The President, ECOWAS Network of Electoral Commissions (ECONEC), Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, said in spite of the challenges of deploying technology in electoral processes, its benefits had remained enormous.
He stated this on Monday at the opening of a three-day International Conference of Election Management Bodies (EMBs) in West and Southern African countries in Abuja.
The conference has “Opportunities and Challenges in the Use of Technology: Experiences from West and Southern Africa’’ as theme.
Yakubu, who is also the Chairman, Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), said that the deployment of technology had encouraged and empowered citizens, more than before, to participate in the electoral process.
According to him, technology has helped citizens to organise, mobilise and protect their mandates using various social media platforms to track result transmission and undertake Parallel Vote Tabulation (PVT).
The ECONEC president said that given the deficit of infrastructure and expertise in many West and Southern Africa countries, and the regularity of elections conducted, concerns had been raised about cost, choice and effectiveness of technology.
He said that given the high stakes involved in conducting elections in developing countries, electoral commissions must understandably be worried about the twin issues of communication and security.
“In addition, we have to contend with the disturbing but rapidly increasing incidence of election-meddling through the deployment of counter-technology on a global scale by state and non-state actors.
“Nevertheless, technology has come to stay and its benefits are immense.
“`While it is true that all countries participating in this conference have deployed technology in one form or the other to improve on the electoral process, the outcome varies from one country to another.
“However, with this coming together of election managers and experts to share experience, we shall be better prepared in making the choice of the appropriate and cost effective technology that increase the public confidence in the electoral process.
“This will also help us further protect the sanctity and integrity of the ballot,’’ he said.
In a goodwill message, Notemba Tjipeuja, Executive Committee Chairperson, Election Commission Forum, Southern African Development Community (ECF-SADC), said that the introduction of ICT in the electoral process had continued to attract interest among stakeholders.
Tjipeuja, also the Chairperson, Electoral Commission of Namibia (ECN), the first country in Africa to use electronic voting machine, said that one of the benefits of technology was automatic and error-free counting.
She listed other benefits of the introduction of electronic voting machine as replacement of the ballot paper and ballot boxes.
Some others, according to her, include the elimination of spoilt ballots, minimising of human error, speeding up the voting process, securing of votes on control units and maintaining the secrecy of the ballot.
Tjipeuja said “today, most EMBs around the world use new technologies such as computer-based software and more complex technology in electoral processes.
“While we all agree that as EMBs, we cannot ignore technology, we have to at the same time, be mindful of the cost associated with the management of elections.
“This is one of the challenges for governments and all EMBs.
“We are mindful of the need for cost-saving measures by all EMBs to curb the ever-increasing cost of elections, the need to carefully manage the use of ICT and the need to sustain the integrity of elections,’’ she added.
Delegates from 30 countries in ECOWAS sub-region are attending the conference.