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Wednesday, August 18, 2010

e-Voters’ registration: NigcomSAT applies for global patent, advises INEC to look inwards


The Nigerian Communications Satellite (NigComSAT) said it has applied for the worldwide patent of its e-voting registration application in readiness for the 2011 general elections.

This came as NigComSAT advised the leadership of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), under Prof. Attahiru Jega, to look inwards in deployment of Information and Communication Technology for the exercise so as to encourage local IT entrepreneurs, especially in the hardware sub-sector.

Speaking to newsmen recently, the Managing Director, NigComSAT, Mr. Ahmed T. Rufai, noted that there is need to look inwards so as to tap from the local companies’ capable of providing part or holistic deployment for the exercise expected to be a transformational step for the country.

He said, by deploying computers, especially laptops needed for the project through the Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) such as Zinox, Omatek, Beta and Brain with NigComSAT e-voting suite, to name a few, it would reduce capital flight and spur local companies in creating more jobs for the populace.

“We should believe in ourselves and look inward in developing this country because for every Naira you throw out of this country, you are developing the economy of another country,” he warned, wondering what policies are in place to ensure that Nigeria have developmental agenda.

Rufai stressed that the Local Content Act recently passed into law by the National Assembly should not just be restricted to the oil industry alone, but should apply in so many other sectors.

He noted that there was a time the government tried to domesticate the textile industry by banning the importation of lace material, but said that it is not about banning a product.

“We should try to enhance our local industries for them to be competitive enough over other foreign counterparts,” he declared, noting that though textile industry is still talking of bail out and the money has not even gotten to stakeholders.

He further noted that before now the textile industry has been the largest employer of labour in the country.

“So, if you are talking of creating employment and reducing crime, to what extent are we matching our words with action” he queried, pointing out that now that INEC is seeking to conduct direct digital capturing of voters’ registration for the forthcoming general election billed for next year, it is paramount that local content is brought to bear on the exercise by encouraging Nigerian companies to participate actively in the deployment.

Rufai described the exercise as the simplest form of software engineering, because the hardware required includes laptop and a camcorder.

According to him, a foreign branded laptop could cost $1000, about N150,250, or at least, $850, an estimated N127,712.50, that is, coming with a camcorder.

“What makes the e-registration complete is just the software platform, the template that tie to enable them connect together, not just an intelligent table if I can call it, a table that we design not with the Microsoft window, for every window there is a software behind the window that is not seen. But to create table itself there is a command and the template will be used for data analysis, storage and production eventually,” he stressed.

Emphasizing that what is actually uploaded would comprise a special table for the capturing of the picture, finger print and bio-data of the voters as well as where they would want to vote.

“So, all these things were what we have produced locally and it’s owned by Nigerians because we are government. Whatever is our product is owned by Nigeria; they can decide to take it free of charge without paying N1 for it,” he asserted, noting that a computer could be used for more than three wards.

He said, all these capabilities are there in an electronic register, in such a way that given an interaction when an election is going to take place, voters are given an opportunity to choose where to vote, “so if you are in Abuja and want to vote in Lagos.”

Though, he said, Nigeria is not yet there, in terms of allowing citizens to vote electronically, Rufai disclosed that flexibility has come to the system, based on the recent study by NigcomSAT.

Rufai further said that NigComSAT has experimented on this technology in the past two years, citing an instance of staff attendance system based on smart card.

“In fact, it is from this system we graduated, because everything we place there represents entire register system of workers, giving them smartcard and authentication of their presence; when they come to work and when they close from work,” he said, explaining that it’s a system that has been used over time and is resilient.

What NigComSAT is saying, according to him, is that it’s high time to look inward, because there are multiple advantages in INEC taking these decisions correctly.

Just as he alleged that today, INEC is thinking of providing vendors with 30 per cent worth of the contract, saying that this amount is enough to build a micro-electronic computer line in the country.

“Imagine if we start producing our own computer, television as it used to be in Phillip in Ojota in those days, imagine if we start producing our own handsets for 50 million mobile telephone users in Nigeria,” he declared. This is how you grow the economy toward vision 2020 and not exporting all the money to foreigners,” he canvassed.

He maintained that what is really needed for the direct capture machine is a modern laptop equip with camcorder in addition to the biometric machine.

He charged INEC to use this voters’ registration exercise to challenge and encourage local capacity building, just like former President Olusegun Obasanjo did in a memo during his tenure thus, giving support to local IT hardware manufacturers.

“They can ride on that and the beauty of it all is that we have created an electronic ballot system which cannot be snatch and you cannot snuff ballot paper into it because the entry is mechanized and there is magnetic reader that recognizes whether this ballot paper will enter it or not. If the answer is yes, it is the one way to accept the ballot paper from you. You cannot even vote with the ballot paper unless you are programmed to vote in that ward,” he said.

Rufai explained that the ballot paper is biometric inclined as well as the finger tips.

“Why can’t we just look at it for once, and the beauty of it is that we can export this to Ghana and some other West African countries, and even export this to Europe and America,” he said, insisting that if China is exporting technological product to America, he does not see what could stop Nigeria from doing same.

Revealing that NigcomSAT has already applied to the United States (US), Europe and worldwide, for patent of this product and said that they are very confident about this application for e-registration and voting.

“It is still pending, they have not replied us, which means nobody has done it because once you apply for United States patent and worldwide patent, they will start doing their research. So, we believe that if we adopt this solution, it will put Nigeria on the path of technological progress and diversifying our economy and the path of attaining our vision 2020, so that we match our words with action,” he submitted.


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3 comments:

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Unknown said...

Before NIGCOMSAT goes checking US and Europe, for existing patents, they should check in Nigeria first. I do hope NIGCOMSAT is aware of PATENT NG/P/2010/283 registered in Nigeria, because their e-voting and e-registration solutions are clearly infringing on this patent and they will surely get sued if they go ahead with their solutions without seeking appropriate license from the patent owner.