Telenor Pakistan has introduced the country's first and the world's biggest SMS-based voters' verification system. The service is engaging 85 million voters nationwide.
Developed by the National Database and Registration Authority, the Election Commission of Pakistan and telecom operators, the SMS-based service application facilitates 85 million voters to verify their vote registration and particulars, right at a click of the “send” button on their mobile phones. The service, launched on 29 February, is the first of its kind in the country and believed to be the world’s largest SMS-based voter service.
“With help of the service, mobile phone users including our 28 million customers will be able to easily verify details of their vote by just one SMS. The service resonates with Telenor Pakistan’s mindset of Karo Mumkin – Make it Possible. As part of this mindset, I am happy to say that we were the first mobile company which, right from the start, showed keenness to work with the government on this project of national importance and made it happen,” said Aamer Izhar, Vice President of Corporate Affairs and Security, Telenor Pakistan.
Easy and convenient
All a voter needs to do is to send his or her computerized National identity Card number to a short code provided by the authorities. Within seconds, the voter will subsequently receive an SMS message, confirming his or her registration as well as location (electoral areas) where he or she is registered along with serial number in electoral rolls. Apart from 50,000 physical display centres of preliminary electoral rolls for verification, the service comes as a convenient choice for voters to verify their details without having to go to the display centres. The initiative is expected to increase voting percentage in Pakistan and minimise the possibility of errors in the Final Electoral Rolls.
Over 100 million mobile phone users
The service is made possible due to the growing mobile subscriptions in Pakistan. At year-end 2011, Pakistan became the world’s tenth largest mobile market with around 113 million mobile subscribers. Over 70 % of the population reportedly have regular access to a mobile phone through one means or another.
A leading SMS-generating country
The use of SMS is common in Pakistan across phone owners of all demographics, thanks to low tariffs and affordable handsets. Beginning from interactions among subscribers themselves, SMS is now enabling wide-ranging interactions to take place such as that between mobile phone subscribers and government, businesses, and financial institutions in the form of mobile banking.
“It is not surprising then that Pakistan generated over 175 billion SMS in 2010, making it one of the top five SMS-generating countries of the Asia-Pacific region,” added Aamer.
SMS as communications tool for social work
With more people having access to mobile services, SMS has emerged as one of the most used and cost efficient communications tools for social and humanitarian work as it can reach out to a lot of people especially those in rural areas where fixed line infrastructures are still limited.
“In Pakistan, donations can be sent easily via SMS to help in social work; information can be provided quickly and easily following a disaster about sources of relief goods and safety measures that need to be taken by those affected; employees can be provided timely updates on security and traffic routes,” he said.
“Shared literacy” practices help
Although literacy rates in Pakistan present a barrier, a survey, conducted by LIRNEasia in 2009, found that it is common for illiterate phone users to ask literate relatives and friends to read text messages to them, and sometimes to write text messages for them as well. That phones are very commonly used by multiple individuals makes such “shared literacy” practices a fact of everyday life.