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ECONEC Seeks Use Of Technology In ECOWAS Elections

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The President of the ECOWAS Network of Electoral Commissions (ECONEC) governing board Prof Mahmood Yakubu has called for “appropriate and cost-effective” use of technology to boost public confidence in the electoral process and for the protection of the sanctity and integrity of the ballot.

Prof. Yabubu, who is also Chair of Nigeria’s Independent Electoral Commission (INEC), said this in his welcome address to the opening of a three-day International Conference on Opportunities and Challenges in the use of technology in Elections” in Abuja on Monday.

He noted that while “technology has come to stay and its benefits are immense,” its deployment “has numerous challenges.”

He explained that the Election Management Bodies (EMBs) from more than 30 countries participating at the conference had deployed technology in one form or another to improve on their electoral processes the outcomes had varied from one country to another.

However, “Given the deficit of infrastructure and expertise in many countries in our sub-regions and the regularity with which elections are conducted, concerns have been raised about the cost, choice and effectiveness of technology,” the ECONEC board president said.

The other concerns related to the use of technology in elections, he said, are:

  1. The twin issues of communication and security” of sensitive data, and,
  2. The “rapidly increasing incidence of election meddling through the deployment of counter-technology on a global scale by State and non-State actors.”

In conclusion, Prof. Yakubu expressed optimism that the “Abuja Conference will be a turning point in our collective effort to deepen the deployment of technology for credible elections and stable democracies.”

Speaking in the same vein was Madam Notemba Tjipuena, Chair of the Electoral Commissions Forum, Southern African Development Community (ECF-SADC), and Chairperson of the Electoral Commission of Namibia.

She said that experience from her country, the first in Africa to use Electronic voting, has shown that cost-effectiveness and sustainability of credibility of elections should inform the introduction of technology.

She said initiatives such as the Abuja conference were essential towards strengthening collaboration among EMBs in Africa for the conduct of credible elections and consolidation of democracy.

The President of the ECOWAS Commission Jean-Claude Brou, represented by the Head of Electoral Assistance Division, Francis Gabriel Oke, outlined the electoral progress and challenges recorded in the region.

He added that introduction of technology in elections should be approached with caution. This, he said, is to maximize the benefits and avoid the pitfalls.

Participants at the Conference, jointly organised by ECONEC, INEC and ECF-SADC, with support of the European Centre for Electoral Support (ECES), will share experiences on best electoral practices from Western and Southern Africa.

In her remarks, Monica Frassoni, President of ECES management board, noted that while the use of technology in elections has been characterised by benefits and scepticism, ECES would like to extend its collaboration with Western and Southern African EMBs beyond improvement in the use of technology in elections.

The EU Ambassador to Nigeria and ECOWAS Ketil Karlsen, urged participants to take full advantage of the opportunity presented by the conference to share ideas and experiences on quality control in the electoral process.

He also added that the right use of technology in elections is known to have added value while wrong use produced bad results.

In is keynote address, Wafula Chebukati, Chair of Kenya’s Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission dwelt on the country’s recent electoral experience, especially the use of technology, stressing that “technology in election is as good as those behind it.”

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