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The adoption and challenges of electronic voting technologies within the South African context
Achieng, Mourine Sarah
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The use of ICTs such as computers, electronic databases and other technologies have been in use for a number of years within the public sector to organise, manage and disseminate information to the public as well as to facilitate day-to-day communication in government offices. In this context, the value of the use of ICTs has been to assist and streamline government operations. The technological development in South Africa has opened up the possibilities of the use of ICTs in the democratic and governance process. E-democracy has been defined as a tool for abandoning the representative system for one with more direct citizen engagement. This study sets out to explore the challenges of the current electoral process, and also determine the factors that could influence the adoption and diffusion of e-voting technologies within the South African context. Literature has shown that countries such as Brazil and India have successfully implemented electronic voting systems and other countries are at various piloting stages to address many challenges and problems associated with manual paper based system such as costs of physical ballot paper and other overheads, electoral delays, distribution of electoral materials, and general lack of confidence in the electoral process. It is in this context that the study also seeks to determine whether the South African electoral management body can leverage on the opportunities that e-voting presents. However, with all the benefits that e-voting presents, there are countries such Germany, the Netherlands etc. that have tried and tested e-voting systems and decided to abandon these system to go back to the manual paper ballot voting systems because of various reasons ranging from cost, security and verifiability. This research is exploratory in nature and adopts qualitative research approach and it is within the interpretivism paradigm. Survey and interview strategies were used to collect data. A purposive sampling method was used to select the participants for the survey. To gain an understanding of the views of voters and electoral management body (IEC) about the current electoral process and e-voting technologies, literature was explored, a questionnaire was distributed online to voters and an in-depth semi-structured interview was conducted with the IEC. The study targeted voters who had access to the internet since the survey questionnaire was distributed online. The analysis is based on thematic analysis and diffusion of innovation (DoI) theory was also used to provide an analytical framework for the study. Through this framework the aims and objectives of the study were conceptualized around three constructs from the theory (relative advantage, compatibility and complexity). The findings of the study revealed that the three constructs from the DoI framework are important factors that may influence the adoption process of e-voting technologies. The findings also revealed other factors such as availability of ICT enable infrastructure and resources, digital divide, trust in technology, awareness of the technology and environment could that also influence the adoption process. The contributions of this research are anticipated to be a better understanding of the adoption of e-voting technologies in South Africa. For the electoral management bodies, the contribution of this research is that the research to some extent portrays factors that could influence the adoption of e-voting technologies in South Africa. Therefore, findings such as availability of ICT infrastructure and accessibility of these infrastructures should be taken into consideration before introducing e-voting technologies. Keywords: DoI (diffusion of Innovation), e-voting (electronic voting) technologies, E-governance, e-participation.
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