As the 2019 elections draw closer, there is no doubt that putting in place relevant ICT infrastructure for the application of adaptable technology in nation’s electoral processes will go a long way to ensure transparency and credibility of the elections.
According to Mr. Adesola Aderounmu, President, Nigeria Computer Society and Co-Centre Leader, World Bank-Designated Centre of Excellence in Software Engineering, it is a welcome development that the leveraging of technology had started, even if rudimentary, with the last 2015 elections that ushered in the present administration in Nigeria.
“For instance, the application of technology for biometric registration of voters, the issuance of smart permanent voters card (PVCs) to voters and voter verification and authentication using the smart card reader, has helped the infiltration of ICT into the electoral process. So also was the idea to scan and upload all voting result sheets for all the elections on a database, which was made accessible to all stakeholders for some months after the 2015elections.”
Aderounmu said that all these formative adaptations of technology with the 2015 elections are commendable, but there is still a long way to go with future elections. He listed below as how ICT can transform Nigeria future electoral processes and elections:
Sensitization, civic education and E-Inclusion
Sensitizing and educating voters in Nigeria have always been done via the traditional mass media and direct town-hall community engagements.
Now, with the pervasive influence of technology in society today, educating and cultivating the Nigerian voters can be done better with the leverage of digital media like the mobile phone with bulk SMS, bulk voice call or inbound interactive voice response, and the use of web-portals from pre-election polls. Digital technology now enriches political communications and voter engagement like never before.
And with the majority of people having access to computers and mobile technology devices these days, INEC and other concerned agencies can transform the sensitization, civic education and e-inclusion of Nigerian voters with the use of the Internet via popular social media like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, WhatsApp and special mobile applications to channel and disseminate voter education messages.
Another way to leverage ICT for Nigeria’s electoral process is through constituency delimitation, using digital maps and charts for proper voter registration.
In a democracy, constituency delimitation is very important and an improper segmentation of constituencies can compromise the electoral process, thereby provoking needless conflicts and insinuations of marginalization among peoples and politicians. In order to address this scenario of controversial constituency delimitation, it is better to apply the use of ICT solutions like digital mapping, digital charts, Global Positioning System (GPS) and GIS Satellite Footprints like our own NIGERSAT-1. GPS uses satellites that orbit Earth to send information to GPS receivers that are on the ground. The information so received helps people determine their location.
Voter registration and data capture
Voter registration and data capture constitute a major foundational step in the electoral process. Without a proper voters register, there cannot be proper elections.
In Nigeria, there have always been controversies over voter registration as some complain of ghost names appearing on the voters register, names of foreign nationals appearing and names of underage voters appearing too on the register. Others complain of missing names on election days after they have registered. All these issues tend to mar the electoral process, but the use of ICT infrastructure can make a positive difference. Thus one would recommend the use of a centralized countrywide database for voter registration, drawing on the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) data inventory.
Updates to the centralized database can be done through Web Portal E-mails with smart fields, mobile apps, and automatic fingerprint and photo identification systems. In a way, online voter registration via the internet is simpler and more secure than paper registration and manual updates.
Voter verification and voting
When Election Day comes, ICT also has a huge role to play in streamlining the electoral process to make the election outcomes fair and valid. In fact, the deployment of technology during elections is most consequential because it helps minimize the rampant incidents of rigging and its resultant crises. Thus voter verification and voting on election day can be digitally done through the use of direct electronic recoding machine, optical scanning system, use of smart cards and card readers.
Vote counting and computation
It is time we transformed the process with digital computation technology that is cheaper, faster and more accurate. Deploying technology in vote counting will also improve the electoral process by making the counting of tedious electoral systems easier to use.
Thus, new ICT innovations can be used to replace traditional paper ballots. As earlier said under Voter Verification and Voting, using direct electronic devices, or using machine-readable ballots, can help remove the need to count ballots manually and greatly speed up the vote counting process, as well as guaranteeing accuracy. So, with vote counting and computation, it is highly recommended that INEC engages the use of Result Management Systems.
After votes have been properly counted and computed, vote results can also be digitally disseminated to the public. Results can be streamed real-time from INEC website, obtained via SMS Query interfacing with INEC website and real-time RSS Feed.