Southern African Region Leading the Way in Election Technology: 2009–2019 Review of Global Standards and Unanswered Questions

  • John Maphephe
  • Rishidaw Balkaran
  • Surendra Thakur
Keywords: Southern African Development Community (SADC);, Election Management Bodies (EMBs);, observers;, technology;, standards;, elections

Abstract

This article presents essential tools that can help to devise a standard set of requirements and attributes for any form of electoral technology adopted across the continent. A number of countries in the southern African region have turned to a variety of technological solutions in a bid to make elections more efficient and cost-effective and to strengthen stakeholder trust at each stage of the electoral cycle. Africa has become a testing ground for technological leapfrogging. Election management bodies and Southern African Development Community observer teams are in the spotlight, but this leaves more questions about electoral capacity – problems that sometimes extend to the top of the African Union, which means that the African Union should adopt an incremental technological approach when dealing with electoral observations, capacity-building and political problem-solving across the whole continent. However, in many cases, the technology does not necessarily improve trust in the process or deal with the all problems with elections it was intended to resolve. As a result, concerns about the sustainability of electoral technology remain unanswered. The information for this study was gathered from an online search of secondary academic literature on electoral system management, published reports, legal mandates and official websites of the election management bodies studied. The lessons of the past decade show that technology has great potential for strengthening electoral integrity, but its introduction and use must be grounded in well-designed policies, surrounded by adequate safeguards and supported by legislation that is adequate to deal with the issues that it raises. The article attempts to assess emerging trends and to speculate on how they may affect the electoral process over the next decade. There is a need to examine how recent technological advancements could contribute further to enhancing electoral integrity and participation and how they can be integrated into the process in a sustainable manner.

Author Biographies

John Maphephe

John Maphephe is a PhD Research student at Durban University of Technology in South Africa. He specializes in E-Gov projects, forensic audits & ICT and Electoral governance.  Accomplished, visionary, and highly innovative Systems Architect and IT Management professional with 18 years of high level global experience designing and utilising extensive technical knowledge to convert vague ideas into successful implementation and realities. Steeped in top-level international project experience including extended periods in SADC region, West Africa, East Africa and Asia (Nigeria, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Burkina Faso, Mali, Tanzania, Somaliland, Kenya, Somaliland, Sudan, Afghanistan, Zimbabwe Lesotho and South Africa).

Rishidaw Balkaran
Rishi Balkaran is the Executive Dean, Faculty of Management Sciences at Durban University of Technology in South Africa. Prof Balkaran has been a member of staff at the institution for 14 years. He served in the capacity of Lecturer and Senior Lecturer within the department of Hospitality and Tourism. Prof Balkaran has represented the Tourism and Hospitality sectors at national and global levels and has been instrumental in the development of the Institutions Conference Centre and Guest House as a means to experiential learning
Surendra Thakur

Surendra Thakur is a digital expert and director of the e-Skills CoLab at the Durban University of Technology and also a Director of Enterprise Development Unit of Durban University of Technology, South Africa. He is also the Coordinator of the KwaZulu-Natal e-Skills Hub. He is a seasoned ICT practitioner. He is researching Electronic Voting with a developing world context. He is an International elections observer and has delivered two keynote addresses on this topic.

Published
2020-03-12
Section
Articles