Nigerian voting technology inspires

HARARE - Recently while watching Al Jazeera news, which has of late been reporting a extensively about the Middle East revolutions, I was impressed by the report on millions of Nigerians registering to vote in April elections.

I could not stop celebrating the success and wonderful initiatives our African brothers in Nigeria have come up with in order to register their citizens to participate in the democratic elections.

Voting a legal right

Looking back at Nigerias previous elections and elections in other countries across Africa, there have been a lot of challenges with the voter registration and verification processes which has lead to a lot of irregularities, legal battles, vote rigging accusations and violence. Voting is a legal right for every citizen in a democratic country and voters must make sure they are registered to vote so that they can contribute to the improvement of their countries.

Nyimbi Odero a former Google employee single handily wrote a biometric voter registration system for the Nigerian Electoral body for the elections. This system is able to facilitate for voter registration and verification through biometric systems. They make use of fingerprint identification as a verification method for voter registration and the system will be used during the voting exercise. Nyimbi and his

team have managed to register millions of voters together with the help of Nigeria volunteers and are striving to achieve their target of 80 million registered voters. In most African countries the technology behind elections is usually sourced from outside the mother continent. Nyimbi and his team have managed to develop a home grown solution which will not cost the Nigeria government a lot of money.

Home grown solutions

They made use of open source operating system Linux instead of Windows which managed to reduce their costs and also save money for the nation. Another important point to take note of is the fact that they did not hire foreign experts to develop this solution. Local citizens who have expertise in software development managed to sacrifice their time in order to see the project come to life. This in my view is a good example of an African solution for a great cause. Elections in Africa have been marred by a lot of irregularities over the years. The advances in technology in my view will help us create a system that is more transparent which fosters accountability. Nyimbi believes that Africans are defining African problems, building solutions, deploying and supporting the solutions.

The computer hardware which is being used for the voter registration was also developed by a Nigerian company Zinox. The Leo-Stan Ekeh the CEO of Zinox believes that Africans can develop a lot of the technologies at the moment and they have the capacity to do it better because they have been trained and have the experience. Leo-Stan states that it is high time Africa takes control of their destiny and lead in development of technology solutions. Zinox managed to assemble an estimated 80000 computers which are being used for the voter registration exercise.

This is clear testimony that Africans have managed to up their game and are now heavily involved in technology development. If the rest of Africa could learn from such experiences we would develop unique homemade solutions for our countries and save a lot of money by recruiting expertise from Western countries. Whatever the outcome of the Nigeria elections I believe they have show tremendous strides in improving their democratic structures by developing such technology solutions to enable better election administration and management. My call goes to other governments across Africa to support such initiatives within their countries in order to foster solid and transparent voting systems.

Ultimately the fate of any country still remains in the peoples hands as we have seen over the last weeks with the developments across the Middle East.

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