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Opinions of Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Columnist: Mensah, Peter

Biometric Voter Registration- A $150-Million Waste?

[Part 1]

Under normal circumstances, all Ghanaians should be excited
at Government’s efforts to provide support to the EC to clean the voter’s
register with biometric technology. The success of the program would however
depend largely on the choice of technology and this should be of concern to all
Ghanaians as there are several examples of failed biometric voter registration
projects in Africa due to poor choice of Technology.

Fortunately, by a diligent consideration of the track records
of the shortlisted companies or technology providers, it should be easy for the
EC to make choices which would limit the risks of failure.

This feature article would seek to examine the track records
of the 7 companies which have been shortlisted by the Electoral Commission and
examine whether the 2012 elections are at risk.

The 7 shortlisted companies are:

1. Smartmatic (A Venezuelan Company fronting from
the Netherlands)
2. STL (A Ghana-based company of fuzzy
middle-eastern origin).
3. Face Technologies (A South African Company)
4. 3M (An American company)
5. Margins Group (A Ghana-based company)
6. Persol (A Ghana-based company)
7. Code Inc (A Canadian company)

The first of this three-part series shall take a closer look
at Smartmatic and STL. The other companies shall be examines in the subsequent


Smartmatic is a Venezuelan company fronting from the
Netherlands. A basic google search shows that they were contracted to be the
biometric Technology providers for
the Philippines Commission of Elections. Unfortunately the performance of their
systems have been sub par, so the Philippines Electoral Commission is
requesting a refund from them. Only time would tell whether this refund would
be issued. Due to the bungled effort, the Philippines Congress has passed a
bill to postpone the elections from August 8, 2011 to 2013. Imagine the
confusion that would be caused in Ghana if the 2012 elections have to be
postponed due to bungled biometric registration.


Superlock Technologies Limited (STL), is a Ghana-based
company of fuzzy middle-eastern origin. I can find no record of any biometric
voter registration they have implemented. A 2nd December 2010
publication by “The Lead” newspaper however accuses them of cheating the NCA of
millions of dollars in regulatory fees.


Part 2 Preview

Coming soon would be part 2 of this series which shall take
a look at;
i) Face Technologies (which undertook a similar project in
ii) 3M which undertook similar projects in Jamaica and

Peter Mensah
Cambridge , UK