As Ghanaians, we’ve always prided ourselves in our democracy – although a young democracy yet it’s a standard many African countries are yet to reach. The just ended US elections further proves how no one electoral process can be touted as watertight. With some high ranking officials already calling for reforms to the famous US electoral college. The 2012 general elections in Ghana which resulted in the Elections Petition revealed many loopholes in our electoral process that needed to be addressed. Technology keeps advancing at a fast pace and boundaries are being pushed daily. But have we learnt from our past mistakes? Have we learnt from the happenings in other places? Are we ready to leverage on technology to improve our electoral process?
In 2012 the Electoral Commission of Ghana introduced the biometric verification device (BVD) which was used to verify the identity of voters before ballot sheets were allocated to them. The introduction of this device eliminated a lot of challenges that would have otherwise arisen as a result of “manual human verification”. The BVD idea was greeted by some skepticism, but four years on we are at the brink of an election and those issues have largely been dealt with. The device was also used in the recent voter exhibition exercise. Although the device has it’s flaws, it goes to show how technology can be used to improve our electoral process.
The role of the media in our electoral process cannot be over-emphasized. Our media personnel provide us with coverage of events, thus we are able to some extent understand what’s happening where and when. Social media platforms for many people in Ghana is the go-to place for information. Whether the information being produced and consumed is credible or not is another matter. Some political parties have realized the potential in the social media space and are exploiting it greatly . The Electoral Commission and some other institutions have also used social media to create awareness about the whole electoral process. There’s hardly a time these days when you will not see any political/electoral content of some sort on social media. Technology has made this possible. With the ever-increasing penetration of mobile phones and internet, this trend will surely grow.
Technology has lifted the burden of disseminating elections-related news off some selected few people (journalists) onto virtually anyone who has a mobile device or a computer . This is a great way to improve transparency in the whole electoral process. As good as social media may sound, it comes with its own problems. All through the year, there has been stories circulating on Facebook which were false yet were read and shared by many users on Facebook. The just ended US elections shows how far content on social media can be misleading. Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook in a recent post outlined some measures Facebook has taken to curb this cancer.
— Code for Ghana (@CodeforGhana) October 10, 2016
Introducing more technological innovations into our electoral process can help us reduce or eliminate some of the challenges we face. The incidence of “spoilt ballot papers” could be decreased, if we could also speed up the electoral process by introducing an automated system which issues out ballot issuance. Although the introduction of technology will initially come at a higher cost, we can lower the financial burden in the long term even as our population rises.
The onus now falls on us as Ghanaians to find areas in our electoral process where tech can be applied to make the process less cumbersome. Technology has become the driving force of many industries all over the world and has proven over and over again its capability to reduce complex procedures to simple walk-throughs. We would be doing ourselves a great disservice if we continue in our archaic ways of voting and collating elections results.