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Leveraging Civic Tech Solutions to Address Nigeria’s Electoral Challenges | By Abideen Olasupo

Civic Technology provides Nigeria especially democratic institutions, security agencies  and Civil Society Organisations an opportunity to learn, relearn and unlearn in a bid to improve our democratic process

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Civic Tech Solutions by Abideen Olasupo
Author: Abideen Olasupo

This year, the world creativity and innovation week kicked off on 15th April to eventually climax the World Creativity and Innovation day 2022, with theme “Collaboration” to promote collaborative effort to promote Creativity and innovation in problem-solving especially in the context of economic, social and sustainable development.

One of such creativity in this era of new media is the deployment of modern technology to promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all, and build effective, accountable, and inclusive institutions at all levels.

Increasingly, Technological innovation and creativity is providing a new impetus for not just economic growth and job creation but solution to critical institutions of democracy.

Recent elections have increasingly revealed the need to explore more civic tech solutions to address Nigeria’s electoral challenges especially around voter apathy and voter merchandising.

About Abideen Olasupo

Abideen Opeyemi OLASUPO is a professional business development and technology consultant with a proven track record of success in the Development, Innovation and Strategy Consultation. He has taken courses on Nonprofit Management and Entrepreneurship Essentials at Both Harvard Business School and Lagos Business School in recent times. Abideen is a tri-sector Business Leader/Entrepreneur with investment in Oil and Gas, Consulting, Technology and Social Enterprise. He is also the co-Founder of dHub Innovation Centre and a published researcher. He is an SDG expert who is well known for his huge contribution to youth capacity development and his advocacy for a sustainable world through his organization; Brain Builders Youth Development Initiative(BBYDI). He consulted for Project Everyone, UK to place all SDGs Article on Wikipedia. He is a campaigner and a nonprofit professional who is consistent in lending his voice towards achieving a positive change in the society through his non-profit(BBYDI).It is one of the leading groundbreaking initiatives in Nigeria and it is currently expanding its wings to cover other countries in Africa.

He trains and empowers Nigerian youths into becoming visionary leaders, Business Development professionals, Technology ideation expert,  and engage in good governance and Sustainable Development Goals.  He is an alumnus of the Popular Africa Presidential Leadership Program, Egypt, one of the 10 Steering Committee members working with CIVICUS and Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, a Global Leader with Restless Development and alumnus of the Youth Power Panel in the United Kingdom, a One Young World Ambassador and One.org Champion (Alumnus) and Tony Elumelu Fellow. Abideen has been recognised as 8th Most Influential young Nigeria, 100 Most Influential Young Africa, Young Peace Builder and Entrepreneur of the year and recently Gani Fawenhimi Integrity awards after returning over 2000USD wrongly paid to his account. He has spoken and featured on BBC, CNN, Channels, TVC and AlJazeera. His article has been featured by The Nation Newspaper, The Nigerian Tribune, ThisDay, New Telegraph, The Cable, Premium Times, Vanguard, Daily Trust, Sahara Reporters, Legit News, Restless Development, Business Day, Africa Business et al. Abideen is also a distinguished public speaker and has been a regular guest at several conferences and symposiums within and outside Nigeria. He recently participated and spoke during COP26 in Glasgow, United Kingdom, spoke at the 2021 Africa Student for Liberty Conference and also represented Nigeria at John Hopkins University and United Nations Anti-Corruption forum as a Speaker.

He was also at the World Youth Forum, Egypt last month to contribute to Youth Development and Empowerment issues He is passionate about Sustainable Development, Technology, Innovation, Startup building, and Policymaking, and has served as a member of important government committees responsible for policy planning. He has visited five continents and more than 23 countries in the last ten years.

Thus, there is need to explore the possibility of expanding technological opportunities for election stakeholders including the Independent National Electoral Commission, Nigerian Security agencies and various categories of voters like Women, Youth and People with Disability.

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In the context of democracy, civic technology provides avenue to deploy critical digital tools that make it easier for citizens to organise and mobilise on matters of governance, and also to engage with those in power. Thus, there is no doubt that, if effectively deployed, innovative technologies will go a long way in serving as a succor to strengthen democratic processes and promote inclusive decision-making.

Thus, it is not necessarily novel to see Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) initiative and supporting Hackathon projects and challenges to harvest social innovative solution mainly from young Nigerians in an attempt to solve one governance challenge or the other.  Hackathon in recent times has brought together young social innovators and developers to develop and share ideas, build skills and connect with others working towards a solution-oriented goal.  goal of strengthening the electoral process and civic participation in governance in Nigeria.

For instance, Brain Builders Development Initiative, a youth-led organization, under its YVote Naija project initiated a Civic Tech Hackathon to identify civic-tech solutions to enhance citizen participation in the electoral process in Nigeria. Young social innovators developed interesting technological solutions around electronic voting using cloud computing and block chain technology which to a large extent will eradicate the use of ballot papers.

It is imperative to add that Kaduna State successfully piloted the electronic voting during its Local Government elections last year. Similarly, the Hackathon also unearth civic tech solutions that could be deployed in grassroot communities without internet penetration using Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD) to report critical incidents in the electoral process.

Other technological solutions with huge potential of improving electoral safety has to do with using Artificial Intelligence (AI) to focast locations with potential violence in order to build early warning systems especially before elections.

While not all technological solutions could fit into every context, there is always opportunity to explore solutions that could be further developed and deployed during national, state and even Local Government Area elections.  

Just the way Kaduna State deployed electronic voting in its LGA polls, technological solutions can be deployed at a smaller scale in order to test its efficiency.

Recall that the now celebrated Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) was first piloted in a Bye-election for Isoko Constituency By-election in Delta state where its challenges were tracked and updated before being deployed for the Federal Capital Territory Area Council elections and then to other Governorship elections. Now the electoral commission is set to deploy over 200,000 BVAS devices for the 2023 general elections.

Beyond the electoral process, young innovators in many cases have developed innovative solutions to track budgets, social auditing and to fight corruption. In most cases, these solutions either do not get the right support or developed to work in a larger scale.

Civic Tech provides Nigeria especially democratic institutions, security agencies  and Civil Society Organisations an opportunity to learn, relearn and unlearn in a bid to improve our democratic process. Just like Nigeria’s electoral commission replaced the Automated Biometric Identification System (ABIS) with Automated Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS) flag double registration while also replacing the Smart Card Reader with the BVAS, there are opportunities to replace a lot of analog systems to digital technological civic solution to enhance more transparency in our democratic process.

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Send comments and feedback to [email protected].  He tweets via @opegoogle.

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