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