Digital tools and process of election will also aid smooth information dissemination during the election. These will include online voting through an INEC app. Voters could easily register online and generate their PVC numbers without actually visiting INEC offices. The questions are, what if under age people access this platform and what of multiple registration and voting?
The answer is simple, anybody who wants to do online registration without collecting the PVC will have supply his/her Bank Verification Number (BVN) or NIMC number, which will serve as a source of age verification and identification. If a person has registered and attempts to engage in multiple registrations with same name or fictitious names, the system will detect it through the BVN or NIMC Number. Voters can actually vote from the comfort of their homes, office or anywhere without actually physically visiting the polling booth.
How? Very simple! All INEC needs to do is to work with professional application developers to develop a smart voting application. The application will contain the candidates’ names, pictures and party insignias. All the voter needs to do is to open the app and vote for the candidate of his choice. This could be done by clicking on the number attached to the candidate’s name or clicking on the candidate’s box depending on the phone or system the voter is using. This could be done through smart phones, tablets and computers.
The question that one might want to ask is “how is this possible?” It is very possible. It is just like voting for a contestant of one’s choice in Big Brother Naija, Big Brother Africa or some other talent hunt shows. Once the voter votes, it is transmitted automatically to INEC headquarters in Abuja, INEC offices in the local government area and state levels where the voting took place. Just like in the American voting system, as the votes come in, they are auto-counted and collated and anybody having access to INEC website can see the votes coming in and the figures cannot be altered or hidden.
It is easy to do. The voter has to download the INEC application. And the voter has to use his/her name and PVC number, so the user’s name is the voter’s name, while the password is the PVC number. With this, voters can vote from anywhere. To avoid delays, INEC can actually declare the online voting platform open some days before the actual physical voting. This could help to avoid congestion. This system will reduce the danger of rigging, snatching of election materials, allocation of over bloated election results, electoral violence, threat to the electorate, cost of funding election, electoral frauds, inducement of election officials and the electorate. This will also help to hasten up counting and collation of votes.
The question that may be asked is, “what of people who are not able to operate or procure smart phones, tablets or computers?” Recent studies indicate that over 80% of literate Nigerians have access to smart phones and over 70% of Nigerians have access to the Internet. Many of these people who are digital and computer savvy are actually the people who shy away from elections and are usually the critics of election irregularities. The major reasons they shy away or show apathy towards elections are because of delay and long queues during voting, fear of electoral violence, lack of respect for the votes cast and sometimes weather condition. With digital system, more people will vote and the votes will actually count. The votes will be transmitted to the necessary places and will not be tampered with. We do online banking, online purchase, what will so difficult in getting digital voting right? Nothing! Who is afraid of digital voting?
On the election day the deployment of digital tools and processes is very important. One of the major problems in the Nigerian electoral process is the dissemination of wrong and fabricated information from the voting centres to the collating centres. This is where forging and writing of fake and over bloated results is carried out. To avoid this INEC should deploy voter’s smart cards, card readers, mobile apps for voting, direct electronic recording machines, electronic voting machines, optical scanning mechanism, satellite phones such as Thuraya, digital tracking devices through GPS technology to monitor the movement of election materials and personnel.
The digital technologies can prevent rigging and other forms of election malpractices. When the voting is done digitally, the implication is that by voting the voters are also disseminating information about the election. Every participant in the election will be able to disseminate information digitally in one way or the other and receives information smoothly as well.
The adoption of this digital method will significantly enhance the electoral process in Nigeria. It will put to the garbage heap of history the dangerous and destructive problem of electoral malpractice in the country. One may be tempted to question this method on the ground of security that bothers on the possibility of being hacked. This is where INEC needs the service of certified and trusted online security experts.
INEC should also adopt and deploy machines that should be Internet connected and with large touch screen display monitors in the polling booths. The screens should display the names, pictures and party insignia of the candidates.
Dr. Ufuophu-Biri is Associate Professor of Mass Communication & Journalism, Delta State University, Abraka.