Sierra Leone buys US$18M biometric machines for elections

Sierra Leone’s National Electoral Commission (NEC) is purchasing 800 biometric machines worth a total of US$18.6 million, to be used to register voters in January for next year’s general elections. 

This is the first time in the country that a biometric-capable voter registration system will capture voters’ data, fingerprints and facial images. The system, funded by the United Nations Development Programme will replace the manual registration, 
according to NEC Chairperson Christiana Thorpe.

The new technology will ease some of the registration problems the NEC faces, such as securing voter databases, said NEC information officer Albert Massaquoi.

“It will also make it easier and faster for NEC to replace voter’s cards for anyone who loses his or her own,” he told local journalists. “The new system will also discourage registration duplications or fraud. Your personal data will be kept in the system and you will not be able to register twice.” 

While critics argue that the biometric system could fail, others say they expect the modern technology to reduce or stop underage voting and reduce the percentage of invalid votes nationwide. 

In a related development, technology is also expected to play a key role in the coverage of general elections in Liberia next week. The International Institute for ICT Journalism, a network of ICT journalists based in Ghana, announced Tusday that its African Election Project will provide leadership in the use of ICT to cover the elections under its “Liberia Incidence Monitoring Platform” initiative.

The institute stated that the platform will monitor incidents of violence, irregularities and human rights abuses, spanning the pre-election, election and post-election period, thereby contributing to building peace and entrenching democracy in Liberia. 

The project will also make use of social media tools such as Twitter, Facebook and YouTube as well as call center software and a news database software, which are designed to keep track of election activities as they happen, to reach out to an online audience, AEP Director Jerry Sam said.

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