Friday, July 13, 2012

E-voting Technology Development, in the Hands of the Youth

A group of engineering students in the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh came up with a system that could drastically change the way locals exert their right to suffrage. This new technology would allow people to either register and vote from their mobile phone through text messages or get a unique ID and password to cast their ballot from their personal computer.

The system was developed as a response to the low participation percentages shown by the educated urban class. “Our system is intended to provide flexibility to such people to vote, contributing to a matured mandate,” said Karj Soma Sekhar, project leader, who is only 21 years old. The students have been demonstrating their invention in different college events and would welcome any opportunity to bring it to the Indian electoral authorities. 

This is not the first time that Indian youths work to have technology broaden the scope of citizen participation in local elections. In 2005, a group of engineering students from the city of Pune envisioned a voting system based on biometric authentication, much like the one used in Venezuela nowadays. India implemented e-voting in 1999. But given the fact that biometric authentication has been a fairly recent adoption worldwide —Venezuela’s Integrated Authentication System (SAI) will be used nationwide for the first time this year—, these students’ vision is truly remarkable. 

In a very prophetic manner, Abhishek Bhalerao, one of the team members was quoted as saying, "If India is to be a developed country by 2020, this system will be a must.” Seeing Venezuela’s progress in voting technology matters, we can say that Bhalerao was absolutely right. 

The emphasis young people are putting on technology, as a means to foster citizen participation, is a clear demonstration of the bright future of electronic voting. “With urban India growing and more people coming under the techno savvy class, the concept of electronic voting makes great sense,” stated Jayaprakash Narayan, president of the Lok Satta party. 

On a slightly unrelated note: faith in e-voting isn’t just a thing of the youth. It has been so successful in India that it is spreading to neighboring countries. Pakistan is planning to use electronic voting machines (EVM) for its next general elections. . Muhammad Afzal, spokesman from the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), declared, “With Pakistan, India and Bangladesh having similar cultures, all should help each other. We must learn from each other. We are trying to use EVMs in our elections.”