Cape Town - In an era when young people are less and less likely to stand in queues to vote during elections, a call has been made by young people to bring voting into the digital age.
Today it’s not too great a leap of the imagination that voting in a national election could be conducted digitally using an app on a mobile phone.
Penuel Maduna, a former regional chairperson of the Congress of SA Students (Cosas) in Johannesburg and current branch treasurer of the ANC Youth League, has urged the Electoral Commission of SA (IEC) to integrate a digital voting system.
He said it would also be a way to ensure that more young people participated in elections.
Last October, the IEC said it was ready to roll out electronic voting, but South Africa’s political parties said they preferred the paper ballot.
Speaking at a panel discussion on “Elections in the age of misinformation and fake news”, IEC deputy chief executive Nomsa Masuku said there was no political will in the country to embrace the digital era when it came to voting.
Technology experts agree that digital voting could become the norm sooner rather than later.
Luke Warner, chief executive of Intergreatme, a global digital identity platform which enables identity verification and secure multi-factor authentication in seconds, said: “Voting using a mobile phone is only three to five years away from being the new norm.”
Large corporates in South Africa already use systems such as eKYC (Electronic Know your Client - a way of resident authentication used by organisations like banks), eFICA and eRICA.
Warner, whose firm has previously made presentations to the IEC, said his firm was already able to assist with remote voter registration and would be able to add the voting section with some development.
“There are already decent working solutions around the world to ensure anonymous votes.”
As to what steps in the voting process would have to change if voting by mobile telephone app were to be viable, Warner said: “The registration process would need to follow a mobile web solution similar to some Telco’s eRICA solutions.
“Thereafter, users could log into a secure mobile website and anonymously cast their vote.
“We’re ready as a nation to implement this before the next election cycle and it will cost so much less than people may think.”
IT specialist Chris Ogden of RubiBlue, a software developer, said: “This (security) would be the biggest concern, not only the resultant data - that Chris voted for Party X - but the system would house essentially an entire country’s population of data (ID numbers, passport details, residential addresses and the like).”
To overcome this hurdle, Ogden advocates Blockchain technology: “Blockchain’s power lies in the security and segregation of information that no one party is privy to.”
However, Andrea Tucker, research and development head at e4, a technology company specialising in digitalisation, was more cautious and said it might take longer to get to the point of a national election by mobile phone.
She pointed out that first every South African adult would need to have their own smartphone, know how to use it and have regular access to the internet with it.