The mountain kingdom of Lesotho has proved to be a good reference site for electoral systems that are cost effective and offer high levels of security. The fully integrated voter registration and election system, which was implemented by Face Technologies, a subsidiary of South African IT company arivia.kom, was put to the test in May last year and passed with flying colours when the country held national elections.
The R15,5 million contract involved the provision of a total IT solution which included setting up 84 sites, election software, OMR scanning for the registration of voters, capturing of biological data, fingerprints, photographs and signatures onto separate databases, issuing of cards and production of a voters' roll which included the photograph for double checking.
Says Johnny Grobler, business development manager of Face Technologies, "From the start the client wanted one provider to provide a total solution. Further key requirements were speed and high levels of security to eliminate fraud in terms of double registration and double voting. Our fully computerised system could meet these requirements."
It was also essential to provide a fingerprint application but since the fully automated route would be very expensive, the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) accepted arivia.kom's proposal that the semi-automated route be used. "The solution we offered was a true fingerprint database application which used a specially developed software solution to obtain matches where and if required. This resulted in large cost savings without impacting on security levels," explains Grobler.
Voter registration was another challenge and arivia.kom had to develop software as a link between the OMR scanning environment and the database application. "This approach provided a simpler registration process and avoided the time consuming process of using typists to input the information into the database. Automating this process also saved on costs and increased accuracy and security." The challenge was to ensure that the OMR technology was compatible with the arivia.kom database application in order to print the voters' roll and for seamless integration of the two systems.
A unique requirement from the IEC was the provision of a photo on the voters list next to the biographical information of the voter. Grobler notes: "The end result was a user-friendly system, which was written to the IEC's requirements. The international monitors were also extremely positive about the system and the high security it offered."
Lesotho IEC IT manager, Taunyane Putsoane concurs: "The most important aspect was political acceptance. We needed a secure system, which limited the number of users to prevent interference. We did not want a situation where records could be modified.
"Security was not limited to the database but included the environment with arivia.kom also providing access control and physical security at our offices. The quality of the service provided was exemplary and arivia.kom, through Face Technologies, also went out of their way, often beyond the terms of the contract, to ensure the smooth running of the system. They are professional and we enjoy a good relationship with them."
George Stander, managing executive of arivia.kom's Face Group of Companies notes his appreciation of the approach adopted by the Lesotho government, "The professional and ethical manner in which the Lesotho government managed this critical and high profile national election process was most impressive and we are proud to be associated with its success."
With the elections complete, Putsoane indicated that there are one or two aspects not included in the original contract, which need to be explored. These include archiving and enabling the IEC to undertake its own card printing.
Grobler concludes: "The IEC now has a computerised system that can be updated on a regular basis for future election purposes."
Following the successful implementation of the system, arivia.kom is now negotiating a maintenance agreement with the Lesotho IEC. The maintenance agreement includes first and second line support such as software user support, enhancements, training, migration to new versions of Oracle and operating system software, maintaining the existing applications software in good working condition, user training and troubleshooting.
For more information contact arivia.kom, 011 233 0800.
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