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Is online voting the next big in-thing?



One big question has started to loom large on global horizon. After Electronic Voting Machine (EVM) is online voting the next in-thing for global democratic process?

When a voter can cast his/her vote through Internet it is called online vote. As the largest democratic process of election has been taking place in India in nine phases through 36 days in gruelling summer heat, as the European Union is poised to go to vote for its parliament at the second half of this month, more close bonding between technology and election is clearly a writ on the wall.

And why not? When the world is getting accustomed to online shopping through their desktop, laptop, notepad, smartphone, tablet, phablet, when television viewers can vote for their reality show contestant, there should not be any fetters for online vote in macro scale.

And Estonia has already shown as far back as in 2005 that nationwide election can be conducted through online voting. More recently, online voting was conducted in Gandhinagar municipal election in Indian state of Gujarat in 2011 where voters were provided with separate user ids and passwords. Experts point out to several beneficial factors for  online voting.

Firstly voters can cast their votes from their own net connected device. So the place of his staying would not matter anymore and in reality it can become 'anywhere vote'. Already nations like the US, the UK, Canada, France, Germany, Spain and Portugal have initiated the process of online vote for their non-resident citizens.

Media reports that Indian Election Commission is mulling the same option for over 10 million global non-resident Indians in the next General Election.

The ongoing Indian election, billed as largest democratic exercise in the world, is carrying out the mega event involving 814 million voters, 0.9 million polling stations,1.7 million EVMs, with the assistance from over 10 million Indian government employees and thousands of security forces.

Online voting can considerably diminish this cost as it does not require many of the conventional election infrastructures like polling booth, EVMs, arrangement of involving millions of peoples and companies of security forces. As the number of global voters is bound to rise in near future, this cost factor would be a  crucial parameter.

The election which is under way in India is a marathon spanning over 36 days. Online voting could have completed the entire matter in just about a day or two with just foolproof cyber security in place.

World is fast becoming a global village with Internet making deeper inroads with help of cellular phones. It is estimated that by 2020 there would be 50 billion net connected devices for the nearly eight billion global population and it would be perfect platform for initiating online voting.

The main challenge will be to embed the process with near zero error cyber security like protection from hacking and other cybercrimes.  Mega data storing server would also have to be set up. The experts are hopeful that these kinds of technological challenges could be tackled with relative ease.
It would eliminate intimidations, bogus voting and proxy voting. Democracy would then emerge as clear winner.

The author is a senior journalist specialised in technology. All the views and opinions expressed in the article are solely his and not of Times of Oman.


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