As Nigeria looks forward to choosing new leaders, there is a question about the role of technology in the coming elections. We take a look at technology and elections.
The year 2023 is expected to be a defining year for Nigeria. It is an election year, and with three popular candidates, it will definitely be a tough run. Living in the digital era has its thrills as we watch processes get digitized and automated. We also see the disruption of many industries and sectors.
There are many areas of technology, from hardware and software to networking and connectivity. As it is said, all is fair in love and war, and both aspirants and supporters alike will employ anything considered legal to win.
Technology and the Electoral Act, 2022
In February this year, the President of Nigeria, President Muhammadu Buhari, signed the Electoral Act Amendment Bill into law. Sections 47, 50(2), and 62(2) of the Electoral Act, 2022 give Nigeria’s Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) some legal backing for technological upgrades. According to The Cable, INEC can use any voter accreditation technology it deems best. The Electoral Management Body (EMB) can also transmit election results electronically or otherwise. The commission also reserves the right to “maintain a centralised electronic register of elections for e-collation.”
Recently concluded gubernatorial elections proved the advantages of the bill. While this is an excellent example of technology making a difference in elections, the presidential election is a different ball game. But that’s not all.
INEC (and its technological upgrades) is involved in voter accreditation, vote collation, and result transmission. However, there is more to elections than all that happens on voting day.
How else can technology impact the choice of new leaders?
Technology and Election Campaigns
It has been said that elections are not won on social media. Nonetheless, there has to be something to be gained from using different social media platforms to share views on the candidates. Peer pressure is still very effective and social media is a great tool for influence.
A Tweet, by one TexMeansBusiness, showed Google charts on how relevance between the three major candidates has changed over time. On every popular social platform, youths find opportunities to market their preferred presidential aspirant. Taking aside the insults that tend to trail these informal campaigns, it is interesting to watch what technology has made possible.
So, unofficial debates are carried out, points are listed supporting or undermining aspirants, and consciously or unconsciously, mindsets are changed. This method, agreed or not, is effective. It is a perfect example of peer-to-peer influence or social selling. While it might not necessarily determine the winner, it gives a playing field for people to air their views on why they prefer one candidate to another.
While it can be exciting to have a platform with both voluntary and involuntary audiences, there is a danger in social media unofficial campaigns. The danger of fake news. In a bid to paint a preferred aspirant in a better light, one might attempt to falsify information about an opposing aspirant. When shared, the recipients rarely confirm the sources. It is simply retweeted or shared. There are dangers associated with fake news, dangers which we might not go into now.
Still, social media remains potent in sparking up conversations on topics and getting insights into individual mindsets and motives.
The year 2020 showed the power of the internet and social media during the EndSars protest. Decisions were made on social media and carried out offline. Elections might not be held on social media, but decisions are made there. When the official campaign kicks off for the candidates, social media platforms might be used in a more intentional manner.
So, aspirants will use the internet for campaigns and INEC’s technological upgrades will be in the picture. Nigeria’s 2023 might give a firsthand insight into the budding relationship between technology and elections. Technology might become a game-changer.