22 May

Data - More than an Enabler in the Elections

The election juggernaut that branded each and every nook and corner of our cities comes to an end. Voting sentiments are ruling conversations while all the frenzy is still live with voters recalling the promises each party made. But, what does all this come down to? All of it translates to the votes that are cast and the immense amount of data that is collected both before and during the process of election. Consider this. The 2014 elections saw an electorate turnout of 66.4% which means that out of a total eligible voter base of ~834 Mn voters, 553 Mn came to vote. Further, 900 million citizens were eligible to vote in the 2019 general elections. This is greater than the population of Europe and Australia combined! Spread over 39 days across more than 1 Mn polling stations throughout the country this has been the largest election this world has ever seen.

During the course of this election, humongous data has been generated across different platforms. Right from websites capturing the voter sentiments and OTT platforms making trends out of what kind of advertisements work for which demography to the use of Big Data in the predictive result analysis; there are many data points being captured right now as we speak.

One can clearly visualise the kind of facilities required for the storage and processing of data so enormous!

Here are a few data-oriented integrations that quite shape the elections of not only India but across the world today-

Database creation and data collection - There is electoral data collection from 1 million polling booths, not forgetting the need to maintain the sanctity and privacy of data. Each district shall produce data which is not necessarily in the same format and hence large databases, power and energy are invested in the maintenance and processing of this data.

Big Data - The 2014 elections heralded the use of data analytics in India. For example, on the basis of a user’s interaction with the posts online, browsing history etc; one can get a feeler about the voter’s choices. Just like any other organization today, our political parties are also using big data to analyse posts, likes, tweets, shares, and comments and by deploying a dedicated analytics team, they aim to serve you better. It helps them reach such corners of the country which were previously inaccessible. These multi Gigabytes of data are invisible but being collected and processed every second.

Social Media - Before the start of the election, it was estimated that over 30% of the voters in current elections consumed social media adverts on the subject. The addition in this election was the wave of video content and engagement available online. It has been reported that the number of tweets increased by 600% between the 2009 and 2014 elections. And now with 4G data being so accessible, it is anybody’s guess as to what tremendous roles social media platforms have played in creating awareness amongst the voters, while generating mammoth data points. There are AI and ML algorithms deployed and there are millions of bytes of data being collected, store and processed from social media every day in massive next gen data centres

Political parties across the globe and in India now know that if they want to compete with their rivals, along with the traditional style campaigning, they also need to implement computational politics (the application of digital targeted-marketing technologies to election campaigns) strategies

Predictive/Sentiment analysis - Comparatively new in the business, predictive and sentiment analysis gauging technologies and analytics firms concentrate on the logic behind the data captured. For example- using Natural Language Processing (NLP), the words in a post/tweet are assigned points of joy, sadness, neutrality etc. and the post is then given a mood label. This is often referred to gauge the trending sentiment for an ongoing national/international issue. Even cookies are captured from websites for personal information and the same is linked to your online behaviour; this data is then put through predictive modelling to gauge future trends. Just like customer engagement, voter engagement was also enhanced multi-fold with these techniques being used.

As can be seen, the role of data, data storage and data analysis in an event as huge as the General Elections is insurmountable. Hence, when you sit yourself down in anticipation of the results on 23rd May, remember that the elections are not just concluded by the votes that are cast but are also assisted by the Gigabytes of data that are collected and processed in this process.