Saturday, 18 April 2015

How ICTs Help Promote Transparency During Elections In Zambia

TIZ's PVT results for presidential elections
By Paul Shalala in Masaiti

In a democracy like Zambia's, transparency is a critical component to good governance.

In the political arena, campaigns and elections are supposed to be held in the most transparent manner if democracy is to be deemed mature.

But stories of vote buying, rigging, voter intimidation and several other electoral malpractices are common in most African countries.

In Zambia, most times when opposition political parties lose elections (including by-elections), stories of vote rigging are common.

But new technologies may soon prove to be a solution to the issue of transparency and good governance in Africa.

Since 2011, all elections in Zambia have come under scrutiny by the citizens through the use of Information Communications Technologies (ICTs).

With the latest figures showing that there are about 9 million Zambians who have registered their sim cards with the Zambia Information and Communications Technology Authority (ZICTA), the use of these phones to get election updates has increased over the years.

According to ZICTA, 3 million of the 9 million phone owners have access to the internet and most Zambians use them for Facebook and Twitter.

PF's PVT results for Chawama
Through such ICT platforms like the Parallel Voter Tabulation (PVT) which the then opposition Patriotic Front (PF) used to monitor and ascertain the results of the 2011 General Elections, the use of ICTs has become an indispensable tool in elections in Zambia.

On September 11, 2014 the Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) piloted the electronic transmission of results for the Kasenengwa parliamentary by-election in the Eastern province.

Using mobile phones and computers to collect and transmit results, the ECZ was able to announce final results within 12  hours of the last ballot having been cast.

This use of ICTs to collect election results made the declaration of the winner faster as opposed to the manual system were the ECZ relied on the Zambia Airforce to transport ballot boxes from remote areas to the collation center on Chipata which would have taken more time.

During the 20 January, 2015 presidential election, the civil society also used ICTs to monitor and update the nation on the election results.

For example, Transparency International Zambia (TIZ) gathered election results per constituency and posted results on its Facebook page from time to time as seen in the screen shot above.

Millions of Zambia who are on Facebook, stayed glued online to get updates from TIZ, political parties, individuals and other civil society organisations who were posting results from their PVT centers.

And last week during the parliamentary by-elections in Chawama, Masaiti and Senga Hill, various political parties used mobile phones to gather election results from their dozens of polling agents who were spread across the polling stations in the three constituencies.

As can be seen in the screen shots from PF's Miles Sampa (above) and UPND's Honourable Cheche Kalala (right),  political parties compiled their respective election results before the Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) announced its official results.

Cheche Kalala of UPND posting PVT results
These were authentic election results pasted outside polling stations after being officially announced by electoral officers at each polling station and sent back to each political party's PVT center in Lusaka by polling agents through Short Message Service (SMS).

Using this PVT system has proved to be so effective and political parties in Zambia even know before the ECZ announces its results as to who has won elections and with how many votes.

These ICT tools have also helped increase the confidence citizens have in the management of elections in the country.

With the citizens participating in verifying these election results using mobile phones and the internet, cases of rigging are now being done away with as voters can now compare results announced at each polling station and the official figures announced by ECZ at the collation centers.

No comments:

Post a Comment