Election technology comes with a stunning price tag requiring the participation of donor support for many countries in Africa to afford it. The figures of costs tabulated so far are shocking in relation to the amount spent and the number of voters. The cost to voter ratio can sometimes leave critics scratching their heads.
In DRC, the elections cost was a staggering $360 million with 31 million registered voters, with $58 million of that money spent on biometrics. Ghana, the country with 14 million voters spent $124 million with $76 million spent on BVR. In Kenya’s case, the elections cost $293 million (Sh25 billion) against 14 million voters, with donors putting in $100 million (Sh8.7 billion).
In more established global democracies, elections can cost on average of $1 to $3 per voter. In Kenya, where six ballots were staged on the same day, the process cost over $20 per voter. Sadly, Kenyan taxpayers aided by western donors are still paying dearly for a system that failed, even though the Supreme Court upheld the results and donors gave the elections a clean bill despite technological challenges.
Looking ahead, IEBC wants to be prepared to conduct the next general election without technological hitches. And they have turned to a commissioner known to put out fires. Thomas Letangule chaired the dispute resolution tribunal after the chaotic party primaries in early 2013. Now he has been tasked with revamping the technology aspect of the election body and help resolve the issues as chairman of the ICT panel of IEBC.
For a start, Letangule says they want to have a technological system in place early that can be tested and proven. And they have spent the last few months doing what he calls “post-election interrogation.”
He says: “We are interrogating ourselves, why did this happen? Because we want to have a roadmap ahead. We are auditing our systems...we are examining why ICT failed and what mechanism we need to put in place going forward.”
Letangule says “a lot of things will change in the next elections. People must learn to look at the positives. Despite everything, look at the number of petitions that were successful in relation to the total number of seats contested…they are very few.”
“We many need to change or review, based on the training that I have just returned from (in Ukraine), whether we should transmit by mobile phones. In Venezuela, they vote and in less than an hour the vote has been counted. In India, the world’s largest democracy, they complete elections quickly. They have a machine where you press your finger it prints a receipt and transmits your vote immediately and tallies all the votes,” he says.
“With our system, you vote with one gadget, then transmit the results with another causing unnecessary complications. We need one system.”
Kenya’s biggest challenge is that techno-voting system over-sold to the public. Many believed it would be a ‘tamper-proof’ system that delivers a credible election. After the 2013 fiasco, voters may still be wary and doubtful whether a fair election system can still be put in place.