numbers are not vast, but voters are finding it useful.

“I only know the candidates who are popular from Facebook. This application introduces other candidates to me. There are many other features such as party profiles, and process of how to vote on the voting day,” said El Myat Khin, 25.

“Previously, I had decided not to go to vote because I thought it would be expensive to go home and no candidates are interesting. I understand clearly now when I used this application. I can see the details of Yangon — each division, each township and the procedure to vote on voting day,” added Rangoon shop owner Ni Ni, 35.

Burma’s historic election in November will see the military-backed ruling party will compete with the ascendant NLD party of Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi in the first free national vote in 25 years.

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“Many people will go and vote because it’s a major occasion for them. Many young voters are voting for the first time in their lives. Many of them don’t have the historical baggage like the older people,” said Zeya Thun, the director of The Voice Weekly, a Burmese language news journal.

The NLD is expected to win the election, which marks a major shift in Burma‘s political landscape, giving a platform to democratic activists shut out of public life during nearly half a century of strict military rule that ended in 2011.

In Burma, the president is chosen from three candidates nominated by the two houses of parliament and the military, which holds a quarter of the seats in the bicameral chamber. The president then forms the government. There is no prime minister.

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