That 2015 might be better
The importance of technology in development can never be over-emphasized. The difference between developed and under-developed nations is evident in the way they have deployed and used technology (in most cases ICT) to solve problems.
One of the most relevant applications of technology in this regard is in information management. It is a no-brainier that no nation can effectively plan without the use of relevant data to back it up. A simple way of identifying a serious nation is to ask for data such as population figures and its breakdown. If they don’t speculate, you have found yourself a country with a sense of purpose.
There are many things that could go wrong in a country such as our’s where we don’t have an effective national database. It is impossible to plan and we will keep disputing results of exercises such as census and voters registration. It is common knowledge that some parts of Nigeria believe that census figures were manipulated right from the first one just before independence to favor some parts. These results have attendant consequences with state creation, distribution of wealth, electioneering being some of the affected facets of our lives.
It is thus important that to start on a clean slate; Nigeria has no choice but use technology to resolve this problem. The technology is obviously not an end in itself but a means to achieve this laudable goal. It will take a lot of political will and a sense of patriotism by those in power to achieve the milestone. The technologies are already there; it is a question of when we will be ready to embrace change.
The ongoing voters registration exercise shows the lapse in the way we have been doing things. There are countries in Africa where almost every birth and death are recorded and the national identity database is efficiently managed. It thus become very easy to give out IDs to citizens as against our own funny national ID card projects. Those projects that always end up in controversies and wastage through corrupt procurement processes.
The technology adopted for the present voters registration is laudable with the introduction of biometric features. But it is also very clear that a lot of the processes were not put through rigorous debates. I also wonder the kind of solution architects who designed the processes and technology. I know a lot of Nigerians including me who could have done better with specification documents and designs. This is not a finger pointing exercise but a call to duty for the 2015 exercise. I will volunteer myself and even raise a team to design a better system. We will submit our proposal without collecting a dime and publicize it.
One of the evident flaws in this present design is the absence of any remote connection to a central server. What if the registration system for some particular areas crash? How is the data retrieved? Just thinking on my feet, I would use an Access Point Name configured with every mobile operator in Nigeria to drive the process of linking all the laptops to a central server. I have also wondered if Quality Assurance tests were carried out on the equipments before registration started? How do we reconcile the fact that it is taking between 30 minutes – 1 hour to register one voter. Didn’t anyone try the systems to get best and worst test cases before now?
There are many questions than answers. Right now, it is possible to register with fake names because there is no system to compare data. One of the best gifts that the next administration in Nigeria can give us as a nation is a national identity database. The police and other security agencies will also benefit from this exercise. There must be a conscious attempt and plan to have this infrastructure in the next few years. As we are striving for good governance; we must add this as a very important requirement.
We still hope that this present exercise will be successful to a certain extent. All hands must be on deck to provide better solutions for future registration purposes. Groups like the Naija_IT_Professionals with an enviable number of IT professionals have to rise up and make an effort to help. Enough of the talks already! I wonder why there cannot be a working group to design an end-end solution for this purpose. We can even be ambitious and come up with a solution for the National ID database. We would have done our country a great service and also have more justifications to criticize sloppy officials.
Nigeria will be great!