By NBF News
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Managing Director, Nigcomsat, Ahmed Rufai has emphasised the need for the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to look inwards, rather than tilting towards foreigners for what local original equipment manufacturers (OEM) could handle.

He noted that at least 25 per cent of the N74 billion estimated by INEC to conduct voters' registration could be saved using the indigenous system-smart card developed by the agency. He said that, if government could encourage local companies like Zinox, Omatek and Beta computer, Nigcomsat would supply the software, while pointing out that INEC does not need special capture machines, which will become useless after the exercise but should deploy local PCs which serve multiple purposes and save cost.

Rufai, who spoke in an interview with journalists, argued that local content would reduce capital flight and create a more robust information technology sector.

Capital Flight/Developmental agenda
We should believe in ourselves and look inward in developing this country because for every one naira you throw out of this country, you are developing the economy of another country.

Funny enough there are local content bill, they should not just be restricted to the oil industry alone. They should be applied in so many other areas. There was a time the government of this country try to domesticate the textile industry by banning the importation of lace material. But I think it is not banning products that matter, we should try to enhance local industry and it would compete favourably against it foreign counterparts.

If we look at our textile industry, bail out is being mentioned and the money has not even gotten to them. Now, over 140 million Nigerians were using textile before it went down, textile manufacturers were the largest employer of labour in this country, so if you are talking of creating employment and reducing crime, to what extent are we matching our words with action?

INEC is trying to be involved in the simplest form of software engineering. The hardware required are laptops and a camcorder. Now, a laptop is less than one thousand dollar, you can even get a Dell laptop for $850 that comes with a camcorder. What makes the e-registration complete is just the software platform, the template that connects them, it is not just a table but an intelligent table, if I can call it, a table that we designed but not with Microsoft window.

For every window, there is software behind the window that is not seen. But to create table itself there is a command and the template will be used for data analysis, storage and production.

DDC Machine
We don't even need that direct capture machine because they don't have a second value, they can only be use for that purpose, but computer can do better than that machine. A computer could be used for more than three wards. One could capture people in local governments or wards. Sometimes, a particular voter may run out of patience but he would still be able to vote and the vote recorder against his ward. Somebody can be in Abuja and decide to vote in his local government, he need not be in Okene or Lagos before he could vote in his local government. So all these capabilities are there in an electronic register, what we are saying is that, flexibility has come to the system because we have studied how to do it.

Some people would ask weather we have done it before? The answer is yes, we did it on staff attendance system that is smart card based. We have been using it for over two years and this system was developed by us. It is high time we look inwards, because there are multiple advantages in INEC taking these decisions.

First of all when you are talking of moral integrity, this is guarantied when an individual can

move over financial inducement. Today, they are thinking of providing vendor with 30 per cent, why would one provide a vendor with 30 per cent profit margin, that is already 30 something billion. This 30 billion is enough to build a micro electronic computer line in Nigeria. So imagine, if we start producing our own television as it used to be in Phillip in Ojota in those days or produce our own handset for 50 million mobile telephone users in the country, it would grow the economy, vision 2020 would be achieved and capital flights maximally truncated.

120,000 units
Instead of going for 120, 000 units of the direct data capturing machine (DDC) as proposed by INEC, Nigcomsat can solve the problem with only 5,000 units of smart card, adding that his agency can also provide the DDC using Zinox as an indigenous technology to get the software installed in a computer. It is about the scope, somebody can mention figure. The only thing I can say is that there is no way we will not save cost at least 20 to 25 per cent using our own e-voting system. In our own proposal, we don't need more than 5,000 units against 120,000 units mentioned by INEC.

What we calculated were 4,000 units, which means that in every local government area we would have a minimum of about five points and one could capture about 200 voters everyday. Individually, in a month, we would be able to capture 180,000 voters in a local government area. In one month, one could capture the whole nation using 4,000 units of smart cards. But if the country insists on using DDC, we have all the technologies and applications needed.

Yes, with the collaboration from Nigcomsat, Zinox, Beta and Omatek, INEC problem would be solved. INEC could use this to encourage local capacity building just like the Obasanjo's memo supported local IT manufacturers. They can ride on that. And the beauty of it all is that we have created an electronic ballot system, which cannot be manipulated because it has been built to detect biometrics of every user.

We can export this to Ghana, some other West African countries, Europe and even America. If china is exporting technological product to America, I don't see what could be stopping us from exporting technological product to America. And we have applied for United States, Europe as well as world wide patent for this product. This means that we believe, nobody has done it in the world and that is the truth, we have so much confidence. It is still pending, they have not replied us, which means nobody has done it because once you apply for US patent and worldwide patent, they will start doing their research.

If we adopt this solution, it will put Nigeria on the path of technological progress, diversifies our economy and attaining our vision 2020 would be actualised.