July 14, 2024

PVC COLLECTION AND THE MISSED OPPORTUNITY FOR BEHAVIOURAL INSIGHTS

5 min read

It’s 7am. A good time to get out of the house and arrive the PVC collection point early. Or so Femi thought.

He meets a queue of at least 70 people on ground, writing their names on sheets of paper, then returning to half-seats, and tree stumps, or whatever they could find to sit on.

“What time do the INEC officials come?” Femi asked. Most people mentioned 9am. Encouraged his wait would not be long, Femi heaved a sigh of relief.

Now, it’s 10 am, the queue had increased to 300, and the officials had not arrived. Danjuma arrives and announces for all to gather, gives some instructions on organizing according to polling units which many considered brilliant, though stressful. The plan was to let first 2 persons from each PU be attended per time.  We hear Danjuma is a volunteer who assisted INEC to organize and put some order to the rowdy collection a day before.

It’s 11am, and INEC staff finally arrives-  about 9 of them, hoping to attend to more than 500 electorates, some of whom have waited 5 hours.  INEC staff completely discards Danjuma’s plan and gave a new plan. Danjuma’s plan was not just orderly; it was fair in that it followed the order in which the voters arrived.

INEC’s plan had the voters wait another 1 hour 30 minutes, after many failed attempts to organize the crowd, before the collection started. It was very messy…..so disorganized, pedestrian, archaic and slow that 2 people slumped in the hustle to advance through a disorganized crowd to the front. Your guess is right; the movements were windy….tossing suspended persons left and right, with their hands raised, holding to their written details on a paper. At least two persons fainted but were rescued. There are several lessons, from project management and BI I drew from the experience and I’d share below.

  1. Quantify with data before acting; this collection centre had 9 INEC officials, attending to more than 800 voters from 40 PUs when there were collection centres in city centre with just 8 Pus, no queue and underutilized staff. Data insights, from macroplanning (cascade number of residents, and polling units in the area and match to number of cards to be collected), to microplanning (use data insights from previous day, or 1st weekend to predict average turnout, and match personnel to this workload. Turnout is higher over the weekend.
  2. Arrive early/limited attention; time affects scope/quality and price all the time. They couldn’t cover much ground because they started late. People had limited attention and were anxious already from waiting, and they could not manage the crowd or organize for more than additional 90 minutes. There were many individuals who had been at the collection centre for 3 consecutive days and had vowed they would never return again, should they not collect their PVC that day.
  3. The principle of Hot-cold empathy is important as the best uptake behaviours are recorded when government/providers make taking action easy, at the time when their interest and sentiment is highest (Hot). 3 days was too much to waste for a ‘hot’ voter to turn ‘cold’, hence missing out opportunities to reduce voter apathy. Many of the voters also insinuated their inabilities and frustration to collect their PVC was an intentional control over the choice architecture for a segment of the country to amass the highest votes and win the election.
  4. Based on the EAST Framework, policies around behavior should be fair and equitable, for it to gain acceptance. Voters kicked against the INEC plan and refused cooperation for 90 minutes because the new plan was poor, inequitable in that it gave no consideration to the order in which they arrived. There was no incentive for paying the sacrifice of coming early. Conversely, there is also an argument that the INEC officials take the path of least resistance, insisting on sticking to their plan because it is easy for them (status quo bias) and the rowdy session benefits them in that it incentivizes People who could not withstand the pressure turned to this as an alternative. The second way it benefits them is that a rowdy session reduces the number of cards collected daily, and the more the uncollected cards, the more days they spend at the site, and the more money/reward they make as their daily allowance.
  5. Behavioural policies should be EAST-compliant (easy, accessible, sociable and technology-driven) for easy uptake. Imagine the stress described above. That was not easy. Human beings do not like stress and whatever would make the collection easy would be embraced. (Some were reported to have bribed the officials to save them the stress and make it easy). Access to the card was cumbersome, and could have been simplified to enable the options of picking up at polling units. They also could have controlled the pick-up by scheduling specific days for specific polling units, or scheduling voters in batches through text messages (choice architecture and reminders). Another option could have been to work with verified courier operators for personal deliveries and provide that option to voters. The verification of registration status on INEC CVR portal was effective and enabled voters to verify their polling unit numbers. Technology was yet underutilized. INEC could provide voters with option of scheduling their pick-up through online calendars, or automate the collection process; a machine can do a facial scan, sort the cards and bring out yours.
  6. Finally, if INEC was doing well with the collection, they could have embedded some activities to make PVC collection socially desirable. A good way is to ask voters to volunteer to take a selfie with their collected card, talk about their experience, mention the waiting time, post on social media and tag INEC handle, then reward the posts with highest engagement weekly. A trivia could also help. This act alone, could change the number of people picking up the voter cards. However, this will be counterproductive if the collection process is as chaotic as described above and not seamless.

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