Friday, August 31, 2018

E-voting in Southeast Asia is growing stronger

In our digital-driven world, technological innovation has become an essential pillar to carry out routine activities as well as to stay updated and at par with others. Elections are one of the many areas where some countries are reaping the benefits technology has to offer.
Three examples in the election field are the registration of voters, the adoption of electronic voting machines, and the use of digital platforms to share and inform election details to stakeholders via SMS, emails, or social networks.
Southeast Asian countries like Malaysia and Singapore currently are global technology hubs. Yet, they have not taken full advantage of it to make election processes easier, more robust, and public friendlier.
Most South Asians[1] and Southeast Asians[2] have historically relied on the traditional methods of elections, i.e. with limited use of technology, and they continue to do so. Voters still must go through dated registration and voting processes, including long queues to manually cast their ballots, and waiting days -or weeks- to get official election results.

India and The Philippines

India in Southern Asia and The Philippines in Southeast Asia, however, have led the train of change on e-voting. For the last decade, voters in both countries have been casting ballots through electronic voting machines, with significant and positive results for Election management bodies (EMB) regarding ease of use, speediness, and efficiency of the voting technology.
According to a recent paper: Independent Electoral Commissions (IECs) for Inclusive, Honest, Orderly, and Peaceful Elections presented at the 25th World Congress of Political Science (July 2018), “The automation of elections in the Philippines despite the numerous organizational and technical issues, had an overall positive effect on public trust in the voting process, and public confidence in the COMELEC. The adoption of an automated election system also triggered institutional changes and improvements in the COMELEC.”

Other countries in the region are following The Philippines and India, and they are starting procedures to upgrade and trial new election technologies. Electronic voting pilots have taken place in Pakistan, Thailand, Indonesia, and Mongolia. While Biometric voting registration has been adopted in Bangladesh, Cambodia, and Nepal.

Social networks help

Let us not forget social media is also inducing voting consciously in the region to a vast extent. People in Southeast Asia are using these networks to convey an array of ideas and perspectives diluting knowledge for others.
Social platforms are acting as a forum to discuss the pros and cons of a candidate or a party contesting elections, helping leaders or candidates to connect with the public, and grasp a trend of public needs and expectations.
Therefore, even if countries in Southern and Southeast Asia are not widely benefitting from election technology just yet, there are some leading examples and several domains in which digital transformation is smoothing the election cycles.

[1] Current territories of Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Maldives, Nepal, India, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka form South Asia.
[2] Current territories of Brunei, Cambodia, East Timor, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar (Burma), Singapore, The Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam form Southeast Asia.