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2011 Election: E-Voting, possible with political will, Says Prof. Uwadia

President Yar Adua
President Yar Adua

The  President of the Ni gerian Computer Society, NCS,  Prof. Charles Uwadia has said that e-voting system is feasible in the 2011 general elections with strong political will.

Uwadia who addressed IT journalists last week in Lagos ahead of a follow-up retreat between Nigerian Computer Society, (NCS) and Independent National Electoral Commission, (INEC) slated for November this year said that there was need to urgently  deploy  a robust e-voting machine for 2011 general elections, adding that Nigeria ought to do whatever is possible to make it work out. “We cannot keep quiet and keep complaining” he said.

Although analysts have expressed worries over   bureaucratic bottleneck that  may derail the adoption e-voting machine for the electoral process, Uwadia with optimism noted that Nigeria can have experimental e-voting system in 2010.

E-voting, according to Uwadia,  is a response to the quest to make voting convenient and results to accurately reflect the wishes of the electorate.

While countries of the world are quickly embracing e-voting system, he lamented that electoral system in Nigeria is still basically manual with semi-automated process. “While registration is electronic, voting and ballot counting are done manually.. This has not produced the desired results leading to several cases of e-malpractice including mass thum printing of ballot paper, stuffing of ballot boxes and snatching same, impersonation and multiple registration, manipulation of election results among others.

“Quite a number of election results have been disputed with some of the areas still pending in election tribunals. The fundamental challenge facing electoral process is that of assuring that votes are recorded as cast and tabulated accurately. The application of e-voting has already become a necessary part of global campaign for increased electoral integrity.

“Elections in most nations of the world with enviable democratic platform have over the years been conducted electronically. Nigeria cannot and should not be an exception.

The capacity building event with the theme, stabilizing the Nigerian democracy through e-voting system, according to Uwadia will examine many issues including e-voting in Nigeria: Issues and Challenges, e-voting models around the world, e-voting  in Nigeria: Prospects and solutions, the role of the civil society in actualizing e-voting in Nigeria, the role of the media in actualizing e-voting iin Nigeria, among others.

Meanwhile, the two bodies in a recent retreat organised to fashion out a workable strategies for a transparent electoral process in the country had already recommended in a communique after the event that attracted seasoned IT professionals that any e-voting machine that INEC might consider for deployment for the electoral process in Nigeria must have the following features;-

•Ability to capture at least 3 forms of confirmatory evidence for each vote cast
•Interface for real time/wireless transmission of data

•Facility for accurate authentication of voter’s information
•Must be fool-proof Tamper-proof and weather-proof to perform under any condition
•Provision for verifiable audit trail

•Provision that allows voters to confirm that their votes have been recorded as cast
•Voice prompt that could be customized in any Nigerian dialect

•Provision for automatic and periodic uploading of election results while voting is in progress
•The data encryption algorithm must be based on distributed encryption method
•Facility that allows the blind and visually impaired to be able to cast votes unassisted
•The equipment battery life must last for a minimum of ten hours

Speaking to IT journalists shortly after a joint retreat held recently in Delta State to work out modalities for a a successful 2011 general elections,

It would be recalled that the   INEC ICT Director, Engr. Emmanuel Akem, had earlier told IT journalists that  INEC would conduct a free and fair elections based on international best practice if the national assembly reviews the electoral law to allow the use of e-voting machine.

“ E-voting machine is in the front burner. But we need legislative mandate to go ahead. If the law is amended on time to allow for the use of e-voting machine for the 2011 elections, INEC will come out with best machine in the world otherwise it will be of no use if the we are not given mandate on time. If the law is amended two years before the elections, it will be implemented. But it is amended before six months before the elections, then is of no use.

“In the last elections, the law was reviewed and we had to go back to the use ballot papers. If they give us a go ahead in good time, we will adopt a robust machine in the next elections. If we use technology in the election, results will come out on time” Akem,said.

He was optimistic that if e-voting process piloted under the administration of Dr Chris Nwannenna as NCS President is adopted, politicians will be helpless at certain level to rig elections. “We a machine that will be adoptable to our own environment. We need NCS partnership to achieve a workable e-voting system. In terms of local content, NCS is involved in the data base of the electoral process.

It is in so doing, everybody will be happy at the end of the day as the citizens will see that the elections are transparent” Akem who is very passionate in transparent electoral process told IT journalists.

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