Nigeria’s New Voting Technology Endures Bumpy Rollout

Biometric Voter RegistrationA trial run of Nigeria’s new biometric voting system has experienced some major hiccups, according to an AllAfrica article. Implemented by the country’s Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), the mock polling was said to have run into technical glitches with its new smart card reader system.

One of the main issues was the amount of time it took for the card readers to scan, with some areas experiencing a verification time of twenty minutes. Another significant issue was the accuracy of the machines, with reports indicating that 42 percent of the voters participating were not identified by the system, despite having valid voter smart cards. One electoral official blamed the technical issues on voters have ‘greasy or dirty fingers’ when participating in the biometric scanning.

All of this has to be taken with a grain of salt, however, as it is a politicized issue, with the country’s All Progressives Congress party in favour of the new system for its theoretically improved accountability and transparency, and the People Democratic Party opposed to the use of the system. A team of United Nations observers said they believed the card readers were working in good order.

It would be a surprise if the system did turn out to be such a large-scale failure, given the technical advancement prevalent in the country. Nigeria enjoys a preponderance of mobile devices among its population, and last year the country’s central bank began a national initiative to set up a biometric customer registry. Government officials also announced a plan to incorporate biometrics into its next national census – a project that may come under intense scrutiny, depending on how the new voting system works out.

March 10, 2015 – by Alex Perala