Know-how almost derailed the conclusion of the 2023 presidential elections in Nigeria. The Unbiased Nationwide Electoral Fee couldn’t fulfil its promise to transmit election outcomes from the polling items on its consequence viewing portal (IReV). This led to calls by some political events for cancellation and fresh elections. The Dialog Africa requested political scientist Abiodun Fatai how Nigeria can enhance its election digitisation.
Nigeria has been digitising the voting course of for 12 years. How has this labored?
Nigeria began utilizing digital know-how within the electoral course of in 2011 when the Unbiased Nationwide Electoral Fee launched the automated fingerprint identification system to cease voters registering greater than as soon as.
The everlasting voter’s card and sensible card reader have been launched within the 2015 common elections. On the polling station, a voter’s identification is verified by matching his or her biometrics to the voter’s card. The voter is then allowed to vote and the votes are counted manually.
In 2022, it launched the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System, which is an digital machine designed to learn everlasting voter playing cards and authenticate voters – utilizing the voters’ fingerprints – to show that they’re eligible to vote at a specific polling unit. This was used within the Ekiti and Osun states’ governorship elections in June 2022 and July 2022. The know-how labored to its design in each states and was the premise for an election tribunal sacking the Osun State winner in January 2023.
The fee additionally introduced the result viewing portal, IReV, to ensure clear accreditation and importing of polling unit outcomes. It stated this might allow residents to view ends in real-time on election day. However the outcomes couldn’t be uploaded onto the portal due to technical glitches. This triggered some party agents to walk out of the collation centre in Abuja.
Did digital applied sciences assist scale back fraud and promote the credibility of the elections?
It did to a big extent. It has been an extended journey since 2011 and we’re making enhancements. The biometric know-how truly labored. It has eradicated a number of voter registrations. In case your biometrics should not captured, you possibly can now not vote. These are enhancements. Have a look at the figures from the states – we didn’t see the massive figures of voters that have been out of proportion to the variety of registered voters, as occurred in earlier elections. The 2007 presidential election was so unhealthy that even the winner, Umaru Musa Yar’Ádua, acknowledged this and arrange a panel to reform elections. However the report of the committee, chaired by a former chief justice, Mohammed Uwais, did not see the light of day after Yar’Adua died.
The logistics may nonetheless be improved however among the glitches we noticed within the 2023 elections can’t be attributed to know-how. They have been operational points. A number of the biometric machines malfunctioned or electoral officers didn’t know the best way to use them.
Extra importantly, the purpose of know-how was to reinforce the standard and integrity of the elections and scale back electoral fraud. This was achieved.
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What are the constraints to digitisation?
Know-how is operated by people and so no matter is put in place can all the time be defeated by unscrupulous folks. Know-how doesn’t function in a vacuum. It’s obvious that Nigeria doesn’t have sufficient capability to deploy know-how totally.
Nigeria has weak broadband internet, and connectivity is patchy. Some components of Nigeria are still running on 3G networks when some nations are already on 5G. Some components of Nigeria should not even connected to the internet.
So, conducting elections in Nigeria by deploying know-how is a posh train. This was a cause for the fee not having the ability to transmit ends in actual time.
Digital elections should not low cost both as know-how infrastructure prices loads. Then there was the problem of inadequate preparation, evident within the late arrival of materials in some voting stations and insufficient coaching of advert hoc workers in working the biometric machines. All these will need to have limiting results on the elections.
What ought to Nigeria do to enhance digitisation of its elections?
The electoral fee should observe the electoral legislation strictly, particularly on the transmission of ends in actual time. This can improve the credibility of our elections. The outcomes should even be machine readable, with a transparent picture, and should be generated from the polling items.
The fee workers should be nicely educated in working the machines for elections. A few of them don’t have the capability and expertise wanted to perform in a digital atmosphere. This should change.
Nigeria should additionally improve its broadband networks to enhance connectivity. With out these two, the nation can’t get pleasure from the advantages of digital elections. There should be forensic screening of workers employed for election duties in order that they don’t seem to be simply compromised. Their integrity and character should be ascertained.
The nation additionally wants extra technical consultants to work with the electoral fee than has been the case to this point. It’s obvious that the fee lacks sufficient competent fingers to take care of rising technical points through the election.
Lastly, Nigerian politicians should permit full digitisation of elections. They need to embrace and assist it.
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