Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Google dips into CSR budget, ties up with Election Commission for voters’ registration

The Election Commission (EC) has  entered a key partnership with US-based internet giant, Google, to help it manage online voter registration and facilitation services ahead of the democratic exercise. Over the next six months, Google will offer EC its resources, including its search engine, to enable voters to check their enrollment status online and locate their polling station, complete with directions using Google Maps.

The "arrangement" between EC and Google is learnt to have been clinched late this month, and is expected to be "operational" by the second week of January. As part of the partnership, Google will put its worldwide network and resources at the Commission's disposal until June 2014 to help it manage online registration of new voters and allow the enrolled ones to check the address at which they are registered, and get directions to the polling station. With the new rolls with reference to January 1, 2014, slated to be out by January 6, the voters' queries on the Commission website are likely to be managed by Google starting from the second week of January.

Google will not charge the EC for these services, estimated to cost $50,000 (over Rs 30 lakh), and fund the same from its corporate social responsibility (CSR) budget.

"The EC is going ahead with the use of hi-tech and professional expertise to manage online enrolment of voters and search a voter's name in electoral rolls along with the polling station. "So, all that one needs to do now is to type his name/EPIC no and address on the Google Search engine, which will promptly generate results matching the voters' name with his assembly/Lok Sabha constituency, and pinpointing the location of his polling station...in fact, Google Maps will give exact directions to the voter on how to get to the correct polling station on the polling day," explained a senior EC official.

Google is offering similar services across 100 countries as part of its CSR obligations. The American firm had approached the EC some time ago to offer its expertise for better management of online services on the Commission's website, particularly voter enrolment and facilitation. The Commission, which felt that the management of its online interface with the voters left much scope for improvement, welcomed the offer from the "global leader" and the two signed on the dotted line recently.

EC is also exploring the option of using the worldwide network and servers of Google for dissemination of results for the 2014 general election likely to be held in May. EC had tied up with US-based IT firm Akamai for putting out results for the recent assembly polls in five states. The use of 272 servers of Akamai across the world to disseminate the results, as against barely two servers in use during the 2009 Lok Sabha poll, ensured that the ECI website could handle the millions of hits it received per minute on the counting day (December 8).

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