All but three of the district and regional offices of the Electoral Commission (EC) have been provided with Internet connectivity as the commission prepares towards the 2020 presidential and parliamentary elections.
The EC has 260 offices across the country.
Speaking to a section of the media at Peduase, near Aburi in the Eastern Region over the weekend as part of the EC’s engagement with stakeholders, the Chairperson of the EC, Mrs Jean Mensa, said although the commission obtained approval from the Public Procurement Authority (PPA) for a restrictive competitive tender, it went out of its way to do open, transparent and competitive tendering, with advertisements in the dailies to invite bids.
She said the mobile telecommunications company, MTN, won the bid to provide network connectivity for all EC offices across the country, while a Ghanaian company, Persol Systems Ltd, won the bid to build the data centre, which will serve as the information technology (IT) infrastructure backbone of the EC.
The IT consultant for the EC, Dr Yaw Ofori-Adjei, said based on lessons learnt from the previous biometric voter management system (BVMS) and the data centre the EC operated, the current one would be based on open standards, well known to the group of companies that played in the industry.
For instance, he said, the software to be deployed would be able to adapt to different hardware, in what is technically referred to as “hardware agnostic”.
He said the very small aperture terminal (VSAT), the network on which the BVMS used to run, had been decommissioned because it was inefficient, as it was susceptible to weather changes.
MTN, which won the contract to provide the network, is using its Fourth Generation (4G) technology to provide connectivity for the 260 EC offices across the country.
Dr Ofori-Adjei, who co-founded Fairgreen Ltd, which has built data centres for some high-profile public and private sector companies, said a second telecom service provider would be contracted to provide back-up network connectivity, an arrangement technically referred to as “redundancy”.
Again, the new data centre would have a disaster recovery plan, with a back-up system located remotely from the main data centre and not placed in the same building, which would back-up automatically, he said.
He said the new system would end any form of vendor monopoly, which allowed the company providing the service to offer day-to-day management of the system, with remote control abilities that tied the EC’s hands from independently operating it.
Dr Ofori-Adjei also revealed that the old system ran on a network, VSAT, provided by the vendor which was shared with their other clients and with an Internet protocol (IP) address that could not be changed.
He expressed the view that the new system, aside from saving cost and resolving the challenges of the current BVMS and data centre, would also give the EC independence over its own data and systems and avoid obsolescence and frequent system breakdowns which could undermine the conduct of polls.
The EC’s decision to compile a new biometric voters register has generated some brouhaha, with the political parties divided over the move.
The Inter-Party Resistance Against a New Voters Register (IPRAN), which includes the National Democratic Congress (NDC), says it will continue its demonstrations against the move.
Yesterday, it held another demonstration in Accra after it paused to engage the EC as part of an expanded IPAC meeting convened by the Eminent Advisory Committee (EAC) of the EC.
Some civil society groups have also issued a statement opposing the compilation of a new biometric voters register.
The New Patriotic Party (NPP) and 12 other political parties are backing the compilation of the new register.
The EC also met with members of the Council of State last Friday and has indicated its intention to meet with the former Presidents again.