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Chief Executve Officer of NIGCOMSAT Limited Ahmed Rufai spoke with IT Edge in Abuja on the company’s new offering and how it could address Nigeria’s electoral challenges

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Does NIGCOMSAT have a home-grown Information technology (IT) solution that can address Nigeria’s electoral challenges?
Yes, NIGCOMSAT E-Voting System

Is the solution homegrown and workable?
The Solution is 100% designed, developed and fabricated by Nigerian engineers at NIGCOMSAT facility in Lugbe, Abuja . It’s been demonstrated to be very workable and if given the financial support needed to purchase materials, 40,000 sets can be produced within 4months.

Is it cost effective, efficient and sustainable?
Of course it is cost effective; NIGCOMSAT already has the production line equipments in-place except for the copy and paste equipment which is meant for mass production. It has also been demonstrated to be efficient because it is user friendly, a simple guide is embedded in the system and as soon as an individual confirms his/her candidate selection, the cast is recorded and sent to a central server, the system is also designed in such a way that each candidate can monitor the votes coming in and for whom. Remember also that the pool of Engineers involved are in FG employment. By way of comparison, total cost of ownership will be 20 times as much if imported from abroad as against being produced by NIGCOMSAT.

Does Nigeria need the solution?
Yes, of course the solution is very much needed especially as the Nigerians are now more aware than ever that their votes must count if we are to have desired and significant changes in Nigeria. It is the utmost platform for Nigeria to finally have a credible election process. Indeed the present Administration is very much committed to conducting a free, fair and transparent election process in 2011, and the solution is right here.

Why a home-made? What advantage does it have over those created elsewhere and already in use?
Home-made gives us the opportunity to customize the solution that Nigeria requires. We all know and understand well the challenges of conducting free and fair election, we are living with the problems, feeling the pain and moved by passion, faith and commitment for a greater future to come up with a solution driven by inspiration. This is the where the differences lies that is developing a solution for the love of the country as opposed to profit motive.

Will Nigeria be saving in FOREX if it deploys this solution?
Definitely yes, other the utilization of the system in Nigeria, it can be sold to other countries. It will not only save FOREX but also generate earnings for the country thus strengthening the Naira, enhancing the gross domestic product and international competetiveness.

Will it be proving a point in terms of human capacity to produce IT content?
The domestication of this production proves that whatever amount the FGN has spent on Communication satellite programme and training a pool of engineers has more than paid off, this is a testimony of knowledge gained into measurable actions.

The capacity demonstrated here is the foundation of all electronics and mechatronics products. Improvement on what has being achieved will translate to production of handsets, transceivers, antennas, modems, decoders, television, video, cameras etc

How does this solution work?
NIGCOMSAT E-voting system is based on Radio Frequency Identification technology which uses a contact-less card system with enhanced security features like triple DES, PES, AES all embedded in a voting card. The registered voter ID with his passport photograph and finger print will be on the card to show that he is eligible to vote. A voter’s finger print will be screened against his card for authenticity and detect multiple registration. Once the finger matches with the one on the card, the voter is then eligible to vote. After a choice of candidate has been made, a printout of the political party, person, time and place he voted will be given to him with a copy placed in the ballot box. This will prevent multiple registrations and voting. The System also displays full names and pictures of candidates for various offices being contested for as registered by INEC along with names and logos of political parties they belong to.

What are its likely social, economical and political impacts?
What we foresee as benefits and actually glaring are increased job creation, development of human capital skills technologically, faster economic growth, enhanced GDP and conservation of FOREX. It will also create a favourable and compelling atmosphere for foreign direct investment (FDI) due to available skilled labour. Politically, other than providing a platform for Nigeria to hold a credible election, it will earn our Country respect and a place amongst Nations that export technology and contribute to global development.
Will the solution come at a fraction of what has been used before it which yielded no results?

Sure it will definitely come at fraction of the N20 billion earlier earmarked to INEC for which we are still awaiting the results. 50% of the aforementioned amount will be saved and a solution ten times better will be delivered

What are the challenges to getting this solution accepted by government and the People of Nigeria?
If INEC officials identify the system as a solution and inform Nigerians of its benefits to the electoral systems backed by political and funding support, then most of the challenges will be over. Though it is possible that those who are not used to new technology especially one that will not permit rigging may raise eyebrows, but that is a small issue that can we deal with once we are allowed to prove that good processes can work in Nigeria.

Who and what will work against its acceptance?
Probably those who are used to profiting from chaotic situations such as rigging and manipulation of votes, the only other thing that can work against is lack of adequate financial support to put the production line in place.

Does it need publicity to win confidence and gain acceptance?
Yes, NIGCOMSAT will need to do a lot of publicity and grass-root sensitization coupled with a lot of demonstration and training for INEC officials.

What form of strategic publicity does it require?
Rural sensitization and education inclusive of e-education, print, radio and television, organize and participate in Technology fair, display and training at political party centers.

NIGCOMSAT E-voting [email protected] a glance

NIGCOMSAT E-voting system is based on Radio Frequency Identification technology which uses a contact-less card system with enhanced security features like triple DES, PES, AES all embedded in a voting card. The registered voter ID with his passport photograph and finger print will be on the card to show that he is eligible to vote. A voter’s finger print will be screened against his card for authenticity and detect multiple registration. Once the finger matches with the one on the card, the voter is then eligible to vote. After a choice of candidate has been made, a printout of the political party, person, time and place he voted will be given to him with a copy placed in the ballot box. This will prevent multiple registrations and voting. The System also displays full names and pictures of candidates for various offices being contested for as registered by INEC along with names and logos of political parties they belong to.
 

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