23 July 2014

Ghana: AAEA Meets to Share Experiences On the Use of Biometric Technology in Africa

The Association of Africa Election Authorities (AAEA) is meeting in Accra to share experiences of member countries on the use of biometric technology in election management. The meeting is a platform for member countries to share their problems and how they were resolved. The Chairman of the Electoral Commission (EC), Dr Kwadwo Afari-Gyan, says the biometric technology alone cannot address the challenges of any electoral system.

According to him, machines could not undertake certain functions during election activities, such as the detection of minors and non-nationals in the registration of voters. Sharing Ghana's experience in biometric technology during elections at a conference in Accra yesterday, Dr Afari-Gyan told the participants that the EC had to employ other measures to prevent foreigners and minors from voting, adding that "the machine will not solve all our problems". The Chairman of Ghana's Electoral Commission, Dr. Kwadwo Afari-Gyan said though technology in election administration has proved to be immensely helpful, that should not be promoted at the expense of the fundamentals of a good election, which are accuracy, transparency and fairness.

The three-day conference, which brought together participants from other African countries, will discuss the sustainability of biometric technology in elections in Africa. Citing some instances of the breakdown of biometric machines during the registration of voters and elections in 2012, Dr Afari-Gyan said the biometric identification machine failed to identify voters whose names were in the voters register. He said some of the machines broke down due to the volume of work, adding that the internal battery of the biometric kit ran out very fast "and the internal battery of the laptop could not support the process alone". "It is a multi-component kit and so if one device does not work, it affects the whole election process," he said.

During the piloting of the biometric voting and registration system, Dr Afari-Gyan said, some centers had challenges capturing the photographs of women in veil but the EC overcame the challenges through community education. He said the software used during the 2012 elections made it difficult for officials to locate certain districts, a situation which wasted a lot of time. Another challenge was the invasion of some polling centers by heavily built men, popularly called "machomen", during the voters registration exercise. "Some thugs took the law into their own hands and invaded some centers to disrupt the process," he said.

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