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» » ZESN designs election eye, open data for credible elections

Moses Ziyambi

– The Zimbabwe Electoral Support Network (Zesn) has come up with a draft electoral integrity assessment instrument by which it hopes to contribute to the holding of credible elections in line with the African Charter and the Southern Africa Development Community (Sadc) guidelines on elections.
The election eye is a checklist of various electoral thematic issues against the African Charter and Sadc models while open data alludes to the manner by which election data ought to be administered to ensure the integrity of electoral processes.
Zesn director Rindai Chipfunde-Vava told participants of a high level training on Biometric Voter Registration (BVR) that there were many critical areas that authorities needed to address in the interests of a more democratic electoral process.
The training was organised by Trace in partnership with the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (Ifes).
Among other thematic areas, the Zesn election eye highlights the importance of an inclusive voter registration exercise with provisions that are favourable to the registration of eligible women and marginalised voters such as first time voters, the youth, people living with disabilities, rural voters as well as ethnic, linguistic and religious minorities.
Zesn also calls for election data to be timely made available, and to be permanently accessible in an analysable digital machine readable format and to be non-proprietary and licence-free so that it can be shared, used, reused and redistributed for any purpose.
"We believe that elections are for the public and therefore information should be given to the public for free but the challenge is that in most cases, the process is opaque leading to inadequate accountability mechanisms.
"The open data is a tool designed to ensure that the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) gives information freely basing on open data principles. One of the principles is that the information must be given timely, it must be frequently updated, for example, information on BVR. Many people do not know what it is, when it is happening and how it is happening," Chirinda-Vava said.
Election data, she said can be described as open when it is available for free on the internet and when it is granular, meaning that data is available at the shortest possible intervals, for instance, when the electorate is given voter registration statistics on a daily basis.
Chirinda-Vava also said there must be a clear aggregation of data to eliminate guess work on such important issues as the total number of voters living with disabilities.
"Election data must be non-discriminatory and this is a problem when we look at the urban/rural divide in Zimbabwe. When perceived opposition sympathisers and civil society ask for the information, it is not given to them but when the ruling party asks for the same information, it is given to them without restrictions so we are saying open data must be made available to any individual or organisation without limitations based on his/her identity," Chirinda-Vava said.local

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