While the results of this year’s Russian presidential elections don’t hint at any major changes in national policy, they did have at least some positive impact already.
Fraud has been the buzzword since the Russian legislative elections, and much progress has been done during the last three months. One of the major changes has been the installation of web cameras at all polling stations, transmitting the event in real-time, online, for anyone to see.
Some of the far-away villages did not have a phone line, let alone internet connection, and decisions had to be made as to how to get all of the 91,000 polling stations online. The total cost of camera installation and operation was over 400 million US dollars.
Thousands of kilometers of optical cables were laid across the country, but many regions were still enjoying sub-freezing point temperatures, which would not allow the installation of this technology. In these cases, satellite connection was used instead.
Every electoral station had at least two cameras monitoring its premises, each connected to a relay station in a high-security safe, streaming the video to the world. There was a bandwidth limit on how many people can observe a single polling station at the same time, but one could freely switch between locations across the country.
The Web Elections 2012 web site was equally well done, with a nice, functional user interface, polling station bookmarking, social media login & sharing, and all kinds of other features. The map is provided by Yandex, and a lot was sourced through public contests, including the logo and ideas for future use of the infrastructure.
Russia is one of the first countries to implement such a system and urges the European Union and the US to do the same. The EU responded positively to the proposal, but stated that the project would be overly expensive, way above the budget member states can provide.
This year’s presidential elections were praised as the most transparent in Russian history. Vladimir Churov, Chairman of the Central Election Commission of Russia, went as far as to say that if the US does no adapt web-cam monitoring, their upcoming presidential elections cannot be considered legit.
Beyond the short-term benefits of fraud prevention, these improvements are expected to have a larger positive impact of the lives of many a Russian. The cameras will stay in use in schools and hospitals, as will the internet connection available for the very first time in some of the smaller villages.
It was truly exciting to observe the different parts of Russia in real-time, to see the different people across the country voting for their preferred candidate, acting for a common cause of us all... or just partying, moon walking, and going viral on the internet.
Over 500 years worth of video has been recorded during the presidential elections alone—have you seen any of it? Is your country considering anything similar?