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Could digital voting be a reality in SA?

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Technological innovation has – and continues to – transform the world we live and work in but can it potentially change the way we vote by streamlining and simplifying voting by completely digitalising the process?
According to Mark Chirnside, CEO of local tech solutions company ThisIsMe, the answer is a resounding yes.
With local municipal elections currently top of mind, Chirnside says this is a domain where technology could potentially offer a solution, simplifying the often administration-intensive process.
“While a complete solution will require years of research, planning and testing, there are platforms currently available that can be introduced not only nationally, but also at city council and body corporate level that can assist in reducing the administrative burden inherent in the voting process,” he explains.
Through links to Home Affairs and South Africa’s major banks, ThisIsMe ultimately gives a “heartbeat” to your identity, conclusively proving the identity of South Africans to others.
For Chirnside, a platform such as ThisIsMe could be introduced to assist the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) in fulfilling its constitutionally mandated obligation to record the physical addresses of South African voters.
He says: “The reality of full digital voting functionality may only be developed and implemented in many years, ThisIsMe could be deployed by the IEC in future elections to record – rather than verify – details.
“While there is very little the IEC can do to refute an address claim, the idea is to eliminate people voting at multiple voting stations on voting day,” Chirnside adds.
A realistic scenario when it comes to the forthcoming election, according to Chirnside, is that the IEC invite citizens in areas where physical addresses are lacking or an area of contention, to make use of the ThisIsMe to process their mobile numbers and email addresses.
With digital voting having already taken place in Eritrea, Namibia and some American states, Chirnside believes it is only a matter of time before countries and organisations leverage the convenience and cost benefits of a digital voting platform.
“Anyone who argues against eliminating a paper-based voting process need just be reminded that people said the same thing about banking before the introduction of ATMs and online banking. In the near future we hope that ThisIsMe is given the opportunity to introduce the platform’s benefits in the voting space. This can then be used to open the door to provide full capability later on,” Chirnside adds.