Tuesday January 19 2016

EC unveils polling biometric verification system amid concerns

Electoral commission (EC) Director Technical

Electoral commission (EC) Director Technical Support Services Pontius Namugera (L) and the Speaker of parliament Rebecca Kadaga demonstrate how the new biometric machine works as EC Chairman Badru Kiggundu (C) looks on. PHOTO BY ABUBAKER LUBOWA 

By Stephen Kafeero

Kampala. The Electoral Commission has unveiled a biometric system to verify voters during the February 18 presidential and subsequent polls amid concerns by stakeholders about its timing and applicability.
Described as a mile stone by the electoral body, the announcement that Uganda will for the first time in history employ the system comes less than a month to the commencement of the much anticipated national elections.

“The Biometric Voter Verification System (BVVS), aims at improving the integrity of the electoral process through authentication of voter identity. This system basically uses fingerprints to match them with voter details which will help the election officer to confirm that the voter is on the roll of that polling station,” EC chairperson Dr Badru Kiggundu said.

While launching the system, Speaker of Parliament Rebecca Kadaga raised a number of concerns including securing the machines and how people with disabilities will use the technology.
“I hope the registers have clear data. When I went to one of my villages, people told me the names were not matching photographs, so I hope all that will be cleared before the voting exercise so that we allay the fears of the population and we encourage them to participate in a democratic exercise,” Ms Kadaga said.

Mr Frans Gunnink the Managing Director of Smartmatic, the company which will deploy the biometric technology says they have never failed to deliver in all countries where they have been contracted such as Philippines, Bolivia and Venezuela.
Already, the 32,334 machines to cater for the 28,010 polling stations in the country have been delivered and EC trainers of trainers are already being trained according to Mr Pontius Namugera, the EC director for technical support services.

Some of the countries that have previously used the biometric system in Africa include Kenya, Ghana, Nigeria, Zambia, Malawi, Rwanda and Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) among others. But these have faced a number of challenges ranging from
biometric scanners that couldn’t recognise fingerprints, biometric kits which failed to servers that crashed.
Sources at the commission indicate that EC in the near future will also unveil a new system of how the results will be transmitted.