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Use of technology has come to stay -INEC

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Use of technology has come to stay, INEC tells election riggers

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The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) Thursday declared the use of technology in the conduct of elections has come to stay around the world and therefore should be improved upon.

He said Nigeria can’t afford to be left out if the activities of politicians with the intent of rigging the polls were to be put under check.

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) Chairman Prof Mahmood Yakubu stated this in Abuja while presenting a paper at the Blueprint’s 10th year anniversary and impact series/award.

Represented by the agency’s Director of ICT, Chidi Nwafor, the INEC boss noted that the challenges with IT deployment could be overwhelming, especially for a vast country like Nigeria.

He said technology was evolving and should therefore move with the trend to get the benefits therein.

Yakubu said technology and processes were a major task in a technologically driven electoral process.

He also said as a way of using technological innovation as antidote to election rigging, electronic voters registration has been conceived by the Commission and will be launched on the 28th of this month.

“It is very important to always realise that technology may most times not give a full end-to-end solution, the people aspect need to be well handled.

“The use of technology in elections has come to stay, especially in this part of the world, and therefore needs to be improved upon,” he said.

On the way forward on the use of technology in the conduct of elections, the INEC boss said: “Deployment of technology has touched most of the election processes,” adding that INEC was working on the last part – deployment of Electoral Voting Machines (EVMs).

He stated that “INEC is institutionalising the technologies through more research, developments and study tours, adequate training and staff development, calling for more support (funding) from government and international partners.”

The commission also said a law should be made to support technology, rather than be a barrier while calling for “public enlightenment and more stakeholder engagements because having a free, fair and credible election – which is devoid of rigging, is a collective duty of all Nigerians.”

The stakeholders, according to the chairman, were the voters, political parties and politicians, civil society organisations, the media, security agencies, INEC and its staff, amongst others.

The INEC boss also highlighted areas technology cannot be applied, especially those  beyond the reach of the commission to include “political party primaries and selection of candidates, disruptions to normal voting and results collation processes, security of men and materials as well as vote “buying” and “selling.”

On overcoming the challenges of technology and data security, INEC chairman said the commission “is keen at ensuring the security of its data, networks and other infrastructure.”

He noted that “several attempts have been made on INEC’s sites, portals, etc; and more will be made, especially as INEC deploys more of its infrastructure online to serve the people better.”

He also called for more enforcement of the 2015 cyber crimes (Prohibition, Prevention, etc) Act.

The INEC boss also said the commission had applied technology so far in the “core processes in the electoral system which includes registration of voters, authentication  of voters on election day, casting of ballots and collation of election results. Others are declaration of winners, voter registration, voter authentication, balloting, vote collation and vote transmission.”

On the voter registration towards 2023 election, he said voter enrolment software would be introduced to recapture as much fingerprints as possible, using better fingerprint capturing software and hardware.

This, he said, would conform in totality with the NIMC requirements for citizens’ registration;

“With the plans to commence the use of electronic voting machine (EVM), it is important to update the register of voters to include additional biometric features like facials, as this will strengthen the integrity of the register,” Yakubu said.

He also underscored “the need to have additional fields captured – like email addresses, disability status – for those who are living with disabilities,” stressing that all these necessitated the need for a new voter enrolment software.

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