ALTSEAN-Burma monitors the 2010 Burma elections

The Alternative Asean Network On Burma’s (ALTSEAN-Burma) 2010 election watch provides background information, analysis, and up-to-date information on the 2010 Burma elections in a concise, user-friendly format for activists, media, researchers, diplomats, legislators and policy-makers. The overall aim of the project is to “monitor whether the electoral process is conducted in a free and fair manner.”

Governments and NGOs around the world have repeatedly warned that the 2010 election in Burma is likely to rubber stamp the military regimes rule. The 2010 election watch provides an online hub for activists, students and other web visitors to learn about exactly what is happening in the election process – to allow visitors to learn the full facts about the election.

ALTSEAN has been established since 1996. By creating a part of their website specifically dedicated to the 2010 election they have created a resource base that individuals can refer to as the election year progresses, and by creating it on their existing website they have avoided the significant costs of creating a dedicated website. In many cases when a crisis, disaster, or another event occurs activists specialising in that area of work face severe constraints on their time as journalists, other groups, members of the public, and even governments demand their expertise. This could happen in the event of the 2010 Burma election, since when the election does occur there may be a significant spike in global public interest, and the ALTSEAN team may face a variety of demands on their time. These moments are critically important for small campaign groups, as it is an opportunity to publicise the campaign to a wide audience – however, there are often problems of capacity in keeping up with all the new requests and attention. ALTSEAN Burma say that they have strategically minimised the use of images on the website since "activists inside Burma may visit our site through proxy servers and using dialup access". This means having a "no frills" site that will load quickly on low bandwidth is far more important to them than having a site which is focussed on design.

By launching it early and gradually expanding its function and reach, ALTSEAN have prepared a significant resource that will be available to visitors from around the world should there be a sudden spike in interest in the situation in Burma around the time of the election. This will allow ALTSEAN to refer all those needing information to their 2010 election watch site for historic data, and the ALTSEAN team can focus on responding to other enquiries and keeping the website up to date with current developments.

The project has been a success for ALTSEAN with their website views up 130% since it was launched. Website visits have consistently remained 50-70% higher since the launch of the project. There are other signs that the project is increasing engagement with the election such as the number of people signing up to the ALTSEAN mailing list which has increased 10% since the launch.

ALTSEAN have promoted the group through their newsletters, through other publications and through campaign meetings. Since the Burma movement is well established, the group made a point of not duplicating the work of other campaign groups. Instead they have formed partnerships to contribute to the project and to share the burden of updating the website with the latest developments.

An online resource library is an excellent building block for campaigners as it is accessible from any computer with an internet connection around the world. However, the task of creating a similar resource from inside Burma would bring with it significant risks, as the government may monitor internet connections. Therefore the creation of resource such as this should only be considered from inside Burma if you have expertise in avoiding detection. A more sustainable model would be for activists inside the country to pass information out of Burma through trusted networks, or encrypted internet lines, to a group out of the country who could compile and publish the information online.

TOOLS USED: Their website

REACH: Global - to anyone with an internet connection

COST: Low - as the website system already existed and only required to be built upon

RESOURCES: A website

LEVEL OF DIFFICULTY: 1 out of 5 if the website is already existing. RIsks would be very low if updating the website from outside Burma. High if updating a website from inside Burma.

LINKS TO LEARN MORE: ALTSEAN-Burma 2010 Election Watch website 

Story written by Johnny Chatterton.

Image: Taken from the ALTSEAN-Burma website.