By Chinwe Ogbuka, Assistant Director, Publicity
Election Management Bodies (EMBs) of ECOWAS Network of Electoral Commissions (ECONEC) and Electoral Commissions Forum of Southern Africa Development Countries (ECF/SADC) regions have resolved to take advantage of the opportunities offered by technological innovations to improve the credibility of the electoral processes and to enhance the sanctity of the ballot and integrity of electoral outcome.
In so doing, EMBs should view the application of technological innovations in the electoral process as a facilitator, rather than a ‘magic bullet’ for the delivery of good and credible elections by adopting simple, appropriate, cost effective and sustainable technologies.
The resolution is contained in ECONEC-ECF/SADC joint declaration on the use of technology in elections in the ECOWAS and SADC regions at the end of a three-day International Conference held in Abuja, with the support of European Centre for Electoral Support (ECES).
The Conference noted that the deployment of such technological equipment and applications should be secured in law, protected against intrusion and accompanied by appropriate training of electoral officials and effective civic and voter education to engender trust, confidence and ownership by all stakeholders.
According to the declaration, read by the Chief Technical Adviser to INEC Chairman, Prof. Bolade Eyinla, EMBs of ECONEC and ECF-SADC regions expressed commitment to strengthen capacity development and training of their electoral officials to promote efficiency, effectiveness and performance in the use of electoral technology in the delivery of free, fair, credible, transparent and peaceful elections and the provision of better electoral service to the people.
The Conference noted that EMBs of ECONEC and ECF-SADC region are conscious of the numerous challenges associated with the adoption, deployment and usage of electoral technology, including the deficit of infrastructure and expertise, cost, choice and effectiveness of technology, as well as the twin issues of communication platforms and the security of sensitive election data, in a world characterized by cyber warfare and election interference through the use of technology on a global scale by State and non-State actors.
The EMBs in the region recognized that while the use of technology “is a welcome innovation in the electoral process, elections are governed by law. Consequently, efforts must be made to address the gaps between the technological innovations and the responses of the legal framework to these innovations by enacting clear and unambiguous provision in the electoral guidelines and regulations which permit their deployment in good time before elections.
They expressed their commitment to deploying appropriate technology to pool election resources, materials and expertise for common use across both regions, based on the principle of mutual assistance, burden sharing and comparative advantage.
EMBs of ECONEC and ECF-SADC region stated that they would continue to expedite action on the use of technology to provide access to information and promote political inclusivity and full participation and representation of women, youth, People Living With Disabilities and all other marginalized groups, including IDPs and the Diaspora in political process.
The EMBs pledged further collaboration and to use the Abuja Conference as a turning point in a collective effort to deepen the deployment of technology for credible elections and building of stable democracies in Africa.