15-09-2011 The Centre for Open ICT Policy Analysis has noted, with a grave concern, similarities between Ghana's impending e-voting system and that of the Uganda. The Ugandan project, also known as the voter registration database implementation system, was a failure as shown in their 2001 and 2006 elections. The District Electoral Commission (EC) of Uganda had been smoothly organising the country's elections until in 2000 when they initiated a programme to rid the voters' register of names of imposters, double voters, and dead voters by photographing all qualified voters. This programme was also meant to create an election database to be used to verify the 2001 elections. Therefore the government of Uganda invested $22 million on equipment, consultancy services and operations.
Lessons from the foiled Ugandan e-voting system
However, things went wrong at the early stages of the project, particularly during the bidding and delivery of equipment. This led to a strong public outcry about the transparency of the process. The public outcry came from stakeholders such as civil societies groups and the opposition political parties. Ugandan EC ignored these criticisms. And a s result a number of court cases between government and opposition groups, on one hand, and Ugandan EC and some companies, on the other hand (as it has already started in Ghana) were filed.
Despite these acrimonies Ugandan EC ignored the criticisms and proceeded to implement the project. The photographing took place for a very short period of time and many people were not captured by the system. Moreover, when the sample voters’ registers were produced by the system, they were erroneous, with some photographs not corresponding with names of voters. Not only was the system not immediately used in 2001 elections but also in 2006 elections. To make matters worse, the equipment became obsolete and the system was abandoned after the 2006 elections. The project was a complete failure and waste of resources, as it was never used.
The Ugandan e-voting system failed because the legitimate concerns raised by the interest groups were not addressed by the EC of Uganda. The Electoral Commission of Ghana must therefore take a cue from the Ugandan experience and corrects their acts.
The Centre for Open ICT Policy Analysis offers the following policy recommendations: In the first place, the EC of Ghana must not limit or reduce the life span of this project in order to meet the 2012 election deadline. Otherwise, Ghana may be infected with Ugandan virus. The Ugandan EC started the project in 2000 and hurriedly wanted to use it for the 2001 elections. EC Ghana must move incrementally – or through what is called “Big bang” approach – because suddenly introducing a new technology and process into our environment is quite likely to fail.
Secondly, the EC must build capacity to create the awareness of the project among the citizenry, especially in rural Ghana. Again, the life span of the e-voting project must be extended to cover all voters in the country so as to build the political will of citizenry. A one year life span, in the opinion of openictghana.com, is not enough.
Thirdly, before this new system is implemented, the EC of Ghana should solicit and manage the stakeholders and users’ views and satisfaction levels. Many good ICT projects failed because organisations failed to manage the users’ expectations. All concerns of stakeholders and users must be properly received and managed. Officials of the EC of Ghana must desist from using provocative languages to undermine the concerns of some stakeholders, as we are currently experiencing in the country.
Lastly, the EC must transparently engage all stakeholders, political parties and civil societies’ groups, at every stage of the project management: from project initiation, project planning, and project execution to the project evaluation. The EC must also involve the stakeholders in the sub phases of the project such as system acquisition, software development, data conversion, training, testing, documentation and final system conversion from the old to the new system.
We at OpenICT think that ICT is a necessity; and Continuous Openness and Transparency in ICT Policies are Ways of achieving Operational Excellence in Ghana.
Centre for Open ICT Policy Analysis Team
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