Home Articles Election ’99: A GIS based real time application over NICNET

Election ’99: A GIS based real time application over NICNET

Dr.Vandana Sharma, S.P.Karthikeyan, R.Sainath & Jagadeesh Bhangari
RS & GISD, National Informatics Centre, MIT, New Delhi


In the recent years Information Technology (IT) has transformed our life. There are enormous changes in the way information is collected, stored, retrieved, manipulated, analyzed. These developments in information technology (IT) provide a great amount of opportunities for both government and the non-government to rethink their operational aspects. IT has metamorphosed as new model of governance, adaptive to a electronic, global knowledge based, digital economy from a huge government, centralized, hierarchical and operating in a physical economy.

Electronic Governance has emerged as one of the flagship applications with aspiration to employ the latest technology like multimedia and network technologies to re-invent the way the government works normally. Although the opportunities are exciting, there are also significant challenges to making new technology and ideas work. Two of the key challenges are coping with the investment of time, resources, and stress to put changes in place, and dealing with the need for wide collaboration and cooperation, especially in a government context. This paper enumerates in detail how the electronic governance shall be utilized in the election sector.

Election System 

Democracy's mystique is as powerful for its adherents while watching a village elect its headman as in a nation electing its parliament. However, the sheer scale of India's five-yearly exercise of renewing the people's mandate is stupefying…620 million voters, a million-plus polling booths spread over nearly 30-odd states divided on the basis of language, six major religions, a vertical division into thousands of castes and sub-castes, with one in two adults illiterate but all keen to exercise their franchise, 

The election always have an endemic violence, meaning military and police forces have to be shifted from end to end of the three million sq km landmass, in a month-long exercise…it is a spectacle the scale of which is unrivalled the world over. India is a vast country. This is evident during elections. Due to the logistics involved in moving security forces from one place to another, actual voting is usually staggered across two-three weeks nowadays. This is to ensure that all the trigger-happy goons out to wreck a polling booth are kept under check.

Nearly 30 per cent of the Rs 800-1000 crore spent on the elections goes into manufacturing and printing of ballot papers. According to EC estimates, a minimum of 2,000 tonnes of paper is required for printing ballot papers and poll related material . That is why the EC requires a minimum of 75 days to prepare for elections. What the EC also requires is large doses of imagination as well. There are scores of candidates in a state and each of them must have a separate symbol with which the voter will identify him or her on the ballot paper. So in a constituency where there are over 300 candidates, one can imagine what the voter has to undergo. Now, however, the EC is gradually introducing Electronic Voting Machines, which should drastically reduce the paper consumption.

The statistics for the General Election's 99 :

Electors 620394065
Votes Cast(537 ) 36687765
Polling % 59.81

Voting is Much Simpler:
Believe it or not, in some Lok-Sabha constituencies across the country, all the votes that casted shall be valid votes. It's not that all the voters have suddenly become very cautious and alert. But, the new electronic Voting machines will not permit a voter to cast an invalid vote.

Instantaneous Results
Once voting is over, the presiding officer will lock the machine by merely pressing a 'Close' button. If the presiding officer so desires, at anytime of the voting process, he can find out how many voters have exercised their franchise by merely pressing a button 'Total'. Similarly, to know the result, a 'Result' button has to be pressed. The machine will show the number of candidates, total number of votes cast (on that machine) and votes polled by each candidate. The final result can be calculated (manually) by totaling the votes polled by each candidate on each machine. 

This push-button technology will ensure that the counting process is over in a few hours, unlike the longer periods a manual counting normally entails. There are other advantages too. The data on the machine can be saved since, as per the law, the records have to be kept for a certain prescribed period. To clear it the officer has to merely press a 'Clear' button. The machine is built up in such a manner that all these buttons can be covered and sealed to avoid any tampering or accidental use.



Realtime Maps Using GIS 

The Usual way of presenting the election data derived from the districts will be a tabular form or simple statistics. In the new approach, the data derived from the "data base server" (DATA SERVER) is presented in a map form. The maps are updated every 3 minutes, presented as a map for the lead party for allindia and statewise scenario. The real time maps were generated using the Map Generation System Interface (MGSI), consisting the Spans GIS, EASI Scripts, Java Script for ODBC connectivity and File Dog.


Base Map :
The constituency boundary given by the SOI is extracted for the predefined states and one for the national level. The constituency codes were checked for their correctness with the code of ECI and validated. The Color codes for the national alliance were assigned with following colours:

Data Base Updation : 
The required data for the GIS real time map creation were derived from the DB2 server, through the JAVA script, which enables the required fields updated in the local machine, through a ODBC driver for Dbase. 

Spans Script:
The SPANS GIS software has an ability to incorporate the functions through the EASI language /script. In addition it can handle other programming languages like C or C++ so that the capabilities shall be enhanced. 

The Script will basically handle the function of updating the real-time data from DATA SERVER thereafter the layers are opened and maps were generated based on predefined colors. The script take care for the legend controls and positioning on the screen. While creating the maps, the script enables the map displayed with a time stamp, giving an idea about the time of generation. The maps are saved as slide in JPG format so that they shall be placed on web.

File Dog :
The File Dog software is utilized to place the image files from the ELECTION server to the PARAM. The file dog has a facility to run the process at user defined schedule, enabling the files updated from time to time round the clock.

The creation of the Automated GIS Election Mapping System at the NIC is regarded as a very successful application of the GIS technology. The project has achieved all it's established objectives and has provided several advantages over the traditional system.

  • GIS environment provides the ability to relate the tabular data to the geographic features and be able to perform spatial and overlay analyses
  • Automates the process of generating Lead Party Maps to the maximum possible extent.
  • Cost-savings through the use of automated tools compared to the earlier manual process
  • Easy to use script based tools for Map Generation
  • Easier to maintain the maps; 
  • MGSI can be run in a batch mode to automatically generate maps without user supervision; usually very minimal, to the automatically generated maps; 

Future Direction
The Constituency Map shall be added with the useful information like Number of polling stations, the category of the polling station etc,. By click of the mouse over the image the information shall be made available to the user. The Bio-Data of the MP's will be attached to their respective constituency. The feedback form for placing inputs will be placed at the main page, for further refining the process & better shape to the application.