The George Washington University has the honor of hosting the Clinton Global Initiative University conference (CGI U) this weekend. Each year, the CGI U conference brings together hundreds of college students who are interested in solving some of the world’s greatest challenges. In order to attend the conference, students must develop and submit a “Commitment to Action,” a specific plan to address one such challenge. This year, four SMPA students, who submitted a proposal to combat election fraud in Kenya, will be right in the middle of the CGI U experience.
Annika Boone (PCM ’15), Austin Donohue (PCM ‘14), Ian Fenger (PCM ‘14), and Sarah Ferris (JMC, ‘14) were enrolled in Professor Steven Livingston’s Introduction to Political Communication course last semester, where they learned about the impact of technology on revolutions and politics. They were so intrigued by the topic, the four students decided to continue researching it through an independent study with Professor Livingston. When they learned about CGI U, the students decided to draft a “Commitment to Action” based on their work. Their plan? To use the social network Ushahidi to monitor the Kenyan elections this summer.
Developed in the aftermath of Kenya's violently disputed 2007 presidential election, which were widely acknowledged to be rigged, Ushahidi is a social media platform designed to “crowdsource” information. The network compiles eyewitness reports of violence or crisis sent via e-mail and text messaging, marking the locations of these incidents on a Google map. Boone, Donohue, Fenger, and Ferris hope to integrate the geo-mapping aspect of Ushahidi into the networks of Facebook and Twitter in order to prevent election fraud and post safe routes to voting sites.
While CGI U does not provide students with funding directly, it does provide them with many networking opportunities. Through CGI U, students are able to meet philanthropists and entrepreneurs who can help them find potential funders for their plans. Thus, the four students will be attending the conference this weekend both to gain insight from expert lecturers and to publicize their project idea to these funders.
Boone, Donohue, Fenger, and Ferris hope to travel to Keyna for the summer in order to monitor the election process in person.