Thursday, November 21, 2013

Philippine election set e-voting example for Southeast Asia

Source: Google Images
In 2013, the popularity of e-voting technology continued to expand across all corners of the globe, including notable countries as India and The Philippines. In fact, the election held last May in the latter could serve as a great example for e-voting in other Southeast Asian countries.

The Philippines have received kudos from FutureGov, an online and print publication that looks for trends in relation to e-commerce, information technology and the governmental initiatives that support their development. Publisher James Smith commended the Filipino community for “putting technology to new and better use.”

This remark was related to the recent midterm elections held in May 2013 where the Philippines employed an automated e-voting platform to streamline and secure the electoral process. Optical scan machines were used to count the votes and canvass the results, working far faster than the manual method. The increased speed also meant that results could be reported sooner and with greater accuracy, giving the whole electoral process more transparency and validity.

Taking the Philippines as a case in point of how to successfully adopt and implement an automated voting technology, other countries in Southeast Asia should evaluate the Philippine example to improve their own electoral methods and fortify their Democracies.

The current electoral process in Malaysia appears very archaic by comparison. In addition to using manual voting with paper ballots that are then folded and inserted into a ballot box with a ruler, people who have voted are marked with indelible ink on their left forefinger to prevent them from casting a second ballot at another voting booth. If a biometric authentication system was employed to check the voter’s identity against a central database before he/she casts his/her ballot, the indelible ink mark would no longer be required. Electronic ballots could also simplify the selection of multiple candidates and offer far greater security and secrecy than a folded paper ballot in a ballot box.

Meanwhile in Indonesia, the presidential election is scheduled to take place around the middle of July 2014. For this event, the government and electoral officials are working toward an implementation of a new e-voting system. E-voting had been used previously in certain districts, like Denspasar (Bali) and Yogyakarta (Java), but this would represent the first time that such a system would see widespread usage throughout the country.

Marzan Aziz Iskander, head of the Agency for the Assessment and Application of Technology (BPPT), has said that the successful use of e-voting would require the full introduction of e-KTP. These are the electronic identity cards that would have to be issued to every eligible voter. Then, additional infrastructure is also needed, like the ballot scanners and other equipment. To ease their way toward e-voting, Indonesian officials are considering the electronic counting of ballots first. This would at least expedite vote counting and reduce certain costs in the interim.

By learning from and following the example set by the Philippine election, Indonesia, Malaysia and other countries can be better prepared to face some of the challenges that may arise with the implementation of electronic voting systems.