Election Universe

Powering democracy in Africa through Technology

Powering democracy in Africa through Technology
December 19 2016, 13:51

Technology is playing a big role in strengthening democracy by modernizing election administration. This was noted by Brigalia Bam, former chairperson of Independent Electoral Commission of South Africa who wrote in an article about the growing number of electoral commissions in the region relying on technology to improve election processes, particularly voter registration.

“A credible voter register enhances an electoral process reducing the possibility of fraud and ensuring that only those who are entitled to can vote,” Bam said.

She acknowledged the difficulty of building an accurate register when faced by challenges such as unavailability of identity documents, lack of birth and death records, increased urbanization, and changing national borders.

Bam also cites how technology helped in the success of second post-apartheid elections in South Africa in 1999. “The greatest challenge was the creation of a voter’s register in a country that had been divided by racial lines in every aspect of its existence,” she said. “All the logistics and preparations were electronically based and included mapping the country, drawing of voting districts, and putting in place IT infrastructure.”

The article goes on to discuss how technology is also transforming other countries across Africa such as Kenya, Nigeria, and Uganda, where there is widespread interest in the use of biometric technology to identify and register voters. “It is gaining popularity because it increases transparency and accuracy, reduces corruption and fraud and helps improve the voting experience,” Bam writes.

To date, more than 20 sub-Saharan African countries have already held elections employing a biometric voter register the latest of which was the 2016 Uganda polls which used biometrics to verify voters.

Bam also writes about great interest in internet voting among political leaders, technology innovators and voters alike.

She tempers expectations and warns that such an electronic voting system like other automated information systems must be judged on several criteria including how well its design provides for security, accuracy, ease of use, and efficiency. “But the benefits it could bring are undeniable,’ Bam said.