Tuesday, October 27, 2015

The role of technology in democracy, joining the conversation

Lately, top Smartmatic executives have attended several international events to contribute to a much needed debate on the role technology is called to play on the future of democracy. Just in the past month our CEO Antonio Mugica and our Chairman Mark Malloch-Brown participated in three important debates in Athens, Washington DC and New York.

These events not only represent a great opportunity to shape the future of the industry but also to share the whys and wherefores of our work and our solutions. Here are those events and our contribution:


1. Our experience. On September 15, Smartmatic shared its one decade’s worth of experience strengthening democracy through elections in the Athens Democracy Forum. While presenting the work we have been doing to improve governance, our CEO Antonio Mugica expressed that “From creating reliable biometric voter registries in Zambia and Bolivia, to helping citizens decide on how to allocate public resources in Chile, and conducting the world's largest e-counting project in the Philippines, we’ve made an important contribution towards better governance,”. He added that there is still plenty of work to do but we are committed to face the challenge providing technology-enabled solutions to democracies around the globe. 

2. Our innovative solutions. We are convinced of the enormous possibilities new technologies are presenting to engage civil society and promote a more fluid communication between governments and constituents, and we are developing new platforms for it. On October 8, the Founders Forum for Good in NYC was the chosen scenario for Antonio to express the Smartmatic’s commitment to digital technologies being developed to broader electronic engagement of citizens with their governments. Our CEO noted “In the near future, there will be platforms and tools that will increase the levels of engagement existing between governments and citizens. The raw political energy that now manifests through Facebook, Twitter and other platforms, will find better and more adequate channels of communications.” 

3. Our engagement with industry prospects. The future of voting might be digital, but there is a journey to go and we want the world to know that we are part of it. In a debate during the October 9 Atlantic Council event ‘Democracy Rebooted: The Future of Technology in Elections’, Lord Mark Malloch-Brown said to the panel of How Can Technology Support a More Robust Democracy?: “it’s all about technology offering solutions to what people see as the principal issues, whether it is removing depressions to registration, enlarging the number of people who can vote, getting overseas military able to vote, helping other people to vote (…) technology can come in to provide a solution either through Internet voting or through something which is more interim such a better electronic voting equipment.” Furthermore, Antonio assured “The future of voting is digital. As we’ve seen with new form factors and in future-thinking countries like Estonia, new technology will reshape the democratic landscape for the better.” 


4. We are pioneers and a big player in election technology. Of the eight countries currently pioneering election automation, Smartmatic provides voting technology and services to six of them. While in the Unites States, and with elections right around the corner, Mugica took the opportunity to emphasize the fact that Smartmatic has provided technology and support services to the Electoral Commissions of 307 counties in 16 American states including California. “The current voting infrastructure in the U.S. is obsolete, underscoring the need for better voting technology, and Smartmatic is committed to providing counties and states with the most advanced technology and know-how to ensure voters have a positive voting experience.” 

5. The time is right for spreading our mission and vision and demystifying some common assumptions about electronic voting solutions. While the Atlantic Council invitation read “We are at a crucial moment to review the policies that influence elections and the technology we use to execute them,” our Chairman was cited in this CityLab article saying “Smartmatic is already working with poorer countries on lease-finance models that spread out the capital costs to make the technology more affordable, and is exploring ways to do the same in the U.S.” Malloch-Brown added that “You can run an election now much cheaper than if you stick with the trashed-out equipment and older solutions, but it requires politicians to say this has to be adopted and done in a way that’s fair to everybody.”

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