The strength of a nation is not in the vast resources of nature it possesses: it hinges on the degree of good governance it can afford.
History has proven time and again, that the difference between the developed countries and their Third World counterparts, goes beyond uneven distribution of the resources of nature.
It is not a tale, for in Africa, we have seen it all: “Water! Water everywhere, yet not a drop to drink”. So goes the saying that glaringly hits the nail on the head. African nations are blessed with resources, their setbacks are in the place of governance.
After a long colonial rule and periods of military governance, Africa has seen tremendous changes in its politics, thanks to democracy, offering the masses the right to choose leaders in each of her countries. The prelude to bad governance is an inadequate electioneering process.
Challenges of Electioneering process in Africa
Most African countries practice the open ballot system. Observers have pointed out the following challenges in regard to Elections in Africa:
Inadequate Voters’ Registration
voters registrations are inadequate. Systems put in place in this regard are inefficient.
This resulta in a slower data compilation rate, smaller coverage and even fraudulent activities like under-aged voters’ registration.
Poor Voter’s Orientation
Voters most often lack appropriate orientation about the electioneering process. They most often, do not have enough information about the contestants and their manifesto, neither are they well informed about the election procedures. This is evident in the number of null ballots and contestants’ misidentifications.
Ballot stealing, rigging, vote buying and low voters’ turnout
Though electronic voting mechanisms are gradually adopted in Africa, there are continued incidences of physical manipulation of the electioneering process, through forceful theft of ballot boxes, inducing voters’ choice by vote-buying, manipulation of votes and election results, violence and election disruption.
Some of these, are responsible for low voters turnout, as the people lose confidence in the system and the entire process.
Social media as a weapon for Political assassination of character
People take advantage of the lack of verification or authentication of social media data and use social media for the assassination of characters, political deception and manipulation.
AI: The future of elections in Africa
Technology and innovation, like a wildfire, is sweeping across all human endeavors globally. Every aspect of human activities in society is going digital.
The internet has made business cashless, work stress-less, and thrown weight on efficiency and speed.
The future of technology is Artificial Intelligence (AI).
Simply put, it is the development of computer systems that work like the human mind. It involves the simulation of machines to do tasks that humans do.
Thus, when effectively introduced, human errors, bias or manipulation can be avoided.
Bringing AI into elections in Africa will change the efficiency of the process, hence, improving the results.
The following are areas where the introduction of AI will help improve elections in Africa:
AI-enhanced Voters’ registration and electronic voting
With the use of Face Recognition technology, voice recognition technology, and AI smart computing systems, discrepancies in voters’ registration and election result manipulation can be minimized while electronic online voting can replace the open ballot system, to help solve problems like ballot theft, vote-buying and disruptions.
AI solutions like “Democracy Live” can be used to enable smartphone voting, reducing the need for physical presence and allowing effortless participation, thus solving the problem of low voters turnout.
Robotic manpower for electoral activities
Robots can be used for electoral manpower. This will bring about efficiency, reduce electoral manpower costs and also help reduce casualties as a result of attacks on electoral staff.
AI-based Voters’ Education
The use of AI systems for the education of voters will go a long way to familiarise voters with election procedures, voting processes and each contestant’s agenda.
AI systems like FiscalNote, can receive as input, voters’ preference of policies, and help alert them about candidates whose policies and agenda align with their interests.
Regulation of manipulative social media posts and influences
The use of social media in a manipulative manner, to influence voters’ opinions, cloud voters’ perceptions, promote electoral hate speech or as a tool for foreign interference can be regulated.
Information filtering systems are AI used to filter social media against coordinated influence operations.
Ordinarily, it is difficult, but with AI like iSideWith, it is easy to filter the junk in social media and distinguish facts from fakes.
With AI, there is no limit to what can be done in improving elections in Africa. What the future holds is bright. We wait to see that change that has come to stay.
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