Electoral bodies in Africa have been urged to embrace technology to bring greater efficiency in the management of elections, Chimp Corps report.
South Africa-based lawyer, Brian Kagoro, said electoral bodies need to prepare for “the future of elections where our people will not have normal addresses; our people will not live or have normal jobs; our people may have microchips.”
He added: “Our people may have applications to identify who they are and we may get to a stage where we can tell the election results in real time. Because when you voted the microchip recorded your number. This means that we cannot afford to be 50 years behind.”
Kagoro spoke today Thursday at the two-day Symposium in Munyonyo, Kampala held under the theme: “Strengthening the Electoral Process in Uganda: Sharing Regional Electoral Experiences and Good Practices.”
Organised by Uganda’s Electoral Commission and UNDP, the Symposium is organised as a follow-up event in commemoration of the International Day of Democracy (IDD), which was marked on 15th September 2019.
Kagoro said the biggest investment that needs to be made is nurturing a strong human resource to facilitate the digitization of the electoral systems.
“Your generation needs to train not only young people, but technologically competent people, not just people who can do data capture,” he said as delegates choked on laughter.
“It seems to me that resourcing, and sustainable partnerships is important. It does not mean we continue on the path where we are grateful to UNDP… we’re grateful to everybody who gives us money,” he cautioned.
Uganda has in recent years adopted the biometric system in general elections.
But experts say more work needs to be done as the field of technology in elections continues to develop at a rapid pace.
Online databases hugely facilitate the task of creating and managing accurate and up-to-date electoral rolls.
On the one hand, allowing citizens the convenience of casting their vote online without the need to visit polling stations could help to reverse a worrying decline in voter turnout across the world.
Yet, current technology does not allow internet voting systems to be fully secured against hackers, a major concern given the growing sophistication of cyber-attacks.
To date, only Estonia gives all voters the option of online voting in national elections.
Kagoro, who is the Founder and Executive Director of UHAI Africa Group, a governance and development consulting firm with operations in Johannesburg, said the very fact that “entire national databases are being handed over to Belgium to French to Swiss, and other companies which use artificial intelligence and all sorts of technology to literally tell patterns of behavior” is wrong.
In an exciting presentation, Kagoro asked participants, who included electoral commissioners from different parts of Africa to demonstrate their knowledge of blockchain technology.
“Can you raise your hand if you know anything about the blockchain technology industry? You know something about blockchain technology, not just the headline from a newspaper? If I asked you to explain, can you take five minutes explaining blockchain technology?” he asked.
Majority of the participants said they were not well grounded on the subject.
“So civil society doesn’t know; political parties don’t know; electoral management bodies don’t know. So who the hell knows?”
EC Secretary Sam Rwakoojo said the Symposium has been designed to provide a highly interactive and cordial learning environment, and featured a lineup of more than a dozen experts in the field of elections, governance, security, media, planning and research.
“The solution-oriented presentations, discussions questions and case studies are designed to achieve a key learning objective, that is, to draw lessons from other countries on various aspects including challenges and opportunities aimed at achieving peaceful, transparent and credible electoral process.,” said Rwakoojo.