International IDEA and the Central Electoral Board of the Dominican Republic jointly organized the International Seminar “Elections and Technology”, held in Santo Domingo on August 21 and 22, 2014.
During the inauguration Roberto Rosario, president of the Central Electoral Board, stated that due to the lack of appropriate technology in electoral processes, events and situations have impacted on public confidence in elections. He went on to say that since 1998, some parties with a greater number of elected officials have not moved forward into the new century, and are still indifferent to the adoption of new changes required in the “information and knowledge age”, such as electronic voting.
Dr. Daniel Zovatto, Regional Director for Latin America and the Caribbean of International IDEA, warned that technology could be a dangerous tool if not properly used in electoral processes. However, he emphasized the growing use of ICT (Information and Communication Technology) in electoral processes to improve efficiency, transparency, and credibility, and to attract younger audiences, which is especially important given that most constituents in the region are youngsters between 19 and 35 years old.
He stated that International IDEA has emphasized that the principles justifying the adoption of ICT must be clearly understood, and that national contexts must always be taken into account. What works well in one country may not necessarily work in another. Therefore, among other variables, differences in political culture, parties and electoral systems must be taken into consideration. He also indicated that the use of ICT has to be progressive and must be accompanied by significant training.
Dr. Joaquín José Vives, magistrate and former president of the National Electoral Council of Colombia, delivered the keynote conference on “The role of technology in the electoral process: generating citizen confidence, security and transparency”, and indicated that technology is changing the way campaigns are carried out. He put social networks in their context, and stated that despite their usefulness, they cannot be controlled.
The conference on “Tendencies in technology use in electoral administration”, was delivered by Alejandro Tullio, the National Electoral Director of Argentina, who stated that electoral management bodies, as guardians of democracy, must allow access to information through the use of all possible tools, including technology. However, he affirmed that any type of technology must be used cautiously.
Enrique Andrade González, electoral advisor of the National Electoral Institute of Mexico, addressed the issue of how the use of technology has facilitated the processes and issuance of electoral documents. He indicated that in Mexico, technology has played a relevant role in elections, and is being used for electoral monitoring.
Ann M. Ravel, vice president of the Federal Electoral Commission of the United States of America, spoke about the technology of the future in electoral processes; improvements in data collection; information searching, processing and security. She declared that processing of electronic data has resulted in a radical change in the way information is delivered to the public. She explained that in the United States, electoral data is uploaded to the Internet, and within 48 hours the public may access all of this information, and even download it. However, she explained that even this is not enough, because some people do not know how to interpret the data.
The program also included a panel on experiences in transmission and dissemination of results supported by technical resources, with presentations by representatives of El Salvador, Costa Rica and Korea, as well as discussions of experiences with electronic voting systems, with the participation of representatives from Brazil, Argentina and Venezuela. Finally, Wilfredo Penco from Uruguay, Alejandro Tullio from Argentina, Roberto Rivas from Nicaragua, and Roberto Rosario from the Dominican Republic held a debate on the tendencies in the use of technology in electoral administration.