Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Bangladesh exploring e-voting technology for future elections

Many democracies clear across the globe have adopted e-voting technology in varying capacities and the popularity of electronic voting machines, both for vote-capturing and for counting ballots, has been steadily rising. Brazil has had a long history with e-voting, for example, and countries like the Philippines and Estonia continue to set positive examples for the rest of the world to follow. 

While there is still much research and exploration to be conducted, a delegation from Bangladesh recently visited with election commissioners in neighbouring India and they were “impressed” by the Indian electronic voting machines. As the world's largest democracy, India has proven not only that e-voting technology is viable and advantageous, but that it can also be utilized on an incredibly massive scale, improving accessibility to its citizens. 

The Indian electoral system with its deployment of e-voting technology was designed from the start to be as cost-effective as possible, particularly given the grand scale of the Indian election, while still maintaining high levels of security and integrity. The Bangladeshi delegation, which was led by Muhammad Faruk Khan and consisted of 10 members from the Bangladesh Parliament, sought to “know the traits of conducting free and peaceful elections” from their Indian counterparts.

Harinshankar “HS” Brahma, one of India's Election Commissioners, emphasized the importance of increasing voter enrollment and encouraged the appropriate use of technology. He said it has been a real game changer in elections, addressing many of the major challenges that elections can face. 

One of the most common challenges is engaging the youth electorate and India has been largely successful with this, empowering the tech-savvy youth with political start-ups like Grassroute, MumbaiVotes and Know Your Vote. 

The Indian officials provided their visitors from Bangladesh with a demonstration of the electronic voting machines and how they worked in tandem with the voter verified paper audit trail (VVPAT), a vital component for audits and recounts, ensuring that the correct voter intent was properly captured and recorded. Accountability is of great importance.

It is through delegations and meetings like this that the state of electronic voting can continue to improve and grow well into the future. Countries do not exist in isolation and it is through collective collaboration that they can leverage their expertise in a synergistic manner. This is why events like the EVOTE International Conference in Austria are so valuable, gathering together many of the most important decision makers from different democracies. The budgets and details may vary, but the primary objectives remain the same. 

The history and politics of the region are such that India and Bangladesh have not always gotten along as the keenest of allies, but major strides like this for mutual benefit can also help to foster goodwill and peace between nations. By encouraging further collaboration and partnerships between countries all around the world, e-voting technology can continue to be strengthened for elections of all sizes. It is far more cost effective to co-develop e-voting solutions than to develop them individually.

And by learning from the experience and missteps of those who moved to e-voting before them, Bangladesh can position itself to be as problem-free as possible for its elections in the future.