What does the number 176,000 connote?
It is not a number in the Bible like 3,7,12,300 etc. it is the number of polling units in the country. The APC and PDP already deployed 176,000 polling unit agents all over the country before the election was called off.
Note that APC and PDP will have 2 or 3 persons in each of the polling units and not just the official person. This gives you an idea of the kind of organization needed to handle just Election Day monitoring for parties prepared to win Presidential elections.
My solution to the 176,000 problems is to have more polling units 😃. Shocking, right? Let’s go back one step in history. There was a time you could only do your banking in a physical branch. And that was a limitation to scaling banking. Many people back then snickered at the thought of ATMs and the concept of online banking. Today, most of you don’t want to go into any physical bank branch again unless what you need to do must be done at a branch. And you mostly are very angry when that happens.
I believe those who think we will never be able to vote with our mobile phones have not thought about other things we didn’t know was possible with a phone. Especially in Africa, and Nigeria specifically where we have a very poor country with scarce resources spending up to 200B Naira every four years to conduct elections that are still fraught with all sorts of irregularities and logistical challenges.
I am not saying we should just cancel physical votes at once but we can start by doing the following:
1. An hybrid approach.
2. Have a partnership with Telcos and banks who already have a solid database of people and let interested persons opt in to vote via their phones.
3. The platform to be used will be secured with the Blockchain Technology with immutable record capabilities and must be transparent with an API to registered political parties exposing only certain information and not everything.
4. A combination of equipment ID, 2 Factor Auth and other kinds of security will also be used. Multiple channels linking to the same backend. Mobile, Web and USSD. AI will be used to detect fraudulent patterns with vigorous tests before elections. Test run with LG elections.
5. Only people who have BVN and/or Telco SiM registration having gone into a Physical kyc will be allowed to use this voting process.
6. Have an 8 year plan to give people a chance to move onto this platform by partnering post offices, banks, Telcos etc to get more people on the NiN, etc. if we are serious, we would have harmonized all the silo IDs into a proper national ID database by 2027.
7. This means people without e-ids can still vote in 2023 and 2027 but not after that. But from 2023, at least 1/3 of voters will use the e-channels to vote and by 2027 – target 2/3 for that purpose.
The incoming National Assembly and the executive must sit down and get this to work by passing laws that approves such a technology play. It is a no-brainer. You reduce cost, improve faith in the process and avoid the kind of situation where INEC has so much logistics to do in such a little time.
If there is anything young people must do, it is to flood the NASS with serious people in 2023 who will make this happen if the new government in 2019 decides not to pursue this path.
Ayo Oladejo writes from South Africa and you can follow him on twitter @ayooladejo