Yiaga Africa convenes meeting of election stakeholders on the use of technology in elections

Yiaga Africa convenes meeting of election stakeholders on the use of technology in elections

Yiaga Africa convenes meeting of election stakeholders on the use of technology in elections

As part of early preparations towards the 2023 general elections, Yiaga Africa convened a two-day roundtable meeting of election stakeholders on electoral technology to examine its contributions to election administration, electoral integrity, and citizen participation.

This has become critical as in the last decade, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has increasingly relied on electoral technology for biometric voter registration, electronic accreditation and electronic transmission of results. These technological innovations have increased the transparency and credibility of elections and prevented efforts to compromise the electoral process by political actors. 

However, these deployments have not been with risks and challenges associated with infrastructure, costs, digital security and low public awareness.

It is in recognition of this that Yiaga Africa convened stakeholders including INEC, legislators, ICT policy experts, ICT regulatory agencies, civil society and professional bodies to forge consensus on the principles that should shape the deployment and sustainability of new and existing electoral technologies in future elections.

In his welcome address, the Executive Director, Yiaga Africa, Samson Itodo commended the National Assembly for amending the Electoral Act in accordance with prevailing realities.

“As watchers and observers and participants in the political and electoral reform process, we note the amendments to confer legalities on electronic transmission of result as the leverage granted to INEC to deploy technology for elections,’’

He added that technologies are great for elections as it enhances citizens participation and electoral transparency. However, he cautioned that technology could also undermine the integrity of elections and limit the participation of citizens.

Speaking at the event, the INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu who was represented by his Special Assistant, Prof. Mohammed Kuna said the deployment of technology in elections in Nigeria was inevitable.

“This may have been gradual, but it is in a sense inevitable to ignore technology in the conduct of elections. One of the concerns in terms of electoral bodies’ experiences in Africa as a whole in the deployment of technology, has to do with issues about the appropriateness, acceptability and the sustainability of technologies that have been deployed for elections.”

He added that electoral management bodies are also concerned with the security of votes and ensuring that the rights of citizens to vote freely and privately, as well as the sanctity of their votes are protected.

On his part, the President of Nigeria Computer Society, Prof. Adesina Sodiya, said Nigeria is ripe for e-voting, especially as banking platforms, Point-of-Sale terminals and other platforms are being widely used to carry out financial activities electronically.

“We are progressing in the right direction from Card Reader to BVAS. Nigeria is ripe for e-voting, the majority of our people don’t want to queue under the sun but if they know you have a strong e-voting system to cast their vote from the comfort of their home, they would embrace it,” he said.

In his submission, The Executive Director, Paradigm Initiative, Gbenga Sesan said INEC should test its electronic devices to detect and rectify areas of concern before the 2023 general election.

He added that the Commission should have a robust data protection mechanism, especially as INEC holds the most important data in the country.

However, not all participants at the roundtable meeting were enthusiastic about electronic voting in Nigeria. 

The Chairman, Senate Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Sen. Ajibola Basiru, while contributing, argued that even the country’s mobile networks, although not the same as electoral technologies, were ineffective and could not cover many places, especially the rural areas.

“I beg to disagree with the President of the Nigeria Computer Society that Nigeria is ripe for e-voting, and I say this with all sense of responsibility. As a grassroots and practical politician, I have moved around and yes it is easier for us who live in the municipalities of Lagos, Port Harcourt and Abuja to talk about digital coverage. There are other places you visit where you see the problem of infrastructure and there is still a network problem in most parts of the rural areas,” he said.

The Stakeholders’ Roundtable on Electoral Technology was held under the #FixElectionsNG project which is supported by the European Union Support to Democratic Governance in Nigeria (EU-SDGN).