Sri Lanka Parliamentary Election 2015: How did Social Media make a difference?

A Popular Election Meme created by Hashtag Generation, Sri Lanka

A Popular Election Meme created by Hashtag Generation, Sri Lanka

“Every citizen – including activists and academics — can play a part in shaping the future of our democracy. In this, technology is not the only key driver; what matters even more is the strategic use of our imagination and determination.

“We may not yet have all the detailed answers of our digital future, but one thing is clear. In 2015, we the people of Sri Lanka embarked on a progressive digitalization of our politics and governance.

“It is going to be a bumpy road – be forewarned — but there is no turning back.”

These are the closing paras of a long format essay I have just written on the role of social media in the recently concluded Sri Lanka Parliamentary (General) Election on 17 August 2015.  It has been published by Groundviews.org citizen journalism website.

I Will Vote meme created by Groundviews.org - trilingual version

I Will Vote meme created by Groundviews.org – trilingual version

Shortly after the Presidential Election of 8 January 2015 ended, I called it Sri Lanka’s first cyber election. That was based on my insights from over 20 years of watching and chronicling the gradual spread of information and communications technologies (ICTs) in Sri Lanka and the resulting rise of an information society.

Since then, things have evolved further. In this essay, I look at how the Elections Commission, political parties, election candidates, civil society advocacy groups and individual cyber activists have used various social media tools and platforms in the run-up to, during and immediately after the Parliamentary Election.

Read full text at:

Groundviews.org 3 September 2015: Sri Lanka Parliamentary Election 2015: How did Social Media make a difference

A compact version appeared in Daily Mirror, 3 September 2015: Social Media and LK General Election 2015: Has E-democracy arrived in Sri Lanka?

Not voting - then you have no right to complain afterwards! Voter message from March 12 Movement for Clean Politicians, Sri Lanka

Not voting – then you have no right to complain afterwards! Voter message from March 12 Movement for Clean Politicians, Sri Lanka

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Social Media and LK General Election 2015: Has E-democracy arrived in Sri Lanka?

From Sri Lanka Elections Department Facebook page

From Sri Lanka Elections Department Facebook page

“What role (if any) did social media play in the recently concluded General Election on 17 August 2015?

“Many are asking this question – and coming up with different answers. That is characteristic of the cyber realm: there is no single right answer when it comes to a multi-faceted and fast-evolving phenomenon like social media.

“Shortly after the Presidential Election of 8 January 2015 ended, I called it Sri Lanka’s first cyber election. That was based on my insights from over 20 years of watching and chronicling the gradual spread of information and communications technologies (ICTs) in Sri Lanka and the resulting rise of an information society.

“That was not the first time social media had figured in Lankan election campaigns. The trend started slowly some years ago, with a few tech-aware politicians and advertising agencies using websites, Facebook pages and twitter accounts for political outreach. However, such uses did not reach a ‘critical mass’ in the general and presidential elections held in 2010, or in the provincial and local government elections held thereafter.

“By late 2014, that changed significantly but this time the frontrunners were politically charged and digitally empowered citizens, not politicians or their support teams.”

The above is an extract from an op-ed I have just written and published in Daily Mirror broadsheet national newspaper in Sri Lanka (3 Sep 2015).

Full text is found online here:

Special thanks to Sanjana Hattotuwa and Yudhanjaya Wijeratne from whose analyses I have drawn. The unattributed opinions are all mine.

Infographic by Daily Mirror Sri Lanka

Infographic by Daily Mirror Sri Lanka