Wednesday, April 08, 2009
INEC, Computer Society canvass e-voting in future electionsBy Adeyemi Adepetun and Bankole Orimisan
IN preparation for future general elections, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and the Nigerian Computer Society (NCS) is collaborating on the implementation of an information technology driven solutions that will guard against the efficiency of the electoral body.
Specifically, it was agreed that major failures recorded in the last elections were man-made and as means of preventing a re-occurrence in the future, there is need to address the issue through a well-throught-out co-ordinated application and deployment of Information Technology systems, stressing that election is the heart of governance in Nigeria.
At a joint press briefing in Lagos, recently, the President of NCS, Prof. Charles Uwadia and Prof. Maurice Iwu, represented by Mr. Emmauel Akim, the director, ICT, INEC disclosed that at a joint retreat held last year in Asaba, Delta State between the two bodies, it was agreed that there is need for professional bodies and government agencies to have a strategic alliance that would be encouraged and sustained in the public-private-partnership spirit, because of its potential impact on national development and global competitiveness.
Uwadia disclosed that NCS is partnering with INEC on how to ensure that the system of voting in the nearest future is technologically based. He said there are considerations for the smooth adoption of an electronic voting (E-voting) system come 2011 elections.
Uwadia, however, added that the implementation of an E-voting system would now depend on the recommendations got from whatever deliberations received form the National Assembly (Senate and House of Representative).
The NCS president further said that at the Asaba retreat, a communiqu� was issued, which was jointly signed by him and INEC Chairman, Prof. Maurice Iwu.
He said that the communiqu� highlighted areas of flaw and proffer solutions on how we can have better future elections in Nigeria in the future.
The communiqu�, he stated identified the following problems among others as the challenges associated with the current voting system; mass thumb printing of balloting papers; ballot stuffing; snatching of ballot boxes; impersonation of voters; multiple registration and errors due to manual collation of results. It, however, noted that these challenges could be surmounted with the adoption of electronic voting system.
The retreat recognised that the cost of the space segment on the network has huge financial implications, therefore the electoral body should subscribe to the size of the space segment needed for its operational purposes during non-election ears while the requirement should scaled up during election tear to meet the demands for the election results collation and dissemination.
The communiqu� also stated that the retreat recognised that INEC has exiting systems to capture, transmit, collate, review and approve results at the INEC state offices and the National Headquarters Result Management Centre. It was recommended that INEC should explore the use of the GSM Unstructured Supplementary Service Date (USSD) and General Pack Radio Service (GPRS) technologies to complement the existing light weight encrypted secure file socket transmission for election result transmission and collation.
The retreat recommended that when the systems for e-collation and e-dissemination for election result are fully implemented, that the election results in Nigeria should user normal circumstances be published within the period of six hours after closing election polls in every part of Nigeria.
It identified the following challenges associated with electronic voting system; machine failures; vote flipping; possibility of election results and the instability problems.
However, the retreat noted that these challenges are surmountable with contemporary technologies. It further noted that electronic voting system offers the best available option to prevent election manipulation and to amuse the integrity and sanity of each vote that is cast.
The retreat recognised the need for integrity of the transmitted data and therefore recommends the adoption of distributed encryption technique for purposes of secured data transmission. The distributed encryption technique entrails that the encrypted keys are held by more than one person.
Others points in the communiqu� should that the retreat re-emphasised the importance of a comprehensive and accurate registered votes data base and therefore recommended that this critical national assets must be well secured to provide the necessary platform for a reliable electoral system.
The retreat identifies the need for the INEC to partner with the National Identify Management Commission (NIMC), Federal Road Safety Commission, Immigration Services, Pension Fund Administrations and other relevant government agencies to development a comprehensive and harmonised National Database.
This will allow any authorised stakeholder to have an access to information relevant to its needs and operations from a single point of entry.
The communiqu� revealed that a fundamental challenges facing any electoral process as that of assuming that the roles are recorded as cast and tabulated accurately as expected, based on this it recommended that any e-voting machine that INEC might consider for deployment for the electoral process in Nigeria must have the following features; ability to capture at least three-forms of conformatory evidence for each vote cast, interface for real-time/wireless transmission of data.
Facility for accurate authentication of voter’s information; must be fool-proof tamper-proof to perform under any condition; provision for rerifiable audit trait; provision that allows voters to confirm that their voters have been recorded as cast.
Others include; voice prompt that would be customised in any Nigerian dialect; provision for automatic and periodic uploading of election results while voting is in progress; the data encryption algorithm must be based on distributed encryption method; facility that allows the blind and virtually impaired to be able to cast votes unassisted and that the equipment battery life must last for a minimum of 10 hours.
The retreat also observed that INEC is yet to put in place well-structured voter’s identification coding system. It was therefore recommended that unique voters’ identification number be adopted to reflect voters’ state, local government area, ward, poling units and voter’s serial number.
Buttressing the need for an E-voting system, Akem said there have been several calls from Nigerian’s in Diaspora agitating that they too would want to vote, “so this call open a window for us to explore this opportunity and see how it will,” he stated.
He said that countries like India, China and so other are using e-voting for elections that a model of such is what is being implemented.