Comelec goes hi-tech in poll info drive

By Reynaldo Santos Jr., Newsbreak

Posted at Nov 14 2009 12:38 PM | Updated as of Nov 14 2009 08:38 PM

Netizens called to spread the word about and

MANILA - The Commission on Elections (Comelec) goes cyber in educating the public about the 2010 automated elections.
Comelec and its machine provider Smartmatic launched on Friday night two websites not only to disseminate information on changes in the voting process, but also to increase the automation’s acceptability with the public.
Comelec spokesperson James Jimenez said the use of the Internet for voter education “is the most efficient way of disseminating information.”
He said it is less costly to put out information on the web, where it stays longer, compared to scheduled print, radio, and TV advertising. “Information has to be available to people all the time.”
Focus on the ballot

The first website, IBA Na Ngayon, is designed to teach the public on how to fill up the modern ballot and how the precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines work. The “information website” aims to project the notion that elections are better with automation.
Instructions and demonstrations are featured in through photos and videos. Video presentations are delivered in English and Filipino versions.
Jimenez said that the focus of the website is “on the ballot, and not so much on the machine.” He explained that the teachers will mainly operate the machines, and voters only need to feed their ballots in the machines.
“What the voters need to be comfortable with and be competent with is how to use the modern ballot,” he said. (Click here to read “Expect multi-colored ballots in 2010)

Other features in the site include downloadable Comelec resolutions and a profile of Smartmatic.
Community site

The second website, Bagong Botante, is a “community website” that involves the public in creating awareness of the automated elections through “interactivity and community building.”
The site incorporates the use of social networking sites like Facebook, Friendster, Tweeter, and Plurk. It and features forums, polls, and comments, and an SMS component to encourage public participation in the discussions and information dissemination.
There also is a section where visitors can buy Bagong Botante items like shirts, mugs, and pins that are either pre-designed or they themselves can design and customize.
According to Maan Tolentino, Smartmatic consultant for social media, they incorporate a sense of “customer engagement” in the site so as to give it a “hip” feel.

Internet usage in the country is still limited in the Philippines, however. A survey by AC Nielsen in 2009 shows that about 28% of 35 million urban population have access to the Internet. Internet usage still proves to be confined to the urban areas.
Comelec and Smartmatic are well aware of this, thus the “offline component” of the information drive. They will be organizing and conducting local meet-ups in public places like malls and restaurants, and continue with their cross-regional roadshows.
Also, according to Ricky Cuenca, voter education website coordinator, they are expecting the population of those with Internet access to relay the information to other people.
The AC Nielsen survey shows that 51% of Internet users visit social networking sites, a key component of the Bagong Botante site.
Cuenca is expecting this small population to help disseminate information on the automated election. “We teach people, and then they teach others. We are just the enabler,” he said. (Newsbreak)