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Africa Election body meets over use of Biometric Technology

by Susan Mwenesi
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Election authorities drawn from several Africa countries are meeting in Accra Ghana under the Association of Africa Election Authorities (AAEA) to share experiences of member countries on the use of biometric technology in election management the Africa Elections Project has reported.

Also to be discussbiometriced is the sustainability of of biometric technology in elections in Africa.

From the meeting it has emerged that biometric technology alone cannot address the challenges of any electoral system.

The Chairman of the Electoral Commission (EC), Dr Kwadwo Afari-Gyan, says machines could not undertake certain functions during election activities, such as the detection of minors and non-nationals in the registration of voters.

While speaking of Ghana’s experience in biometric technology during elections at a conference in Accra yesterday, Dr Afari-Gyan told the participants that the EC had to employ other measures to prevent foreigners and minors from voting, adding that “the machine will not solve all our problems”.

The Chairman of Ghana’s Electoral Commission, Dr. Kwadwo Afari-Gyan said despite technology being helpful in election administration, it should not be promoted at the expense of the fundamentals of a good election, which are accuracy, transparency and fairness.

Citing some instances of the breakdown of biometric machines during the registration of voters and elections in 2012, Dr Afari-Gyan said the biometric identification machine failed to identify voters whose names were in the voters register. He said some of the machines broke down due to the volume of work, adding that the internal battery of the biometric kit ran out very fast “and the internal battery of the laptop could not support the process alone”. “It is a multi-component kit and so if one device does not work, it affects the whole election process,” he said.

During the piloting of the biometric voting and registration system, Dr Afari-Gyan said, some centers had challenges capturing the photographs of women in veil but the EC overcame the challenges through community education.

He said the software used during the 2012 elections made it difficult for officials to locate certain districts, a situation which wasted a lot of time. Another challenge was the invasion of some polling centers by heavily built men, popularly called “machomen”, during the voters registration exercise. “Some thugs took the law into their own hands and invaded some centers to disrupt the process,” he said.

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