Four former presidents of African countries on Monday converged in Abeokuta, the Ogun State capital, to commence a two-day meeting. The meeting is aimed at finding a solution to the disruptive use of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) on the electoral process in the continent.
They include John Mahama (Ghana); Ernest Koroma of Sierra Leone; former Prime Minister of Kenya, Raila Odinga; and Olusegun Obasanjo of Nigeria who was the chairman. The event was organised by the Centre for Human Security and Dialogue of the Olusegun Obasanjo Presidential Library (OOPL) in conjunction with the Open Society Foundations.
The meeting has the theme, “High-Level Working Group Meeting on Mitigating Disruptive Applications of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) on the Electoral Process in Africa.”
A communiqué is expected to be issued after the meeting.
Other attendees at the meeting include the immediate past chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Attahiru Jega; Muthoni Wanyaki and Amir Osman from the Open Society Foundation; Pansy Tiakula from South Africa; and Greg Mills from Brenthurst Foundation.
Mr Obasanjo in his opening remarks said the essence of the meeting was “to review electoral systems in Africa especially inputs, processes and output/outcomes. Secondly, to examine the strengths and weaknesses in the use of ICT in electoral systems in Africa and elsewhere in the world.
“To illustrate how ICT can be used to ease the electoral process rather than inhibit it; To document good practices in e-voting across the world and extract lessons for Africa; and to propose models of successful deployment of ICT in electoral systems in Africa for the sustenance of democracy in the region.”
Mr Obasanjo said, “About three weeks ago, the Africa Progress Group (APG) which I chair was formally inaugurated and we are delighted that the Secretariat of APG is the venue of this important meeting which has to do with the progress of Africa. One of the pillars of Africa’s progress in my five “P”s as adopted by APG at its inaugural meeting of November 27, 2018, is Politics; the others are Prosperity, Population, Protection and Partnerships’.
“This meeting on the election process is within the framework of the pillar of politics. Deficit in the election process will translate to a deficit in politics (and vice versa) which in turn will impede sound governance, a much sought-after element in the development of Africa,” Mr Obasanjo added.
The former Nigerian President added that “during the course of this meeting, we will be addressing one of the key issues that is at the heart of credible elections in Africa – Information and Communication Technology (ICT) and the election process. ICT is here to stay, pervading and increasingly impacting all aspects of our lives including the conduct of elections’.
“But it can be a good servant or a bad master. This is why, I believe, that the outcomes of our deliberations will have far-reaching implications for the quality and credibility of the election firmament in Africa now and in the future.
“It is a subject that has engaged the attention of numerous regional and global organisations including the African Union. This meeting presents an important addition to those previous efforts. More than an addition, our meeting hopefully will present new and refreshing insights into how ICT can be better used in delivering credible elections in Africa and for the rest of the world.
“We can achieve this with the array of people assembled for this meeting; persons who have experienced the good, the bad and the ugly sides of the use of ICT in the election process and experts who are skilled in ICT and how its downsides for electioneering can be mitigated while enhancing its usefulness in enhancing credibility and integrity of elections.”
Mr Jega in his paper titled: “Practical Experience in the use of ICT in the Election Process in Africa: The Nigerian Experience” submitted that two essentially areas that technology has not yet been fully utilised are the electronic collation and transmission of results; and electronic voting.
He said that the use of appropriate technology “goes a long way to improve the efficiency of the conduct of elections, as well as the integrity of elections, worldwide and especially in Africa.”
“Opportunities need to be explored and adequately utilised. But, we must constantly remember that use of ICT in elections is a means to an end and not an end in itself. That end perhaps is electoral integrity for deepening and consolidating democracy. We need to constantly deploy measures that can ensure secure and sustainable use of ICTs in our electoral processes. We must think carefully, choose well, and make haste slowly.”