Hettiarachchi, C., University of Sri Jayewardenepura Colombo, Sri Lanka
The Internet has been a very popular medium for political activities in many countries in the world. The American Presidential Election in 2008 is an ideal example of effective use of Internet and web based technologies for campaigning and fund raising. During the recently held Indian parliamentary elections, the Internet played a significant role. In Sri Lanka, all the major parties host their official party websites and some national politicians maintain web presence and their personal and official websites. However, in Sri Lanka, the use of the internet and web technologies for political campaigning is still emerging, and politicians and strategy makers are still to recognize the power of Internet as a driving force in campaigning.
The objective of this research was to carry out a study of use of internet and web 2.0 technologies in election campaigning in Sri Lanka. It was expected to study the extent of using the internet and web technologies for campaigning and the particular technologies used for such purposes. It was also expected to analyse the strategies followed in web campaigning and identifying methods to evaluate the effectiveness of web based technologies such as social networking tools, micro blogs and webcast and multi-media sites in final election results. The research data has been collected for the Western Provincial Council Election held in April 2009 and the Presidential Election in January 2010, and data is being collected for the ongoing Parliamentary Elections due to be held in April 2010. The main data collection methods have been online survey, focus group discussions and expert interviews.
One of the main findings is that the use of web technologies in the election campaigning is not optimal. It was also found that there is a lack of awareness about such technologies and inability to understand the effectiveness of the tools in campaigning purpose by many candidates. Some candidates have been able to use web tools to attract high user interest and interaction but they have failed to follow integrated approach in managing the online campaigning. The campaign by the HE the president has been by far the most intensive and effective in the web space. However, lack of measurement system, poor transparency, standard frameworks and poor ethical practises remain issues of online campaigning. In brief, web space has created an effective, efficient and economical medium for election campaign, and its benefits are yet to be derived.