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Wednesday, April 21, 2010

ITAN adopts e-voting for 2011

The Information Technology Association of Nigeria (ITAN), has backed the adoption of Electronic Voting Machines (EVM) in the 2011 general election in the country, reports CHARLES OKOH.

ITAN through its Chief Operating Officer, Mr. Oluwole Owolabi, said the term ‘electronic voting machines’ refers to Direct Recording Electronic (DRE) voting machines and not optical-scan machines.

Although optical-scan machines use an electronic reader to tabulate the vote totals, voters mark their selections on a paper ballot and are not directly recording their votes into the machine.

Owolabi explained that EVMs make the voting process more efficient.

“DREs are secure, able to unambiguously capture the intent of a voter, capable of preventing residual votes, reliable, easy to use, and accessible to disabled, illiterate, and non-English speaking voters,” he said.

Also, he said, every form of paper ballot that has ever been devised could and has been manipulated with considerable ease, stressing that the reason is that humans are familiar with paper and its characteristics.

“By contrast, altering redundant encrypted write-once computer records is impossible even for experts. So, assuming that the electronic voting records are written correctly in the first place, the possibility of modifying them later is remote,” he said.

Owolabi, who heads the African secretariat of World Information Technology (WITSA), Abuja, expressed the belief that computers offer the first technology that could easily make copies of information in different forms for archival preservation.

Further, he said EVMs of today keep records of the votes on disk, removable physical media in memories and, as a final count, on a paper scroll and that these multiple records can improve voting machines’ immunity to problems.

He identified the advantages of DRE systems to include eliminating the possibility of making more selections than permissible; advising the voter of when a voter makes fewer than the maximum number of permissible selections in a contest thereby eliminating marking devices which can result in questions of voter intent as well as providing a review screen before a voter casts a ballot.

And to ensure that EVMs improve the voting process, Owolabi reiterated that the process must be defined, confined and examined by Information and Communication Technology (ICT) experts and professional in the following areas, vulnerability to hacking, disabled voters and electronic voting machines, voter verified paper audit trails, accuracy in capturing voters’ intent, political ties of manufacturers, secure storage of votes, malicious software programming, physical security of machines, susceptibility to fraud and federal legislation.

Additionally, he called for a pilot for the implementation and measurement of a EMVs benefits realization model to be developed to specify benefits at the strategic or objective level, validate the benefits during investment analysis for programme and project funding, check the delivery of early benefits once the programmes and projects are defined and have begun execution to validate the long term goals and benefits and measure product or service performance once they are deployed to validate early results and assure the strategic goals are met.

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