South Africa tech ready for election

South African national elections turn to technology to ensure transparency and accuracy

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By  Gareth Van Zyl Published  April 21, 2009

Africa’s economic powerhouse, South Africa, is all set for its national elections on 22 April especially from a technological standpoint.

South Africa’s Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) opened what is the election’s technological nerve centre, the Results Operation Centre, in Pretoria last week. The results centre will be a hive of activity owing to twenty million people expected to turnout at voting polls across the country.

IEC activities at the centre include a results system technical help desk, a results problem-resolution authority, an extensive information technology division and a geographic information system that will prepare interactive, map-based graphic displays for large projection screens.

The centre will also give the media, election observers and political party representatives' access to the latest information as it comes in from the polling stations. The centre will be open until late evening on 23 April, when the majority of election results will be in.

Journalists will be able to access the latest information from all polling stations around the country by using pre-programmed computers provided by the IEC. Journalists will also receive figures such as the turnout at all stations and the number of spoilt ballots.

Furthermore, IEC officials will be using a device that scans identity documents’ barcodes that will assist in verifying voters’ eligibility to vote upon arrival at polling stations.

Scanned result slips will then allow captured results to be verified against source documents, making it impossible for results to be displayed at the centre before having been verified by independent auditors. Auditors will even check the results captured on the results system to ensure these are the same as those on the original results slip, making sure there is no room for error.

The scanners will also aide research because of the fact that the IEC can download voter information such as gender, age groups, where most people voted and when the peak voting times were.

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