INEC expresses concern over use of technology to manipulate elections

Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has expressed concern over the growing incidence of interference in the electoral process as a result of the deployment of counter-technology devices.

The commission said given the high stakes involved in conducting elections in developing countries, electoral management bodies should be worried about the twin issues of communications and security.

Chairman of INEC, Mr Mahmood Yakubu, who shared the concern at a conference on the use of technology in elections in West and Southern African sub regions in Abuja yesterday, observed that the concern is more in situations where data is indirectly transmitted to the tallying centres through offshore vendors rather than exclusively controlled within national boundaries by the election management bodies.

“In addition, we have to contend with the disturbing but rapidly evolving incidence of election meddling through the deployment of counter-technology on a global scale by state and non-state actors,” Yakubu said.

Also, Yakubu said given the deficit of infrastructure and expertise in many countries in this sub-regions and the regularity with which elections are conducted, concerns have been raised about cost, choice and effectiveness of technology.

However, the INEC boss said although there are some challenges associated with use of technology, adding that the benefits outweigh the disadvantages.

According to Yakubu, the deployment of technology has empowered citizens now more than before; to organise, mobilise and protect their mandates through the use of various social media platforms.

He said there was no going back in the deployment of technology in the conduct of elections in the country.

The commission boss noted that by coming together of election managers and experts from West and Southern African countries to share experiences, it would enable them come out with appropriate and cost-effective technology that would increase public confidence in the electoral process and further protect the sanctity and integrity of the ballot.

President of the European Centre for Electoral Support (ECES), Ms. Monica Frassoni, however, noted that the introduction of technology in the electoral and democratic process were not given, adding that there are pros and cons associated with it.

”The perception of an impartial and competent electoral management body is a precondition for technology to be perceived as an aid to the perfection of the electoral process,” Frassoni stated.

She told the conference that the use of other technologies and Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) in elections have been seen both as a facilitator and a spoiler to the process.

According to her, “All too often, in Africa, Europe and the Americas, we hear about how ICTs have been used to influence the election results.”

Representative of Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), Mr Francis Oke, advised that the deployment of technology in elections should be scrutinised, however, called for confidence building.

Oke, who noted that elections create tension in Africa, disclosed that this problem led to the formation of ECOWAS Network of Electoral Commission (ECONEC) to assist in information sharing by EMBs in the sub-region.

Executive Committee Chairperson of South African Development Community (SADC), Advocate Notemba Tjipueja, numerated the benefits of the deployment of technology in the conduct of elections.

Tjipueja, who is also chairperson of the Electoral Commission of Namibia, noted that most electoral management bodies around the world use new technologies in the conduct of elections.

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