Tanzania Presidential Elections
The United Republic of Tanzania conducted its fourth general and presidential elections in 2015. To inspire confidence in the legitimacy of the electoral process, the National Electoral Commission (NEC) opted to update its registration solution to the latest biometric identity and verification technology.
The solution had to be tailor-made for operation with minimal dependence on the limited infrastructure in the country’s more remote areas. Critical voter data had to be gathered quickly and reliably from an estimated 24 million eligible voters across Tanzania, a vast country of over 945,000 km².
Laxton played a crucial role in developing and manufacturing a suitable biometric registration platform and delivered 8000 Biometric Registration Kits (BRKs), training, and operational support. The solution ultimately enabled the registration of eligible voters within the timeframe, scope, mandate, and budget set by the NEC.
Using credible voting systems may catalyse many countries to become digitally connected to their citizens, but several world bodies, including the UN, have shown that digital identities are accelerators of economic growth.
Having an identity number gives people access to a range of public services and cuts the time and money previously lost to bureaucracy. They can unlock any cloud-stored personal document, such as driving licenses, voter cards, passports, and education certificates. Citizens can also actively participate in their local and national economies.
If implemented well, these identity systems allow developing countries to quickly join the ranks of a connected world. Laxton is a proud partner in empowering African nations with its identity solutions.
An election solution to inspire voter confidence
Government can gauge confidence in an electoral process by the percentage of eligible voters who take the time to register. In Tanzania, people in the more rural areas had to travel great distances to join queues to register to vote. This laborious task would cost them time and money. They would then have to return to fetch their voter ID cards once issued and travel yet again to cast their ballots.
Using Laxton’s self-designed rugged, mobile solution, Election Officials could travel to remote locations to register all eligible voters and set up voting stations when election day arrived. Laxton’s biometric registration kits were equipped with backup batteries and solar power for registrations in locations with limited electricity.
Registrants could therefore be registered and issued a printed Voter ID in a single smooth process.
Delivering Election Management Services
Laxton and its project partners delivered customised biometric kits and secure software systems to produce a credible, verifiable Voter’s Roll. But most importantly, the Laxton implementation team deployed to Tanzania for the project’s duration also ensured top-tier customer support.
The team worked with the NEC during the planning, implementation, and post-project phase of the registration phase and national elections. Support included technical advice on hardware and software specifications, procurement, global and national logistics, in-country training, technical support during all the phases, and post-project analysis and reporting.
A crucial part of this end-to-end service is training registration officials and technicians who may need to provide technical assistance during all phases of voter registration, including the actual voting day. This amounts to hundreds of staff directly involved in the process.
Training sessions are run by the Laxton technical specialists, using biometric registration kits delivered early to facilitate hands-on learning. Registration officials are taught to use the hardware and software systems efficiently and accurately. Fortunately, the technology is developed with the user in mind, so even someone with the most basic computer skills can use it confidently.
Local technicians from all over the country are trained to troubleshoot any issues with the technology and conduct regular maintenance on all the systems to ensure they can operate for their maximum lifespan.
“The technical training is vital, as the knowledge, wisdom, and skills we share with hundreds of local technicians create job opportunities for them for the full lifetime of the equipment. We, therefore, also play our part with capacity-building by enabling the Government to service and take control of their equipment,” explains Adriaan Booysen, Laxton Technical Specialist and one of the team members sent to Tanzania.
“We train, oversee and teach technicians to troubleshoot problems throughout our projects, ensuring that they have both the knowledge and the equipment, such as tools and spares, to maintain the kits going forward.”
Data security is non-negotiable
Securing the data captured is also an essential aspect of enhancing the credibility of the Voters Roll. During operator training, Laxton assigns each Registration Officer credentials for a specific kit. Only the necessary software is provided for the process and configured to ensure accurate information capture.
The software system also ensures that voter data is encrypted and stored securely on the devices before being moved to a central database. After collating the information from the regions into a central repository, the software begins a de-duplication process and flags duplicate registrations.
To reach every corner of the country and register the maximum number of voters, Laxton delivered 8000 Biometric Registration and Verification kits. Once the initial project concludes, the kits can be re-employed across government departments for various identity registration exercises.
Record number of voters registered
Before the official voter registration drives, the NEC coordinated the activities of hundreds of civil society organisations and community-based groups tasked with voter education. Local radio stations broadcast voter education messages. The NEC used social media and published guidebooks for voters and political parties.
The NEC conducted a pilot registration drive in December 2014 to test the technology and the process. They selected the pilot’s three constituencies in Dar es Salaam, Katavi and Morogoro regions. NEC officials and the Laxton implementation team could observe the process, iron out any problems and be confident that official registrations would run smoothly.
During the official registration period between February and August 2015, the NEC registered more than 22 million verified voters. During this time, the European Union deployed an Election Expert Mission (EEM) to Tanzania to assess the Biometric Verification and Registration process. The EEM observed that “there was free access to the process was granted, with the high participation of citizens”.
According to the NEC and the National Bureau of Statistics, 96% of the estimated eligible voters registered to vote in the 2015 presidential elections, the highest number since the first democratic elections in 1996.
This process produced Tanzania’s most accurate and credible voter register to date, with the accessibility of the registration stations resulting in a significant increase in the number of registrations. The efficiency of the process meant that the official voter register was released on the 7th of October, ten days ahead of the legal deadline.
Conducting a free and fair election
After vigorous campaigning starting in August, Tanzania’s Presidential Elections took place on the 25th of October 2015.
With the much greater number of registered voters, the NEC increased the number of polling stations from 51,572 to 65,105. Representatives from the EU observed the procedures at polling stations in all regions, giving a positive assessment across the board. They deemed the voting process efficient, quick, and highly credible.
Vote counting began immediately after polling stations were closed. The NEC announced partial Union presidential results on the 26th of October. The national tallying for presidential results took place on the 29th of October in an open session after receiving constituency results.
The NEC officially announced Union presidential results on the 30th of October. John Magufuli of the CCM was declared the winner with 58% of the votes, the best performance by an opposition candidate in Tanzania’s modern democratic history.
The Commonwealth Observer Group also oversaw the voting process and gave the elections its stamp of approval. “The voter register appeared robust with few incidents where voters did not find their names on the register, possibly allaying some anxieties about the BVR process,” said the Commonwealth Observer Group Interim Statement.
This project, starting with voter registration and concluding with the elections, exceeded the NEC’s expectations and enabled them to run a free, fair, and credible national election.
Empowering citizens through digital identity
Based on the views of more than 13,000 people in 13 countries, the EY Connected Citizens survey reveals a global demand for digital services. “There is a deep desire by citizens in emerging markets to use digital tools to access public services and connect with the government”.
The findings show that 44% of adults in emerging markets would like to access public services seamlessly through different channels, and 66% would welcome a single digital identification (ID) when dealing with the government.
“Like Tanzania, governments in developing countries have recognised this desire and the numerous benefits of providing citizens with a digital identity,” says Nick Perkins, Laxton President for Europe, Middle East & Africa (EMEA). “If implemented as a full-service offering, which includes leaving behind the technical know-how, the identity systems allow these nations to join the ranks of an increasingly connected world”.
This, essentially, is the Laxton vision.