Somaliland’s voting technology shows how Africa can lead the world

Calestous Juma in The Conversation: “Africa has become a testing ground for technological leapfrogging. This is a process that involves skipping stages and moving rapidly to the frontiers of innovation.

Technological leapfrogging in Africa has, so far, focused on economic transformation and the improvement of basic services. Drones are a good example: they’re used in the continent’s health services and in agriculture. In South Africa, robots play a crucial role in mining.

Now, in a remarkable extension of technological leapfrogging, Somaliland has become the first country in the world to use iris recognition in a presidential election. This means that a breakaway republic seeking international recognition will have the world’s most sophisticated voting register.

Democracy and tech in Africa

Somaliland’s shift to such advanced voting technology emerged from a lack of trust because of problems with the 2008 elections. For instance, names were duplicated in the voter register because of pressure from local elders. These fraudulent activities and other logistical issues threatened to undermine Somaliland’s good standing in the international community.

Of course, Somaliland is not the only country in Africa to experience problems with its election processes. Others, like Kenya, have also turned to technology to try and deal with their challenges. This is important. Being able to hold free, fair and credible elections is critical in democratic transitions. The lack of trust in the electoral process remains a key source of political tension and violence.

Technology can help – and Somaliland is set to become a regional powerhouse in the production and deployment of the technological know-how that underpins electronic voting.

So how did Somaliland reach this point? And what lessons do its experiences hold for other countries?…(More)”.