Here’s my take (on the topic bloggers will most likely analyze for the rest of the 2007 Philippine local and legislative election campaign season because it’s good linkbait and shows just how much they love the Internet, and are therefore supposedly knowledgeable about it).
While I disagree with the elitism mentioned in the blog post, I have a good idea where the cynicism against online campaigning came from.
Call me jaded or a betrayer of the great equalizer that is the Internet (or some equally idealistic phrase that praises the Web’s social structure), but that is not the point.
If cheating is rampant—which it is, no matter what anybody says—no Internet exposure or any other sort of exposure will prevail over the tampering of the ballot count. A candidate would be better off dedicating his/her resources to pollwatchers. Losing by a hairline could also mean he/she might have won by a hairline if cheating were minimized. (Obliterated? That might not be possible anywhere in the world.)
Filipino Internet Habits
That may seem harsh, given the bargain of an investment most online ventures require and the amount of hours I spend online that have shown me the power the Internet wields. See how Wazzup! Wazzup! has taken advantage of YouTube’s popularity in the Philippines with a segment they call YouTubero—catchy na, makamasa pa!
What am I driving at? There is around 7 million total Internet users in the Philippines and an estimated 1.1 Million active Internet users. (By active, I mean people who use the Internet more than once a week.) Had Barbers cornered an additional 1% of the active Internet using population, that would have gotten him over the hump. Similarly, it would would have taken Ernesto Maceda (#14) 63% of the Internet electorate to get a seat. That number represents an increase of only 7% of his total votes in 2004.
But—and this is a big but—are you sure how many Filipinos really use the Internet?
By this I mean not just a fraction of the Web. Not just DOtA. Not just Friendster. Not just Multiply. Not just Yahoo! Messenger. Not just YouTube. Not just Kapamilya or/vs. Kapuso forums.
An Effective Online Election Campaign
If you’re going to launch an effective online campaign, you need to consider the specific online behavior of Filipinos and not just assume that putting up a website will cut it. If a candidate’s online gimmicks grab the attention of mainstream media, that’s a good sign. (Of course we never know if they axed the stories out because they got envious!)
It will take somebody who thoroughly understands the entire spectrum of the online and the Philippine culture. That’s rare. I can’t think of anyone who’s deeply rooted in both. (Help, anyone?)
Now knowing that’s rare, that potential somebody certainly won’t do it for free (or to the best of his/her ability). But then, which senatoriable actually understands or cares enough to waste precious pesos (oxymoron!) on a puny little net geek with no social life whatsoever, yet claims to be a better expert than our own selves about the way we think and act?
Even if there’s a sliver of a chance a candidate will gamble a few of his/her chips online, I think it’s too late in the game for the candidates to do excessive planning like that.
On a Positive Note
Taking things one step at a time might be the answer. I was still in college when the UP Linux Users’ Group (UnPLUG) first proposed the use of their Halalan Voting System in the Engineering Student Council (ESC) elections and those of other colleges in UP Diliman. Although it did not push through last year, I’m happy to hear they have successfully computerized the ESC elections for this year. The election of batch representatives for the Department of Computer Science (DCS) also used Halalan (first semester AY 2006-2007). Well done, guys!