While the debate on electoral reforms is going in the national assembly, how best toÂ realizeÂ a stable democratic political system in Nigeria through IT tools and strategies has continued to be a major concern of stakeholders in the Nigerian IT industry, especially the Nigerian Computer Society.
For many observers, electoral reform is not feasible without deployment of robust IT infrastructure.
Less than one week aheadÂ of the 2010 NCS Annual General Meeting slated for next week in Asaba, Delta, Mr Afolabi Salisu, Chairman, Conference Committee of the conference who is also the Managing Director of Simplex Automation Systems LTD spoke to CyberLIFE’s Emeka AginamÂ on a number of issues includingÂ stable political system in Nigeria with the deployment of technology, how INEC can face the challenges ahead of 2011 elections, among others. Excerpts:
How closely is the NCS working with INECÂ to make sure thatÂ e-voting is feasible in Nigeria
The Nigerian Computer Society , NCS, is evenÂ looking beyond -e-voting. We are looking at tools and strategies to ensure a credible electoral process is achieved.
That is why the themeÂ is focused on: Realizing aÂ stable democratic political system inÂ Nigeria: IT tools & strategies We have engaged INECÂ in an ongoing conversation.Â You will recall that we have engaged INEC in a similarÂ discussion when we had a retreat in Asaba. The discussion started in 2008. We have had retreat in Asaba in 2008.
We followed it up with another retreatÂ in KadunaÂ where we engaged stakeholders and that engagement will continue. That engagement will continue
We are lookingÂ beyond e-voting. We are going to continue that conversation. In a matter of days, (tomorrow) we will have a meeting with the new INEC chairman to advance on the discussion and collaboration we have had over the years.
We have written INEC to say that NCS as a stakeholder will like to be involvedÂ in the forthcoming electoralÂ process, and we are happy that we will have new voters register and extend on what we have; we are delighted that the feedback from INEC is positive. These are areas we can work with INEC until we get it right.
Are you getting feed back from INEC regarding the letter ?
Yes, we have been getting feedback. On Thursday, the 22nd day of July, (tomorrow), forÂ instance, we will have a meeting with the INEC chairman and his commissioners on strategies to ensure a credible electoral process. We will discuss on how we canÂ assist INEC on credible elections using technology tools.
Our visit to INEC, I believe will be positive, and will focus on howÂ Nigeria can get the best electoral system. We will share thoughts and ideas on how IT can be deployed to achieve the mandate of INECÂ for a credible process that can enjoy the confidence of the people. How technology can be deployed to achieve a credible election, will in fact,Â form our focus .
The bench markÂ is to engage the stakeholders to get involved in the process. We will discussing with INECÂ on best to achieve a credible election
Is e-voting feasible in Nigeria?
E-votingÂ is feasible even in the face of infrastructural challenges. Infrastructure is improving and e-voting is becoming more and more feasible. But you can understand that in the last few years, the level of infrastructure in the country has improved significantly. People can now do online banking even using their mobile phones. People are using ATM.Â E-voting and deployment of automation wouldÂ greatly assist credible electoral process.
EveryoneÂ agrees that voters registrar is very important in electoral process. We are not even talking of e-voting. But canâ€™t we automate the process in such a way that everybody that is supposed to be in the voters register are there?. That anybodyÂ that is not supposed to be there is not there. That the entire process of the election is automated is the beginning point.
Technology can be used to do so. How technology could be used to deliver credible elections even in the shortest possible time is what automation can achieve.
There is challenge of time. So we will be engaging INECÂ and we believe thatÂ INEC collaboration willÂ deliver credible elections in the country. Internal and external process ofÂ INECÂ are all what automation can achieve.
What are the challenges you think INEC will likelyÂ have ahead of 2011 election
The challenges are enormous; even the engagement of critical stakeholders is one of the major challenges. Time is another challenge. We are already closeÂ to the end of month ofÂ July and compilation of new voters register has not commenced and that is the starting point.
InfrastructureÂ and awareness of voters are part of the challenges. But all of these are surmountable if we have the right political will and education on the part of everybody. We need to educate and enlighten our people but you have to engage the relevant stakeholders including the NCS, NBA, the National Assembly who are to make the electoral lawsÂ because we are also going to look at electoral reforms. The constitutional amendments to electoral act that we commenced few months ago has notÂ even been completed. We need to get the electoral Act running. We need to get it right regarding electoral process.
Now on NCS AGM: What is your state of preparedness ahead of 2010 NCS AGM
We are fully ready for NCS conference slated for next week in Asaba. We have all the dignitaries that are supposed to be invited. We have invited the Delta State Governor. We are also expecting the Governor of Edo State We haveÂ invited the key note speaker in the person ofÂ Mr. Jim Ovia, Zenith Bank MD. We are fully prepared.
WeÂ have mobilized our people including resource persons. Per fundamentals of the conference, we are fully prepared. We are expecting betweenÂ 700 to 1,000 participants or more. We are expecting a number of dignitaries from the industry. The number could be more. A lot of people have not been to Delta State and may start having the feeling of insecurity but I have been there couple of times without any problem.
What is the focus of the conference?
We are devoting the conference to important national issues. We are going to be discussing as sub-themes like Effective people and engagement of the political process-IT as catalyst, assuring integrity of the electoral process through automation, e-payment, building a block for accountability and transparency in government, electoral funding and bonding with candidates-IT tools and strategies, efficient, effective and just judicial systems- the Law, Society, and Information Technology, effective election information management system, IT-an indispensable tool for election monitoring and observation,
IT asa a conflict management tool- Nigeria Delta in focus and bridging the gender gap in the political process-IT to the rescue. And do not forget,Â Nigeria will be 50 years. Our own way of celebrating Nigeria is to look at electoral process in this year conference. We are devoting the conference on stable democratic system through good electoral system. And that is why we have the theme on: â€˜Realizing s stable democratic political system inÂ Nigeria: IT tools & strategiesâ€™.
This year, with the participation of International Centre for Information Technology and Development, ICITD, NCS will present the first Research Consortium on Information Technology Innovations, an international event that will take place during the RESDEMIT 2010 conference
What are your challenges ahead of the NCS AGM?.
The security situation in the region has been a majorÂ challenge that did not allow us to involve all other stakeholders in the public sector of the Nigeria economy. We are not even sure which minister will come, and a new INEC chairmanÂ just resumed. Another challenge is finance but we are ready for 2010 NCS AGMÂ which I hope will be a greatÂ success.