Thursday, August 8, 2013

How the use of technology enhances transparency

“Why do we want transparent elections? To build a basis of trust.” 

That was one of the main statements given by Smartmatic´s Fernando Hernandez during his conference at the 6th International Electoral Affairs Symposium held on Mauritius on May 29.

The event, organized by the International Centre for Parliamentary Studies, addressed topics such as the management and logistics of elections, best practice procedures, voter registration, voting methods, the use of new and innovative technologies in elections and examine current trends, in terms of usage throughout the electoral process.

During his presentation Hernandez emphasized the need to develop and reinforce relationships with key stakeholders such as: voters, political parties, state institutions, NGO and international organizations, other countries and business groups.  

Technology can become a useful tool when it comes to increasing electoral transparency. It allows for a wider coverage of all the processes involved, collecting large amounts of data, real-time monitoring and analysis of events and processes, and in consequence, faster results. 

Hernandez cited the Filipino elections held earlier this year on May 13th as an example of how technology enhances transparency. In a territory comprised of more than 7,000 islands, some 82,000 optical scanners were used to cast 766,672,141 and to elect 18,022 officials. Thanks to a technological platform that included e-counting, and the secure transmission of data to tallying centers, results were made available to the public via internet in record time.

Voting technology also minimizes human interaction, thus providing an appropriate environment to perform non-biased operations while supporting voters. Last October, Belgium tried out a new e-voting system that lets voters certify by themselves, via a printed record of the vote, that their ballots were counted correctly. Also, thanks to a 17" touch screen, the voting process was considerably simplified. In some cases, the selection process involved 182 candidates, manual voting in Belgium is just inconvenient.

If used correctly, with a proper legal framework, technology can indeed help improve transparency. Transparency is ensuring that during an election, all stakeholders are able to measure its success based on precise and real information, and technology is the perfect ally to achieve this.