National elections and role of professional technology observers – Chris Uwaje

National elections and role of professional technology observers – Chris Uwaje



What is the significance of national elections where citizens votes are not accurately captured and recorded due to many daunting challenges and missing links in technology deployment?  



Can the strategic and mandatory inclusion of Information Technology Professionals and Computer Scientists add value and profound integrity to national elections? The interoperability of systems architecture, data integrity and professional expertise are and for a long time remain the epicentre of national elections. These amongst others is why the adoption of electronic transmission of election results for national elections in Nigeria represents a good development going forward into the future.  



However, its implementation process comes with difficult challenges, unless there is a noticeable recognition of the role of Information technology professionals; as well as practitioners to play a significant role. The electronic transmission of election results which is a proviso in clause 53 of the Electoral amendment Act places on the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) the right to transmit election results electronically.  




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There was a time we heard about server-less electoral system! The world is changing rapidly with digital transformation. Meanwhile, global migration to digitalization-of-things demands that national elections deliver high accuracy of voters’ data and related processes. This function has become a national responsibility to achieve ethical determination of winners.   



Introduction of various dimensions of Technologies has unarguably presented critical challenges to national electoral processes. There are other schools of thought that hold the view that technology alone cannot resolve all the electoral crisis. However, most of the challenges are surmountable to a high degree of certainty if the involvement of independent Information Technology Professionals is inclusive and accorded a significant role. 



Undisputedly, the crisis that besets national elections emanate from electronic data format. With the advent of digital transformation towards digital citizenship, the processes and electronic transmission of votes becomes a scientific assignment. Therefore, resolving the challenges makes the role and involvement of Information Technology Professionals expedient. Since the core issues are centred on the assemblage of information, data and Big Data analytics; the critical role and importance of computer scientists and practitioners cannot be over-emphasized.  



According to Katz (1997) the ultimate goal of national elections is not just to determine the looser or winner; but to grant legitimacy to the process that led to winning and losing candidates or parties, based on legitimate votes cast by eligible voters. Arriving at the above outcome requires the professional intervention of professionals at multiple levels to ensure transparency, integrity, accountability that resonate into fairness of the processes. Also, Schwartz and Grice submit that an election process; where technology is involved and used requires a greater technical knowledge.  



The above makes the involvement of Information Technology Professionals not only a strategic imperative but mandatory. 




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The surge of global population growth and advancement in the provision and delivery of quality healthcare have contributed to the occurrence of very large volumes of datasets that compels governance to involve IT experts. Whereas, in March 2012, INEC in partnership with UNDP organised and hosted a two-day Conference on Knowledge Sharing among African EMBs in Abuja, Nigeria. Sixteen countries were in attendance, namely; Liberia, South Africa, Ethiopia, Gabon, Ghana, Sierra Leone, Mali and Tchad. Others include Zimbabwe, Kenya, Niger, DR Congo, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Zambia and Uganda.  



Notable stakeholders included the Academia, CSOs, Development Partners, Representatives of Foreign Missions, etc. Miraculously, Computer Professionals and Information Technology experts were missing in action. They were not part of the proceedings nor played any special role! 



As credited to INEC on her Website, ‘the integrity of the results collation process is fundamental to the overall success and credibility of elections.  If conducted in a transparent and well-regulated manner, it will produce credible election results’. But, as the Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD) observed in the report, ‘COUNTING THE VOTES’ – a post-mortem analysis of ward-level collation during Nigeria’s 2019 presidential election – collation of results had been a much-exploited weakness in the Nigerian election process since the country’s return to democratic civilian rule in 1999. Relying on documentary evidence from 8,809 election observers accredited by INEC, the CDD report concluded; “In the 2019 elections, civil society observers all across Nigeria saw a collation process that was chaotic, vulnerable to manipulation and, in some locations, violently disrupted and unnecessarily opaque.” 


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Indications from the above report suggests and validates the fact that IT Professionals were absent; or deliberate not included in the core process; one in which information technology devices and software solutions were intensively deployed. Nigeria parades a distinguished array of multifaceted tech-skills ranging from Systems Design Architecture, Software Solutions and Data Modelling; Big  Data Analytics, Systems Security, Cybersecurity and related disciplines. Amazingly, some of the global Unicorn (over $1billion) rated tech-companies are of Nigerian origin, whose IPs regrettably, have been harvested by foreigners!  



In its recommendations, the CDD report canvassed further amendment of the Electoral Act (2010); to allow for the introduction of electronic transmission of results. The report noted that electronic transmission would “reduce error in the calculation process and improve the pace of collation.” 



Who is afraid of electronic transmission of election results?  


Indeed, electronic transmission of results was widely adopted by stakeholders during public hearings that; were held as part of the current moves to amend the Electoral Act by the National Assembly. Also, INEC had adopted the electronic transmission of results in some recent elections; particularly in the September 2020 Edo State governorship polls, a development that was commended by stakeholders. The commission had, in the past, expressed the readiness to adopt electronic voting; including the transmission of results by electronic means. 


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Further, INEC Chairman, Mahmud Yakubu had urged the National Assembly to amend the Electoral Act to make provision for electronic collation and transmission of election results. However, the challenge does not stop with the amendment of electoral law.



The mastery of electoral technologies is at epicentre of the success of Science and Technology deployment in electoral possesses. This, amongst others, demand the establishment of the National Office of the Information Technology General of the Federation; which should be headed by a seasoned Professional.  



Data has become the most critical commodity to national development and population. Citizens vote must matter to earn the digital promise to the benefit of all. 

About The Author

Osigweh Lilian Oluchi is a graduate of the University of Lagos where she obtained a B.A (Hons) in English, Masters in Public and International affairs (MPIA). Currently works with 1stnews as a Database Manager / Writer. [email protected]

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