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September 26, 2008 — IDG News Service — 

A lack of funds has prevented Zambia from completing the computerization of voting registration, government officials said this week.

The Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) has been seeking funds from the federal government to finish updating the registration process since the general elections in 2006, according to the ECZ’s IT Deputy Director Brown Kasaro. Kasaro spoke Thursday at the E-Brain Forum in Lusaka.

Voter data capture is still a time-consuming manual process, which is hampering registration for the 2008 presidential elections, Kasaro said. After data entry is completed, voters still need to verify their data. Since elections are about a month away, it is too late to register additional voters, Kasaro said.

To tackle power issues during the voting, each polling station will receive battery-powered lamps, and on the district level generators will be set up to facilitate communications with the ECZ.

The ECZ intends to work with Zambia Electricity Supply to manage the extra load on the power grid on polling day.


Asked whether the ECZ was likely to work with local IT experts in developing technology to be used in election management, Kasaro said “the Computer Society of Zambia did write to us on this subject but we have not responded.”

Any deals between the government and local IT suppliers would have to go through a national tender board, Kasaro explained. However, Kasaro stressed that the ECZ would like to work with local experts. “We would like to have a home-grown solution,” Kasaro said. He cited Brazil as an example of a country that has come up with home-grown election-management applications.

Kasaro explained that the electronic part of the elections involved processing and verification, which is done at the district level and then transmitted to Lusaka via WAN through a link with government-run telecom Zamtel. He added that in the 2006 elections, the ECZ acquired an Automated Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS), which has stored over 4 million scanned finger prints of registered voters.

About four districts are not still connected to the Zamtel link, and voting results for those areas will need to be transmitted by driving to the nearest connected district, Kasaro said.

Another challenge for Zambia is inability to allow expatriates to vote in national elections, said Lee Muzala, the chairman of E-Brain. Through e-voting, it should be possible for Zambians abroad to vote from any location if they are connected to the Internet, Muzala said.

Participants at the E-Brain conference had varying perspectives. Milner Makuni, a monitor during the 2006 elections and a member of the Computer Society of Zambia, said in an interview that he got the ECZ to allow him to examine its database during the voting result management process. The system seemed stable, Makuni said.

However, Patrick Katyoka an ICT consultant, said he was not comfortable with the security of computers for result management, saying the tallying of votes could easily be rigged.

For the 2011 elections, the ECZ would like to take election technology further, but infrastructure hurdles must be overcome, Kasaro said.


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