April 11, 2018 By Elizabeth A. kaine
President of the ECOWAS Network of Electoral Commissions (ECONEC) Governing Board, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, has called for appropriate and cost-effective use of technology to boost public confidence in the electoral process and for the protection of the sanctity and integrity of the ballot.
In his welcome address at the opening of a three-day international conference on opportunities and challenges in the use of technology in elections in Abuja on Monday, April 9, Prof. Yabubu, who also chairs Nigeria’s Independent Electoral Commission, noted that while technology has come to stay and its benefits are immense, its deployment has numerous challenges.
He noted that the Election Management Bodies (EMBs) from more than 30 countries that attended the conference had deployed technology in their electoral processes and the outcomes varied from one country to another.
“Given the deficit of infrastructure and expertise in many countries in the sub-regions and the regularity with which elections are conducted, concerns have been raised about the cost choice and effectiveness of the technology,” he stated.
He also noted that there were other concerns related to the use of technology in elections in West African – the twin issues of communication and security of sensitive data and the rapidly increasing incidence of election meddling through the deployment of counter-technology on a global scale by state and non-state actors.
Prof. Yakubu expressed optimism that the Abuja Conference would be a turning point in the region’s collective effort to deepen the deployment of technology for credible elections and stable democracies.
Participants at the conference, jointly organised by ECONEC, INEC and ECFSADC, said with support of the European Centre for Electoral Support (ECES), they would share experiences on best electoral practices from Western and Southern Africa.
Madam Notemba Tjipuena, chair of the Electoral Commissions Forum Southern African Development Community (ECF-SADC) and chairperson of the Electoral Commission of Namibia, said experience from her country – the first in Africa to use electronic voting – has shown that cost-effectiveness and sustainability of credibility of elections should inform the introduction of technology.
Madam Tjipuena said initiatives such as the Abuja conference was essential towards strengthening collaboration among EMBs in Africa for the conduct of credible elections and consolidation of democracy.
President of ECOWAS Commission, Jean-Claude Brou, represented by the head of Electoral Assistance Division, Francis Gabriel Oke, outlined the electoral progress and challenges recorded in the region, adding that the introduction of technology in elections should be approached with caution and to maximise the benefits and avoid pitfalls.
Monica Frassoni, President of ECES management board, noted that while the use of technology in elections has been characterised by benefits and skepticism, ECES would like to extend its collaboration with Western and Southern Africa EMBs beyond improvement in the use of technology in elections.
The EU Ambassador to Nigeria and ECOWAS, Ketil Karlsen, urged participants to take full advantage of the opportunity presented by the conference to share ideas and experiences on quality control in the electoral process, adding that the right use of technology in elections was known to have added value, while wrong use produce bad results.
Wafula Chebukati, Chair of Kenya’s Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission, dwelt on the country’s recent electoral experience, especially the use of technology, stressing that ‘technology’ in election was as good as those behind it.