In the wake of Covid-19 threat, IEBC should invest in touchless systems

The use of the mobile device obviates a purpose-built device, or the need to visit a registration office. [Caleb Kingwara, Standard]

The Covid-19 pandemic remains a big concern as we head to the next year's General Election since it remains a real danger to Kenyans and the global population. As such, there is need to minimise contact between people during registration and voting. 

In recent years, voter registration and voting have involved the use of biometric kits in which fingerprints are taken for voter identity.

Such technology requires direct contact; an individual’s finger must come into contact with the tablet. Research affirms that crowded conditions and highly repetitive contacts increase the potential for the transmission of the virus.

As such, the deployment of contactless biometric technology for voter registration, vote casting and voter authentication is important in the reduction of the spread of Covid-19. In fact, the International Foundation for Electoral Systems publication titled “Safeguarding Health and Elections" advocates for the use of contactless or touchless biometric technology.

In addition, the adoption of contactless biometric technology by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission will be an improvement from the old technology. The new technology is more cost-effective, efficient, easier and quicker to deploy. It saves time throughout the process of voter registration, identity verification and casting of the ballot.

It allows for the capture of biometric data with a standard camera of a mobile device and the transmission of the data to a national database for verification within seconds. 

The new solutions based on contactless technologies powered by artificial intelligence will not only help liberate the technology, making it accessible for everybody, but also makes readily available a method for capturing and verifying biometric data safely during and after the pandemic.

This method can be successfully used during elections and to great effect in Kenya, which has about 19 million registered voters, a number that is expected to increase after the conclusion of voter registration.

The use of the mobile device obviates a purpose-built device, or the need to visit a registration office. With the latest technologies, fingerprints will be detected, captured, quality checked and converted into a template. Biometric-based voter registration and digital voter IDs are the latest solutions being used in the election process. 

E-voting or online voting also becomes a viable option with the use of digital voter ID. During a designated pre-voting period, the voter can log onto the system, authenticate himself and cast a ballot. 

Other institutions like the National Social Security Fund, the Teachers Service Commission, banks, universities and even hospitals that deploy biometric technology should adopt the touchless version to reduce the transmission of coronavirus.

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