African MPs call for increased public awareness of ICT

Technology will play a big role in enhancing electoral and democratic governance in African nations.

This is according to delegates attending the 50th Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (Africa Region) Conference taking place in Zanzibar.

They said that there are however, challenges that include poor Internet connectivity in many rural areas, as well as computer literacy gap that has limited the fast growth of ICT systems in the continent.

In a session chaired by the Speaker of Parliament, Rebecca Kadaga, the Deputy Minister for Education and Vocational Training in the Zanzibar Government, Hon. Simai Mohammed Said, presented a motion on the role of technology in developing democratic practices.

Simai said that many people had been excluded from e-governance due to their limited knowledge of Information Communication Technology (ICT) skills, on top of rigid cultural systems in some African states.

“Schooled people who live in towns appreciate technological advancement better than those in rural areas. That is why we, as legislators, must ensure that we sensitise our people on the new systems and how they can facilitate electoral democracy,” said Simai.

Kadaga acknowledged the gap in ICT coverage in many African countries and called on delegates to engage their respective governments to set up systems that can cater for the needs of the electorate.

“We can no longer run from ICT in this day and age because we are already using it in voter registration. We must therefore, put in place people-friendly technology that anyone can find easy to use,” Kadaga said.

Gulu Municipality MP, Hon. Lyandro Komakech said that the Internet had been infiltrated by the ‘dark web’ which he said had undermined electoral democracy. He urged countries to pick a leaf from the eye-recognition technology used by Somaliland in the March 2019 elections.

“Somaliland recently adopted eye-recognition technology in their voting system, which cannot give you space to rig an election. This is a direction we should explore as far as electoral technology is concerned so as to catalyse our democracy,” Komakech said.

The session concluded that there was need to incubate the understanding of the public in democratic affairs, which would in turn enable them easily engage in matters of national governance through the use of advanced ICT systems.

The 50th Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (Africa Region) Conference is premised on the theme E-Parliaments: Seamless Platform for Facilitating Democracy.

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