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Hillary Cliton’s visit and e-Voting: The heart of the matter

By Chris Uwaje
What is Senator Hillary Clinton’s mission as she visits Nigeria? The heart of the matter about the US Secretary of State, Senator Hillary Clinton who is currently in Nigeria  is about Digital Democracy – that is digitizing, automating and transforming the art and processes of governance and national resources. Indeed, it is about addressing the urgent need for Nigeria to leapfrog from a muscle society to a machine (computer)

Information-rich society by prioritizing the deployment and implementation of Information Technology – particularly at all government levels.  Central to this concern is e-Voting.

Yes, I am conscious of the fact that due to the underground current on the President Barrack Obama’s recent visit to Ghana, the United States of America may wish to diplomatically pacify Nigeria who today, not only represents the largest single concentration of people of African decent under the universe, but indeed, has become the 6th largest oil producer in the world and the 7th most populated nation on the Planet Earth.  Yes indeed, I am aware that The United States of America wants our Crude Oil which they will put into better use than us — who have abandoned refining crude to importing refined crude?

Oh yes, I am also very conscious of the golden rule that all the above objectives can not be accomplished unless there are sustainable peace and stability in government.  Today, the only and meaningful strategy for the attainment of peace and stability in governance in by ensuring that e-voting machines are made mandatory standard for the next general election in Nigeria.  Last but not least, I an not only conscious but vividly belief in the professional ability of Nigerians to transform our election crisis into a solution of golden opportunity for Nigeria to emerge as a first class nation — by making Information Technology the bedrock of our democracy. Recently, I was a witness in Abuja, as the Nigeria Computer Society Demystified e-voting.

With the actualization of this real life e-voting program conducted at the recent AGM election for the National Executive Council Members of the Nigeria Computer Society (NCS), one can confidently affirm that e-voting is indeed very possible and feasible in Nigeria. E-Voting has therefore become the hallmark of a successful democratic system of governance – thanks to Information Technology.  Today the role of Information and Communications Technology (ICT) Infrastructure is acknowledged as fundamental and critical to the success attained by e-voting system of political election.

An electoral voting machine forms a critical part of the fundamental process. All over the world, a well planned and executed election process allows the populace to choose their leaderrepresentatives  thereby, expressing their franchise and preferences on how they will be governed..

It is therefore significant to emphasize that election e-oting system must be professionally planned, organized, transparently executed and indeed the operational framework must be sufficiently robust to withstand a variety of fraudulent and smart-by-half behaviors. Also, the entire process must be sufficiently transparent and comprehensible to ensure that voters and candidates can accept the results of an election.

The heart of the matter within the context of Senator Clinton’s visit to Nigeria is about “election process” in Nigeria. It is about addressing the critical mass of the major cause of our electoral crisis cycle. It is about eliminating vote snatching, stuffing, hijacking, and outright vote stealing. Nigeria’s electoral system and processes have been hunted by “Vote inflation, destruction, cancellation and Vote snatching or hijacking” for a very long time.

This has eroded the confidence of Voters and established an endemic voters’ apathy amongst Nigerian. Indeed, this scenario constitutes the core challenge of Nigeria’s electoral process – that is, the ability and capability to generate and deliver secured, authentic, transparent and generally accepted electoral result.

The solution is automated election through e-voting.To point out that the technology to effectively actualize e-voting and realise the ideal of ‘one-touch vote-casting’ already exists is only part of the answer. Government carry a heavy legacy of manual information systems, procedures and policies too cumbersome to process into an accountable and acceptable solution.

However, in a period of evolution, crucial information progress is required to ensure that as challenges and problems present themselves, they are addressed and overcome in a speed of thought.

How time flies? In year 2002, I hammering on my keyboard, I wrote – under the title of “Is Your President Computer Literate”? as follows: [As we step up our approach into the new democratic process, it will be foolish of the electorate (both the computer literate and non_literate ones) to vote non_computer literate candidates into any office come year 2003.

Therefore, the prime question to ask is:
“Is your President, Minister, Governor, Senators, Speaker, Member of House of Representative, Adviser, Commissioner, Permanent Secretary, Chairman of LGA, Managing Director, Chief Executive Officer, General Manager, HOD and Professor, School Teacher, Labour Union Leader, Father and Mother at home computer literate??? If they are not, available data shows that they may all constitute a major national development risk, as globalization and the emerging fearsome digital divide intensifies. Indeed, globalization is just another word for the Internationalization of trade and commerce via the conduit of High Technology – whose most essential components are Information.

Technology (IT) and Communications Technology (CT). If the new language of commerce and development measured by the GDP is Information and Communications Technologies, it will amount to a colossal national deceit if we assume that the application of obsolete tools, neglect of science and technology in governance and corporate enterprise will outperform that of those other nations who are active information age players. In absolute terms, there is one indisputable fact.

That is, no IT_deficient nation will ever outperform a high technology and ICT knowledgeable and information_rich nation. All indications point to the fact that the GDP growth gap between such nations will continue to widen to the detriment of the IT_deficient nation. A typical example is the GDP Gap of about $260 for Nigeria against a GDP close to $12,000 for most of the IT and high technology active countries of Asia.

Whereas, it is on record, and GDP statistics of 1960s show that Nigeria out_performed most of those Asian countries – some 4 decades ago! So, what happened? The issue is quite simple: we locked_up science and technology for more than 30 years and threw away the key! Now, with IT, history has presented us with the golden opportunity, not only to find the key, but also to unleash the greatest potential of our people and nation to leapfrog. It is time to say goodbye to ignorance and penury.

We must leave behind us all those falsehood of development which have produced nothing but a convergence of pseudo dreams, miraculous mirage and blatant illusions. In order words, it is only those who understand and have great belief and interest in the tremendous benefit, dividend and vivid perception of the fearsome impact of the digital divide, that will be in position to enthrone IT and CT and make them the highest priority for our national development process. With the National IT Policy Blueprint in place, the implementation strategy need to be understood as a strategic imperative for our entire life and development as a nation.

The next few months will reveal if our current leaders really understand the grave consequences which await generations yet unborn, if we miss out of this information technology revolution. Funding will be a crucial factor. Prof. Bert Nnaji (NEST Award winner and former Minister of Science and Technology) believes that nothing short of USD1 billion spread over a five year period will be required to kick_start a result oriented and productive IT movement for Nigeria.]

The world we life in is a machine_intensive world and Nigeria can not pretend to be unaware of Technology benefits for the survivability of her people – especially when same people adore prefer automobile technology (especially Jeeps) instead of walking barefoot with legs to govern. The world population is homing closely to about 6.8billion and so is Nigeria’s population blooming astronomically.

In such a scenario, it will be expecting too much of Prof. M. Iwu to magically count all the votes. It is a man made illusion. Special problems will emerge only through experience and there are no short cuts.

Our world of IT intensive living will definitely takes hostages! Nations who wait to profit from the experience of others will inevitably find themselves at a continuing disadvantage to competitors who have moved on to the next stage of the evolutionary cycle.  IT has become the life_blood that flows in the veins on all living activities in a nation.

The 21st century has challenged humanity to vision new vision, dream new dreams and innovative models for living activities and global development. Today, Wireless communications have become an essential element in providing the fabric of an open/ transparent accountable and free society. Currently, “wireless” services have taken a rapidly increasing role in ensuring the effectiveness of global and national security issues, creating jobs and promoting economic growth, as well as supporting scientific research, and maintaining competitiveness in radio_communications technology and services.

e_Voting is about the fundamental Rights of an individual Privacy, authentication and confirmed/agreed/certified opinion _ this many of us do on a daily basis with our cellphone (Voice and SMS) and email (Internet). In business, e_payment is a form of electronic authentication and agreement/opinion_voting system, so is SMS. Indeed, when you say

Yes or No to the other party during a Mobile phone conversation, you have indeed voted or cast or registered your opinion electronically and this can be played back as evidence that you did. The pending challenge is that there is need for an enabling law and ACT for e_voting to be actualized and admissible as evidence in law..

Consequently, it is imperative to craft a National policy on e_voting – which will become the Roadmap to future elections.  Senator Clinton will definitely teach Nigerians any new tricks in the art of manually manipulated Governance. She is not coming to beg Nigeria to automate and transform government processes and governance.
Her message will simply be:

“Nigeria my friend, you have no choices left but ‘CHANGE’. This is the only option left for your survivability. The Roadmap for change will be drawn by Information and Communications Technology – abundantly spurred by building capacities and skills in Science and Technology and mandatory education for all Nigeria youths.  This my friend is not a matter of ‘wish’, it is a mandatory matter of must, if you still want to belong to the committee of information society world and survive”!


Disclaimer

Comments expressed here do not reflect the opinions of vanguard newspapers or any employee thereof.