KWADWO AFARI-GYAN, Chairman of the Electoral Commission, said the 2012 elections in Ghana encountered several logistical and technical challenges because of the introduction of the biometric registration machine.
Sharing Ghana’s experience on the use of biometric registration in elections 2012, Dr Afari-Gyan said the adoption of the biometric machine in the elections was to help ensure a free and fair election.
It was also to help eliminate multiple registration, impersonation as well as minimise the incidence of fraudulent malpractices in the 216 districts that Ghana had at the time.
Dr Afari-Gyan, also the Executive Secretary of the Association of African Election Administrators (AAEA), was speaking at an ongoing conference on the Application and Sustainability of Biometric Technology in Election Management in Africa, being held in Accra.
He said there were challenges such as the breakdown of registration machines that led to the loss of data as well as operators entering wrong keys, and giving several print commands leading to multiple printing.
The use of wrong codes by machine operators as well as other logistical challenges including transportation problems, difficulty in locating registration centres, shortfalls of registration materials and lack of funds to buy fuel for generators to power the biometric machines were other difficulties that came with the introduction of the system.
The three-day conference is being attended by election administrators in African countries that use biometric registration in elections who would share experiences and chart the way forward in improving biometric registration in elections.
Dr Afari-Gyan said from the experience in Ghana, the introduction of the biometric machine in the voting process of elections was not the absolute answer to all election problems.
“The machines are not always the full answers to our problem, because they cannot distinguish between fingerprints of a minor and an adult, or a foreigner and an indigene,” Dr Afari-Gyan said.
Rather, he called for supervision and monitoring of the entire election process as well as training of people who operated the biometric machines to ensure that all eligible voters were identified and allowed to vote accordingly.
Mr Dunia Ramazani, Expert on biometrics from Canada, who spoke on the “Theoretical Framework for the Application of Biometric Technology in Election Management,” said biometric technology was about identifying people using machine but countries should take care in buying the right cameras for capturing faces to avoid the risk of making people blind.
He said biometric machines, as a form of identification, had been embraced by many countries in the world and that India was developing a biometric data base of 1.2 billion people within 10 years, taking peoples’ faces, iris and all 10 fingerprints.
Mr Ramazani said Brazil also took 20 years to fully go biometric in its elections adding, African countries should, therefore, take their time putting the right measures in place and audit prior to introducing biometric technology.
“All stakeholders should be involved in the process, they should learn about the biometric technology, its functionalities and weaknesses so they can adequately prepare for its adoption,” he said.
He said proper customised training, which is country-specific, should be ensured as well as proper costing involving preparation cost, implementation cost, and post implementation cost should all be included in a country’ election budget before adopting biometric machines in election.