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As the 2019 general elections draw closer, the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, has expressed fears over the increasing incidence of election meddling through the use of technology in many countries.
Yakubu, therefore, said there was the need for African countries to tackle it in order to protect democracy. The INEC boss said this in Abuja on Monday at the opening ceremony of a conference attended by the Electoral Management Bodies of the ECOWAS member countries and the South African Development Community member states.
Speaking at the event titled, ‘Opportunities and Challenges in the Use of Technology in Elections: Experiences from West and Southern Africa,’ the INEC boss said there was the need for African countries to explore the advantages and challenges of technology in elections.
Yakubu said, “Given the high stakes of conducting elections in developing countries, electoral commissions must understandably be worried about the twin issues of communication and security especially in situations where data reside with and is directly transmitted to the tallying centres through offshore vendors rather than exclusively controlled within national boundaries by election monitoring bodies.
“In addition, we have to contend with the disturbing but rapidly increasing incidence of election meddling through the deployment of counter-technology on a global scale by state and non-state actors.”
Yakubu, who is also the President of the ECOWAS Network of Electoral Commissions, however, argued that since technology had come to stay, election management bodies must learn to use it for the benefit of the people.
He said technology could also help in curbing electoral malpractice and ensuring that more people were allowed to exercise their franchise.
The INEC boss added, “Already, election management bodies in our sub-regions and beyond have deployed technology in one way or the other to improve on the processes, administration and outcome of elections.
“These include: training and capacity building for electoral officials, promotion of inclusivity in the electoral process like youths, women, persons with disabilities, internally displaced persons; biometric registration of voters, delineation of electoral constituencies and geo-referencing of existing as well as the creation of new polling units.
“Others include: the establishment of robust electronic databases, accreditation of voters during elections, actual voting and the speedy and more accurate collation and transmission of results.”
Also speaking, the Chairman of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission of Kenya, Wanyonyi Chebukati, who organised two highly politically-charged presidential elections in two months, said the controversy was caused by the use of technology.
He said the election in which President Uhuru Kenyatta and Raila Odinga both claimed victory was rejected by a section of Kenya after Odinga alleged that the election was electronically rigged.
Chebukati added that there was the need for election management bodies to be strengthened and given total autonomy as such would help reduce suspicion.
He said, “From the Kenyan experience, technology does not come in to replace concerns over absence of trust, transparency and integrity. This must equally be addressed including through aptly setting out the structure of election management bodies.”
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