The Role of Technology in Nigeria’s Electoral Process

Election, an important tool that ensures that the citizens of a country participate in selecting its leaders, has been identified as the most important time for both the citizens and politicians. It is globally accepted as a direct expression of citizens’ participation in a democratic process and serves as a means of ensuring accountability and mobilisation of the citizenry for political participation.

Elections in Nigeria has however, been characterised by malpractices such as rigging, snatching of ballot boxes, political intimidation, and assassination. This is evident in the numerous cases of ballot box snatching, military intimidation and thugs invading polling units in the recently concluded Presidential and Federal National Assembly elections. The elections which held on 23 March, had more than 70 candidates contest for Nigeria’s highest political position. Of the numerous candidates contesting for this position, the incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and Atiku Abubakar of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) are the most popular candidates.

In Nigeria, the difficulty in identifying a polling unit, distrust in the electoral system, fear of violence, loss of Permanent Voter’s Card (PVC), amongst others are the numerous reasons given by potential voters for not participating in an election. One wonders if the introduction of technology can help improve the electoral process in Nigeria as it has improved processes in other sectors such as Banking, Agriculture and even in homes.

The world today has become so dependent on technology that it is somewhat difficult to discuss any subject matter without mentioning the role of technology. The introduction of technology in our electoral process, if properly harnessed, can enhance voter identification, reduce incidents of multiple voting and make the voting process much easier and faster.  The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) – the umpire empowered by the constitution to conduct elections in Nigeria – has employed several innovative approaches to improve the management and conduct of elections in the country. Results show that the introduction of technologies such as Electronic Voters Register (EVR), Automatic Fingerprints Identification System (AFIS) and Smart Card Reader (SCR) have reduced the incidence of multiple registration and multiple voting to the barest minimum. Hence, it is believed that the incorporation of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in Nigeria’s electoral process can reduce excessive electoral fraud and foster credible elections.

We identify a few areas where technology will play a huge role in Nigeria’s future elections.

Voters Education

It is believed that voter’s apathy and not the process itself is the biggest problem with voting in Nigeria. Educating the population on the impact of the current policy is one way to encourage people to vote for a change. The use of communication channels such as social media can help propagate the message. The diffusion of social media across Africa has blessed us with an opportunity to reach millions of people with minimal capital investment. Social media today, can help with fact checking, running political ads and organising online polls in the build up to the elections.

“With big data and artificial intelligence technologies going mainstream, the election process is also being impacted. New tech has far better memory than humans, and with AI it’s getting on par with human imagination! While these technologies will change every step of the voting process, the tech will be able to better educate, communicate and motivate voters to exercise their rights.” – Anand Mahurkar, Findability Sciences, Forbes Technology Council

E-voting

The introduction of the PVC and SCR in 2015 saw the incidence of multiple registration reduce drastically. It is therefore worthy to note that improving voter accessibility will also have a significant impact on the electoral process. The development of an e-voting platform will allow voters to cast their votes from any location, reduce stress and time spent at polling units and increase the efficiency of the system which will significantly reduce election fraud. In 2007, approximately 300,000 impaired Australians voted independently for the first time and in 2014, Namibia became the first African nation to use electronic voting machines.

“Systems for voting, specifically mobile applications, must be built to create an equivalence between online identity and physical voter management. The act of voting should be seamless, without a wait and secure. Tabulation must be traceable from the individual to the device from which the vote came as to afford clear registration, tabulation, recount and analysis.” – Stephen Moore, Exabeam, Forbes Technology Council.

Transparency and accountability

“One technology people would love to see some sort of performance score cards for each politician so as decide whether to vote for or against them. Too many promises go unfulfilled, and our current politicians are not held accountable.” – Jake Diner, Elafris Inc.

The introduction of blockchain is changing the misconception that voting cannot be done online in a secure way. Considering that this technology is evolving and is gradually being embraced across the world, several countries have begun to experiment with blockchain voting.  Experts in different industries agree that transparency is key to maintaining consumer trust and improving business relations and because transactions in a blockchain are public, the validity of blocks can be confirmed by anyone on the network, hence, no chance of discrepancy. The blockchain technology employs the use of cryptocurrencies to record and audit votes.

Blockchain-powered voting process has been tried in locations like West Virginia in the United States and Zug municipality of Switzerland, and both experiments were recorded as successful.

While technology may offer the aforementioned advantages in Nigeria’s electoral process, it is important to note that it also comes with its cons. Amongst the many disadvantages of its application, security concerns and the wrong use of social media tops the list. From the recent Cambridge Analytical leaks that involved the tech giant Facebook, it is public knowledge that several parties use data to manipulate and sway voters, and Nigeria is no exception. To curb the menace of fake news, a collective effort is required.

References
  1. Olotu, Edmond. (2019) The Role of Technology in Nigeria’s 2019 Elections – https://www.revolt.ng/the-role-of-technology-in-nigerias-2019-elections-edmund-olotu/
  2. Agbata, Chukwuemeka F.  Jnr (2019) Technology, INEC and the 2019 general elections – r https://punchng.com/technology-inec-and-the-2019-general-elections/
  3. Ayent, Tobi P. and Esan, Adebimpe O. (2018) The Impact of ICT in the Conduct of Elections in Nigeria – http://www.imedpub.com/articles/the-impact-of-ict-in-the-conduct-of-elections-in-nigeria.php?aid=22211
  4. Eight Ways Technology Could Revolutionize The Voting Process –  Forbes Technology Council Community Voice https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbestechcouncil/2018/12/06/eight-ways-technology-could-revolutionize-the-voting-process/#2e9195c77a49



Leave a Reply