Nigeria’s election was almost derailed by expertise, however biometric units weren’t the issue, says researcher

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Know-how almost derailed the conclusion of the 2023 presidential elections in Nigeria. The Unbiased Nationwide Electoral Fee couldn’t fulfill its promise to transmit election outcomes from the polling items on its consequence viewing portal (IReV). This led to calls by some political events for cancelation and fresh elections. The Dialog Africa requested political scientist Abiodun Fatai how Nigeria can enhance its election digitization.

Nigeria has been digitizing the voting course of for 12 years. How has this labored?

Nigeria began utilizing digital technology within the electoral process in 2011 when the Unbiased Nationwide Electoral Fee launched the automated fingerprint identification system to cease voters registering greater than as soon as.

The everlasting voter‘s card and good card reader have been launched within the 2015 normal elections. On the polling station, a voter’s identification is verified by matching his or her biometrics to the voter’s card. The voter is then allowed to vote and the votes are counted manually.

In 2022, it launched the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System, which is an digital system designed to learn everlasting voter playing cards and authenticate voters—utilizing the voters’ fingerprints—to show that they’re eligible to vote at a selected polling unit. This was used within the Ekiti and Osun states’ governorship elections in June 2022 and July 2022. The expertise labored to its design in each states and was the premise for an election tribunal sacking the Osun State winner in January 2023.

The fee additionally introduced the result viewing portal, IReV, to ensure clear accreditation and importing of polling unit outcomes. It stated this might allow residents to view leads to real-time on election day. However the outcomes couldn’t be uploaded onto the portal due to technical glitches. This precipitated some party agents to walk out of the collation middle in Abuja.

Did digital applied sciences assist cut back fraud and promote the credibility of the elections?

It did to a big extent. It has been a protracted journey since 2011 and we’re making enhancements. The biometric expertise really labored. It has eradicated a number of voter registrations. In case your biometrics will not be captured, you possibly can not vote. These are enhancements. Have a look at the figures from the states—we didn’t see the large figures of voters that have been out of proportion to the variety of registered voters, as occurred in earlier elections. The 2007 presidential election was so unhealthy that even the winner, Umaru Musa Yar’Ádua, acknowledged this and arrange a panel to reform elections. However the report of the committee, chaired by a former chief justice, Mohammed Uwais, did not see the light of day after Yar’Adua died.

The logistics might nonetheless be improved however a number of the glitches we noticed within the 2023 elections can’t be attributed to expertise. They have been operational points. A few of the biometric machines malfunctioned or electoral officers did not know tips on how to use them.

Extra importantly, the objective of expertise was to boost the standard and integrity of the elections and cut back electoral fraud. This was achieved.

What are the constraints to digitization?

Know-how is operated by people and so no matter is put in place can all the time be defeated by unscrupulous individuals. Know-how doesn’t function in a vacuum. It’s obvious that Nigeria would not have sufficient capability to deploy expertise totally.

Nigeria has weak broadband internet, and connectivity is patchy. Some components of Nigeria are still running on 3G networks when some nations are already on 5G. Some components of Nigeria will not be even connected to the internet.

So, conducting elections in Nigeria by deploying expertise is a posh train. This was a purpose for the fee not with the ability to transmit leads to actual time.

Digital elections will not be low-cost both as expertise infrastructure prices quite a bit. Then there was the problem of inadequate preparation, evident within the late arrival of materials in some voting stations and insufficient coaching of advert hoc workers in working the biometric machines. All these should have limiting results on the elections.

What ought to Nigeria do to enhance digitization of its elections?

The electoral fee should comply with the electoral regulation strictly, particularly on the transmission of leads to actual time. This may improve the credibility of our elections. The outcomes should even be machine readable, with a transparent picture, and have to be generated from the polling items.

The fee workers have to be properly educated in working the machines for elections. A few of them haven’t got the capability and expertise wanted to perform in a digital setting. This should change.

Nigeria should additionally improve its broadband networks to enhance connectivity. With out these two, the nation cannot get pleasure from the advantages of digital elections. There have to be forensic screening of workers employed for election duties in order that they aren’t simply compromised. Their integrity and character have to be ascertained.

The nation additionally wants extra technical experts to work with the electoral fee than has been the case to this point. It’s obvious that the fee lacks sufficient competent arms to cope with rising technical points in the course of the election.

Lastly, Nigerian politicians should permit full digitization of elections. They have to embrace and assist it.

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