BETTY GABRIEL WAKIA
PORT MORESBY - The Highlands region of Papua New Guinea is known for the election-related violence that has clans fighting amongst themselves and prosecuting bloody wars that have no end.
Provinces like Enga, Southern Highlands, Simbu, Western Highlands and Hela are particularly known for this.
The 2002 general elections were considered chaotic and violent, and led to many deaths. The 2007 elections were characterised by widespread election fraud and malpractice.
Neither were the 2012 elections generally free nor fair, and the 2017 national elections were hijacked in many places by fraud, unprecedented violence and insecurity.
Due to the lack of understanding of how government works, as well as illiteracy and poverty, for many people elections are seen as times of opportunity to receive benefits rather than a time to make important choices.
PNG democracy is money democracy. Those who have more buying power at election time are more likely to win.
The PNG democratic system has barely survived through successive elections that have been conducted amongst serious doubts about their credibility.
The greatest challenge is how to overcome electoral fraud and misconduct that leads to election-related violence.
Electoral fraud exists at all political levels and ranges from the manipulation of results by corrupt electoral officials to outright intimidation of voters.
Papua New Guinean voters do not trust the PNG Electoral Commission and its officials and are suspicious of how the ballot papers are treated.
Enter Australian-based Papua New Guinean aerospace engineer Nicholas Wabiria.
Nicholas, originally from Koroba in Hela Province has proposed a solution to overcome election-related violence.
He grew up with his late father Sir Andrew Wabiria OBE who was elected as the member for Koroba-Lake Kopiago in the House of Assembly in 1972.
Nicholas has designed and developed the Wabiria Electoral Solution (WES) system to help the PNG Electoral Commission conduct cheap, simple and successful elections without fraud and manipulation.
WES is a block-chain powered technology built to run high-security online elections for governments and other organisations.
The system claims to bring transparency to the electoral process and build trust and confidence amongst political parties and voters.
It removes the need to use ballot papers which also reduces the cost of election administration and eliminates human error and fraud.
WES is a two ends system. The election administrator’s end is internet base application and the voters’ end is a mobile-phone texting base. Votes can be cast using mobile phones from anywhere within the established election start and finish times.
As soon as the votes are received, the scores are automatically updated without human inference or influence.
The blockchain technology is tamper- proof and can’t be hacked. Nor can there be any interference by a third party.
Every vote is treated as a transaction that takes place in the system. It is encrypted and gets entered into a ledger anonymously so the voter’s identity remains hidden.
Election violence in PNG flows from the lack of transparency in the conduct of elections and voters’ subsequent lack of trust in the process.
Nicholas Wabiria says WES system can accommodate the current voting system in PNG and can also be adapted for other purposes such as opinion polling and community surveys.
Growing up with a father who was a prominent politician has familiarised Nicholas with PNG’s election practices and challenges.
He believes his WES system will fight electoral corruption and thus put a stop to election-related violence.