Roger Cowdrey - International Business Consultant. Writer & Motivational Speaker
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Technology and Democracy

As someone from the United Kingdom, living in Turkey and with friends in the USA, my news seems to be dominated with stories of parliamentary elections in Turkey and the UK along with the start of announcements of candidature for the American Presidency.

Whilst one should salute these bastions of democracy, one cannot help but be amazed that this seems to be an area which would benefit from the use of technology but which seems to be almost devoid of it.

So far attempts to use technology to streamline the process have fallen short or have hit obstacles. Whether it is the farce of chads in Florida or the need to print voting forms in a number of different languages, not to mention the possibility of hacking of electronic machines, we still do not have a satisfactory technological solution.

Never mind that the need to cut down countless trees to make sure there are sufficient copies of ballot papers in each language at each polling station, leading to incredible waste; never mind the ability to intercept and doctor postal votes; never mind the difficulties of people voting on behalf of others; the fear and lack of understanding of technology halts progress every time.

With realtime update of votes through technology hacking is going to be difficult if not impossible, whilst the physical transport and counting by individuals is clearly open to abuse. These three elections will almost certainly not be incident free whether because of claims of electoral fraud, concerns over the count or because of the need to engage the Supreme  Court to finalise the results!

I noticed that Nigeria, in their recent elections, used fingerprint reading devices to validate voters, and Estonia has been using electronic voting for years.

And yet all of us walk around with more technology in our mobile phone than was required to put someone on the moon. In my own home I open the front door with the same fingerprint that I open my iPhone and my fingerprints are on record at the police station in order that I could obtain my Turkish driving licence. (Incidentally so is my blood group and it is on my licence in case of emergencies, so why so much opposition to biometric information being kept in the UK?


If television shows can produce results of viewer polls for X-Factor or Has Britain got Talent, why does it take two days to get a final result of the UK election? Surely someone can come up with an App that can use biometrics to validate voters and a multi-language online voting system that does away with paper whilst passing votes immediately through encrypted devices to make hacking almost impossible.

Bu until someone does come up with a 21st Century process for administering universal franchise then May will see the United Kingdom reverting to the centuries old tradition of attending a village hall or school somewhere to cram oneself into a rickety cubicle and to use the short stub of a black pencil to place a cross on a piece of paper. Once this is done then it will be placed in an old black metal box before being driven to a bigger hall where rows of humans will count up the forms.


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