Success/Failure Case Study No.2
Supporting Democracy with ICTs: South Africa's Independent Electoral Commission
Case Study Author
Stephen M. Mutula (firstname.lastname@example.org)
The type of e-government application implemented was the use of information and communication technologies (ICTs) to manage the electoral process in South Africa during the 1999 parliamentary and presidential elections. The technology was used for voter registration, the polling process, relaying of ballot collection and verification, and relaying of results of the elections throughout the country. The hardware and software used included a satellite-enabled wide area network, plus connection to fax machines; these were used to enable people in rural areas to participate in the electoral process. Bar code readers enabled voters to be registered as well as votes to be counted. A geographical information system was used to draw up boundaries around the districts. An election centre with a set of heavy-duty servers was linked to a giant call centre to collect and display results to the public.
The application was used to manage the electoral process. As indicated above, bar codes enabled voters to be registered, their personal details verified and votes to be counted. GIS software was used to draw up electoral boundaries. An election centre collected and displayed results, which were fed to it by telephone, fax and the satellite-based WAN.
The application was introduced to overcome the problems that were experienced by the Independent Electoral Commission during the first multiparty election in 1994. Such problems included inability to register all eligible voters, delays in receiving results from polling stations, long queues of voters, a tedious counting process, inadequate transparency in the electoral process, poor communication with rural areas, and general disorganisation of the electoral process.
The stakeholders in this application were the voters, the Independent Electoral Commission, political parties, the international community, and ICT service providers. The Independent Electoral Commission's institutional capacity was strengthened and it was able to manage the election process efficiently. The political parties, the voters and the international community saw the election process as free and fair.
Impact: Costs and Benefits
The positive impacts of this e-government application are claimed to be:
- enhancing the free and fair democratic process in South Africa;
- increasing transparency of the electoral process;
- putting in place an enduring infrastructure for future elections, e.g. the WAN;
- enabling 18 million voters to freely exercise their democratic rights;
- building an efficient electoral process to manage 18 million voters from 15,000 polling stations;
- effectively drawing up over 400 constituency boundaries; and
- increasing the efficiency of the voter registration and polling processes.
Evaluation: Failure or Success?
The application was largely successful as the electoral process was expeditious, long queues during voting were not experienced, and the electoral process was accepted by the great majority of stakeholders as transparent, free and fair. The results of the election were released in record time and all eligible voters were registered and able to vote. Communication was maintained between the election monitoring centre and the entire country.
Enablers/Critical Success Factors
- Government commitment . Government commitment to the process.
- Appropriate technology . Use of appropriate and effective technology, such as GIS.
- Coordinated use of experts . These came from several different domains such as: service/solution providers, government officials, technology process managers, change management experts and human resources managers.
- Poor infrastructure . Lack of technological infrastructure such as basic telephone service in some remote rural areas of the country.
- Legal issues . Court case arising out of National Party opposition to automation of electoral process.
- Financial constraints .
For those practitioners contemplating providing e-government services, it is important to:
- Choose appropriate technology . This can be based on or building a modern telecommunication infrastructure.
- Establish partnerships . Particularly with others who have undertaken similar initiatives.
- Allow for system testing . Gain government support, have sufficient resources and allow sufficient time for the implementation process so that the system can be tested ahead of use.
Author Data Sources/Role : Web Sites and Documents; No Direct Role
Outcome : Largely Successful. Reform : eCitizens (listening to citizens). Sector : General Services (Electoral Commission)
Region : Southern Africa. Start Date : 1999. Submission Date : July 2002