News The African Way

Technology, E-voting And Credible Elections In Nigeria, By Zeenat O. Sambo

Technology has reshaped the world and is increasingly motivated creative minds to explore different ways of improving social services.

Health, agriculture, power, and other critical industries have witnessed great improvements through the impact of technology, which is rapidly transforming all facets of human existence into a digital world.

Considering the monumental impact of technology across several sectors of Nigeria’s economy, citizens are clamouring for the adoption of digital technology to further advance the nation’s democratic governance by using e-voting platforms.

Specifically, Nigerians are eagerly looking forward to speedy innovation of the electoral management system for greater efficiency, transparency, and elimination of the electoral fraud inherent in the extant manual system.

Nigeria’s democratic journey from 1999 is going through twists and turns due to the chaotic reaction that follows the outcome of every election by both winners and losers.

With an estimated population of about 200 million people spread across 774 local government areas, the country must digitalise the electoral process. The registration of voters, casting of ballot, collation and counting of the ballot, and transfer and release of results can be driven by technology to achieve free, transparent, and credible elections.

By doing so, the country would be leveraging technologies proudly developed by Nigerians for effective management of our electoral process, thereby entrenching a robust and stable democratic ethos.

In the determination to implement its mandate, the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) has prioritised and promoted the use of technology by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) throughout the entire electoral process to guarantee well-organised and acceptable elections across the country.

Thus, it is important to fully focus on the deployment of innovative technologies in the electoral process. Our ability to develop innovative applications to solve many other problems can be extended to improve our electoral system through the power of digital technologies.

Electronic voting or e-voting tech advancement has often been advocated to protect the integrity of national electorate systems and deliver a free and fair election where there is absolute transparency and integrated voters’ achievement.

The use of electronic voting will speed up vote counting, cut the cost of paying staff to count votes manually, provide easier access to disabled persons to vote, and funding for elections will decrease.

E-voting is an electoral process that uses electronic means to enable the casting of ballots, counting of ballots, and transmission of the election result from polling centres to the central office of the electoral management body. It involves the use of electronic voting machines (EVMs) placed in polling stations to ensure a credible non-interference voting system.

It is in the light of the above that the launch of Wardchat, a social network platform created to digitalise the Nigerian electoral community, is quite remarkable. This shows the unrelenting effort of Nigeria’s tech startups to bring improvement to the nation’s electoral process.

Wardchat is a social network digital application built by an indigenous startup company, Wardchat Nigeria, that connects voters across wards, districts, and states within the country. The social network can support the electoral structures in 36 states and the FCT, 774 local government councils, 8802 wards, and over 176,000 polling units.

The application is packed with some unique, friendly, and easy-to-operate features to ensure seamless engagement for sharing content and knowledge among voters.

When the app undergoes future updates, users can access results from different polling units displayed on the dashboard. This innovative application would enhance the participation and engagement of voters in the electoral process.

Moreover, a digital community would empower citizens to have a unified voice to debate, discuss and identify potential candidates who deserve to administer their commonwealth. Just like citizen journalists, this app will breed citizen election advocates that will positively impact the electoral system.

The recent assent given to the Electoral Act Amendment Bill by President Muhammadu Buhari has paved the way for INEC to leverage digital technology for full automation of the electoral management system.

Buhari acknowledged that the Bill contained salient and praiseworthy provisions that could positively revolutionise elections in Nigeria through the introduction of new technological innovations.

Additionally, NITDA’s Strategic Roadmap and Action Plan (SRAP 2020-2024) provides the agency with a robust template to discover and encourage potential innovators and startups to work towards creating more solutions for the election management system.

This calls for collective synergy by NITDA and other stakeholders to give INEC all the support needed to help the election management organisation conduct proper implementations of the e-voting system.

Besides revolutionising the entire electoral/voting process, digitalisation of the electoral management system would attract more startups to develop innovative market-reaching solutions capable of generating wealth and creating employment opportunities.

Certainly, innovative ideas to digitalise the electoral process in the country would continue to be appreciated by citizens as a guarantee that the winners in elections reflect the true choices of the electorate, and that their votes counted.

Zeenat O. Sambo writes from Wuye District, Abuja.

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