South Africa May Consider Digital Elections In Future, If Connectivity Improves

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Written by Peter Pedroncelli

Allegations of people attempting to vote twice in South Africa’s national elections have put the possibility of digital voting in the spotlight.

At least 22 people were arrested for trying to vote multiple times on May 8, leading to calls for future elections to be more tech-enabled, according to News24.

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None of those arrested succeeded in voting twice but they were all arrested for attempting to commit the illegal act.

Digital elections considered

The possibility of digital elections is one that the is being considered by the Electoral Commission of South Africa, the independent group that organizes national and provincial elections in the country, TheCitizen reports.

Addressing the topic at a press briefing, the organization’s commissioner Janet Love said the current manual system was always captured electronically for reviewing and updating purposes.

She did admit, however, that the electoral commission would consider the potential for digital elections in future.

digital elections
President Cyril Ramaphosa casts his vote at the Hitekani Primary School in Soweto, Johannesburg, South Africa Wednesday, May 8. AP Photo – Ben Curtis

The main obstacle to electronic voting is the lack of connectivity in certain areas of the country and the need to have specialized hardware for voting at all polling stations, according to cyber security expert Dustin van der Haar.

This is especially difficult in remote parts of the country such as rural areas.

South Africa had an overall internet penetration rate of 54 percent in January 2019, with much of the country still without internet access, Businesstech reported.

Those statistics are likely to improve before the next general elections in five years.

South Africa could learn from the positive example set by a country in West Africa.

In January 2018, Sierra Leone showed the value of using blockchain as a tool in politics when the country used blockchain technology to count votes during their parliamentary elections, according to Quartz.

Thanks to the system, which was put in place by Swiss tech firm Agora, the crypto service allowed for a fair and transparent election.