By Ike Suarez, Correspondent
Claiming that all automated technologies proposed so far for Philippine elections are either too expensive or have technical workings, which cause Filipinos to doubt the results, a group of six prominent figures in the country’s IT sector today proposed a hybrid solution using simple personal computers, cellular phone SMS-texting, and Open Source software while retaining the manual system of voting.
The movement to advocate the hybrid solution was announced at a symposium at the University of the Philippines College of Engineering organized by the Computing Society of the Philippines, an organization of academics all over the country engaged in both the teaching of and research and development (R&D) in computer science and computer engineering. [...]
Gruet said that unlike Direct Recording Equipment, the proposed hybrid solution would cost around P1 billion to implement. That of DRE would cost P17 billion if made available to all the country’s precincts.
And unlike optical mark reading, the other proposed automated technology, the counting of votes and canvassing of election returns would be visible to all interested parties. It would not also require the design of new ballot boxes.
Under the hybrid system, voters would vote manually as they have always done. But the election returns would be tabulated via PC in designated schools, the returns validated and sent by cellphone SMS to a website, the Comelec Board of Canvassers would access the Website to produce the Statements of Votes and Certificates of Canvass, the Provincial Board of Canvassers would access the Web to produce the provincial Statements of Votes and Certificates of Canvass, and the National Board of Canvassers would access the database to produce the final results. All these would be visible on the Internet to any interested party. [...]
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Read also, "The Philippines' ICT Roadmap"
NCC (National Computer Center) should be the central government agency that has a bigger role in matters concerning computers and information -- and that should include the automation of the electoral system. NCC should be empowered, properly staffed with highly competitive professionals and supported with the appropriate budget so that it can expand its capacity and scope of work.
Comelec commissioners are very reluctant to handle the task of automating the electoral system simply because they don't have the expertise when it comes to computerized systems and equipments. They don't have computer professionals in their organization to handle the tasks -- especially proper maintenance of data and equipments.
PC's, DRE's, OMR and other IT devices require proper maintenance during and after elections or else they may not function properly in the next election -- and considering that these devices are so expensive.
Either Comelec hires and employs their own technicians and IT professionals to handle the tasks, or they could coordinate with NCC for these specific needs. But what can NCC help Comelec with when they themselves are short of experts (both in the software and hardware categories).
One problem of Comelec that may be assisted by NCC is the coordination of data between the Comelec's CVL (Computerized Voter's List) and the LGU's LCR (Local Civil Registry) data. CVL data clean-up operations and updating could become efficient if NCC could find ways of integrating these two systems.