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Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Place of ICT in April polls

Market Intelligence:

LISTENING to the immediate past Secretary General of the Catholic Secretariat Lagos, Rev. Fr. George Ehusani at the weekend during the Patitos Gang, a current affairs discussion group on television, as a special guest of the Bull’s Eye segment, that technology has come to stay in this country.

He predicted that the April 2007 elections would be a different one, because, according to him the technology brought about by the advent of Global System for Mobile communications (GSM) among other Information and Communication Technology (ICT) tools would come to play.

Fr. Ehusani noted that he does not expect rigging during the election, but if at all, it would not be monumental as it used to be. He cited an instance with the use of mobile camera phones during the elections, stressing that party agents who feel things are getting out of hands could simply use their camera phones, take shots and send it through the Short Messaging Service (SMS) to their party leaders and many other persons as the person may wish.

He pointed out that these shots could also be tendered in a law court or tribunal in the case of discontents and litigations that may follow after the elections.

Re-echoing this fact, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) took senior media practitioners on tour of its warehouses to drive home its preparedness, just as its chairman, Prof. Maurice Iwu briefed the Council of States at the weekend, reiterating the readiness of the commission to ensure that election is free and fair.

He hanged his belief on the ICT deployment by the commission, which included circuit television sets mounted at designated places, especially its warehouse locations in addition to know the movement of electoral machines nationwide.

According to him, ICT tools have been deployed to report directly to the headquarters network server in Abuja, even as INEC has its own network infrastructure to forestall dependence on private Internet Service Providers (ISPs) for its data delivery, during and after the election.

Prof. Iwu also said that with its own network INEC would be able to transmit its own data without hitches, and has since commenced training of its technical staff.

He equally reported in the media as declaring, “If the election was to be held two weeks before the actual date, INEC should have been ready,” stressing that they at INEC have put everything in place to ensure that the election is not rigged and is successful as well as transparent as possible.

He told newsmen that so far, the ballot boxes for the elections were ready and by the same token, a good percentage of INEC ballot papers have arrived and the Commission had taken delivery of most of the forms needed for the elections.

For him, Nigerians should not misconstrue the relaxed environment at the commission’s headquarters to mean nothing was happening, because INEC now has a central depot in Abuja outside the Commission’s headquarters, assuring that INEC was on top of things and that by God’s grace, “elections will be held without hitches on the dates stipulated by the Electoral Act 2006, namely April 14 and 21, 2007.”

The aforementioned shows that although the nation may not be deploying the electronic voting system purely, but the steps taken so far by INEC is worth commending and sustaining for future electoral process. Industry observes, thus pray that the involvement of ICT in this year’s general election in whatever form should aid the process.

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