Friday, June 12, 2015

School in Northern India embraces the future of e-voting

A lot has been said about bolstering the level of political engagement among today's youth. Many young people from all around the world can feel as if they have been disenfranchised, ignored by the current politicians who focusing much more on the needs and issues of the older demographic. Many youth can feel as if the political climate is irrelevant and corrupt, feeling as if their actions, their voices and their votes simply do not matter. This needs to change, as today's youth will be tomorrow's leaders.

Interest in politics and the democratic process must start from a young age, engaging the fertile minds of children and teenagers. Just as there has been an increased push in encouraging children to participate in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) subjects, there should be a similar push to get them involved in the present and the future of the political process. And for a lot of today's youth, this means that the political process must also be modernized and brought up to speed with current technology. The traditional paper ballot can feel archaic and irrelevant, while e-voting processes can feel relevant and meaningful.

And indeed, this philosophy has been wholeheartedly supported by at least one school in Northern India. At the DC Model Senior Secondary School in Sector 7, Panchkula in the Northern area of India, students were able to elect their school council representatives using modern electronic voting technology. Candidates made their speeches in front of the student body, convincing them why they should be elected into student government. The students, as well as non-teaching staff, were then able to exercise their democratic right by e-voting.

The political process used at this secondary school is not unlike the e-voting systems used in formal governments in places such as Estonia. The voting students had their identities authenticated using their I-cards and then proceeded to cast their digital ballot. It is important to instil this interest in the power and responsibility of the vote in young people so they can best participate in local, state and federal government when they become of age too.

As the world's single largest democracy, India is also home to a growing number of young people who are passionate about and engaged in the political process. The electorate in India is youthful and tech-savvy and the democratic process needs to mirror and support this growing desire for modern technology. Voters should be able to register in an electronic manner, just as they should be able to cast their ballots digitally and the ballots should be counted electronically too. The entire process can benefit greatly from the intelligent and well-audited implementation of technology. Even for Indians who are living abroad, remote e-voting infrastructure should be in place.

Several key lessons can be taken away from the recent experience of the senior secondary school in Panchkula and these can be applied to other schools all around the world.

First, the political atmosphere of the school should be one that encourages meaningful and respectful political discourse among its students. Public speeches and debates empower the candidates to define and express their platform.

Second, the vote does not need to be collected through the more traditional means of raising hands or submitting paper ballots. Embracing e-voting technology is more efficient, more cost-effective, and more relevant for today's youth.

Third, this also demonstrates that if a humble school in India can afford to implement a robust and reliable e-voting system, there is no reason why proper governments and electoral commissions cannot do the same.

The future of politics is in the hands of today's young people. Let's arm them with the technology they need and desire for the safest, most secure, and most engaging democratic process possible.