Saturday, April 4, 2015

E-voting encouraged in Zimbabwe and Nigeria

E-voting modalities continue to gain in popularity across the globe, despite what some of the opponents of electronic voting technology may have to say about its challenges and limitations. It is only be modernizing the electoral process and updating it to an increasingly interconnected and digitally-powered world that democracies can continue to be relevant.

This is one of many steps needed to appeal to younger voters in particular, but also the mass electorate as a whole. Technology can improve transparency, developing a greater level of trust that voters can have in the electoral process and in the reported results of elections. Without trust and transparency, an election holds no weight among a nation's citizens.

What is curious is that some of the biggest advancements in e-voting adoption are coming not from established democracies in fully developed nations, but rather in relatively young democracies in economies that are still struggling and in development. Indeed, Africa has become a major point of discussion in this regard.

It should come as little surprise, then, that e-voting is gaining support in countries like Nigeria and Zimbabwe. More specifically, the Nigerian Computer Society (NCS) is encouraging the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in the country to adopt electronic voting for its upcoming general elections. It is said that a “huge percentage of the voting population” is unable to collect the Permanent Voter's Card (PVC) and the card reader machines may be non-functional. 

The NCS believes that e-voting will help to reduce costs and bolster transparency. They say is more accessible for economies and governments of all sizes. By having the infrastructure in place, costs can be saved in the long run through economies of scale. According to NCS President, Professor David Adewumi, the lack of computer literacy is not an issue, as even “the old people in the villages now use mobile phones.”

In much the same manner, the Elections Resource Centre (ERC) is urging the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission to adopt electronic voting paradigms in time for its elections in 2018. They can gain from and leverage the recent experience in Namibia with e-voting  to improve its own implementation of the e-voting technology. Namibia was the first African country to use the technology and it did so in a “flawless” manner that was “praised the world over.” 

In addition to cost savings, perhaps one of the greatest advantages to e-voting is that “it removes human error and rigging” of manual paper ballots, said ERC director Tawanda Chimhini. “We want a situation where those defeated in the elections can endorse the results.” Again, this comes back to transparency and legitimacy, an area where many elections in Africa continue to struggle.