Romanus Ugwu, Abuja
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has said that there will be no going back on its resolve to deploy technology in the 2019 General Elections and other subsequent polls in Nigeria.
Chairman of the Commission, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, made the emphasis at the ongoing conference on the use of technology in elections in West and Southern African countries in Abuja on Monday.
Yakubu noted that the deployment of technology has empowered citizens, more than ever before, to sensitize, organise, mobilise and protect their mandates through the use of various social media platforms.
Although he admitted some challenges associated with the deployment of technologies, the Commissioner pointed out that the benefits far outweighed the disadvantages.
“Given the deficit of infrastructure and expertise in many countries in our sub-regions and the regularity with which elections are conducted, concerns have been raised about cost, choice and effectiveness of technology,” he stated.
“Furthermore, given the high stakes involved in conducting elections in developing countries, electoral commissions must understandably be worried about the twin issues of communication and security, especially in situations where data reside with, and is indirectly transmitted to, the tallying centres through offshore vendors rather than exclusively controlled within national boundaries by the election management bodies.
“In addition, we have to contend with the disturbing but rapid incidence of election meddling through the deployment of counter-technology on a global scale by state and non-state actors,” the INEC boss said.
He however noted that the coming together of election managers and experts from Western and Southern African countries, to share experience would enable them come out with appropriate and cost-effective technology that would increase public confidence in the electoral process and further protect the sanctity and integrity of the ballot.
Similarly, the President of the European Centre for Electoral Support (ECES), Ms. Monica Frassoni, noted that the introduction of technology in the electoral and democratic process are not a given, stressing that there are pros and cons associated with it.
”The perception of an impartial and competent electoral management body is a precondition for technology to be perceived as an aid to the perfection of the electoral process,” Frassoni stated.
She urged the conference that the use technology and Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) in elections has been seen both as a facilitator and a spoiler to the process, adding: “All too often, in Africa, Europe and the Americas, we hear about how ICTs has been used to influence the election results.”
The representative of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), Francis Oke, advised that the deployment of technology in elections should be scrutinised, but called for confidence building.
Oke, pointing out that elections tend to create tensions in Africa, disclosed that this problem led to the formation of ECOWAS Network of Electoral Commission (ECONEC) to assist in information-sharing by EMBs in the sub-region.
The Executive Committee Chairperson of South African Development Community (SADC), Advocate Notemba Tjipueja, enumerated the benefits of the deployment of technology in the conduct of elections.
Tjipueja, the Chairperson of the Electoral Commission of Namibia, said that most electoral management bodies around the world use new technologies in the conduct of elections.
“Coming from the Electoral Commission of Namibia, and being the first country in Africa to use electronic voting machines, I can briefly share some of the electoral outcomes at the introduction of this machine.
“These include: automatic and error free counting, replacement of spoilt ballots, minimising of human error, speeding up voting process, securing of votes on control unit (and) maintaining the secrecy of the ballot,” she added.