Election Results Can Be Transmitted Electronically Everywhere In Nigeria – Halilu
Khalil Suleiman Halilu, a Techprenuer, is the CEO of CANs, a company that addresses day-to-day problems with the application of technology, be it hard wire, soft wire or a mixture of both. In this interview with SUNDAY ISUWA, he posits that it is 100 per cent possible to transmit election results electronically everywhere in Nigeria.
I’ve seen a lot of things here in CANs. What is CANs and what does it stand for?
CANs actually stand for containers; we call it the CANs Park which is basically an event center or innovation hub. What we do here is to build technology solutions as one of our services. We also offer co-working spaces to people that will stay here and work whether for a day, week or month. The third service we offer is called the launch box. Launch box is basically identifying two different parties, be it an individual or organisation on the things they have and how they can complement each other for business or for development. And the reason why we call it the CANs Park is because the whole technology here is made up of containers. The whole world is going eco-friendly and the way to be eco-friendly interns of building is to use the cans for sustainable development goals. All the technology we use here, the partnership we do or the stakeholders we bring, we have to be in line with sustainable development goals.
CANs initiated a technology called Zabe which ensures election transparency in the 2019 general elections. Did you achieve the goal of bringing such an application?
Zabe is an election monitoring platform and basically what it does is to give citizens power and ensure the result of the election is transparent. As Nigerians vote and the result announced by INEC in that polling unit, everybody that has that app within that polling unit will input the result and take a picture of the result that is pasted in that polling unit and upload it to the app. And using artificial intelligence, we collate all the results coming from all the polling units in the country and add up all the figures and publish it publicly. This is a chance to stop anyone who wants to manipulate the results. We also used artificial intelligence to check disparities when people try to input fake results and all that. So far, when we did the election monitoring, it recorded 97 percent accuracy with the INEC official result which was a great achievement.
We recorded in the last week of the election about 200 percent growth.
It was actually the Zabe election monitoring platform that inspiredthe CANs. We saw the power of bringing the people together. When we were planning it, people could not believe you could build a system and other people could just input data and make something meaningful out of it. But at the end of the day it was a success that inspired us to transform into a hub and attract more people, more talents and be able to do more as far as technology is concerned.
Ahead of the 2023 general election, if a political party is interested in having an accurate figure of the election results, do you think this app can help?
Of course, definitely; we know we are talking about democracy and political parties should patronise technology such as this. The more you use technology like this, the more you put pressure on the system to be able to bring about transparency or an idea.
People have been talking about electronic voting and electronic transmission of election results. We have seen debates even at the National Assembly with Senators voting for or against it and INEC coming out to say yes they can conduct elections electronically and transmit the election results electronically. As an expert, can you say this is possible?
Of course yes, it is possible. I have cited an example of the technology system – Zabe with 97 percent accuracy which can fly anywhere in the world. Nigeria is a multi-cultural, multi-ethnic setting; you need technology to be the consensus between people so that you won’t say the INEC head is from this part of the country.
Definitely I see this happening. Don’t forget, Nigeria has one of the best banking systems as far as technology banking systems are concerned. In terms of fraud, in the past, we had some challenges but our system is now solid. It is very rare you hear issues coming up. If you are using technology, most especially block chain technology for election, it is cheaper, faster and more transparent. Now, with your national identity number, there is now a way you can do some plugins to make sure things go on very well. So, definitely, we should go for something like that.
But some people are saying the country has no internet network coverage in many of the communities and that conducting elections electronically and transmitting the results electronically will disenfranchise many people especially from the Northern part of the country?
No, there are so many ways to do it. We also did it during the Zabe election monitoring. We have devices that take off line records and they can also transmit via GPS, GPRS or GP Edge network which is the same thing we use and we were in all the remote part of the country and we did not face any challenge. It just depends on how you design your technology. Collation officer is not going to stay in a polling unit forever. There are technically block chains where you can apply technology for the result to be collated or imputed locally on the device. Once you move into an area of one single bar of service, the results get transmitted. Don’t forget, Nigeria has the highest mobile phone penetration in the world despite all the service coverage challenges. So, I really don’t see it as a challenge because even in the US, there are places when you go, there are no services. They do it. It’s just a matter of choosing the right team, choosing the right technology to drive it, we will be fine.
Which organisations patronise CANs both in Nigeria and outside the country?
Interns of organisations, we have a lot of partners from embassies which have been partnering with us on projects. We also have non-governmental organisations including DFID, CDD, OSIWA and alot of them. What we do is use technology to bridge gaps, that is providing solutions through technology. Some of them will come, and say we are
doing this, do you have a better idea or a partner within your ecosystem that we can engage for a solution. We have different kinds of solutions. Some want an express system in their organisation or civil society organisations who want to embark on an outreach. For example, during the COVID period we did a palliative market place with Jaiz Bank and people requested for palliatives online. That is an example of the solutions we are providing. Also, we do programmes for women, we do coding for kids; we also do social activities because sometimes you need to unwind. Also, we organise competitions. There are times Banks will engage us to organise a competition since we have a network of young people and a winner will emerge. We also do alot for civil society organisations, government and private organisations.
We also have our own in-house solution. We built an app for reporting sexual and gender based violence. During the lockdown, alot of people were locked in with their abusers and it was difficult for them to report such issues. We built an app on that and happily, over 200 organisations have registered to offer help for people that have such issues.
How can technology solve the problems of young Nigerians?
Well, in Africa, you need technology as much as you need agriculture. If you are talking about resources in the world, both human and natural resources, Africa is a place to look at. But you will always question why we have so many resources and we have too many problems. To go the conventional way in solving problems, you need technology to bridge the gaps basically. We have a very vibrant population and anywhere we go in the world we excelled. We need to work together, have more focus and also employ technology.
How can the government utilise technology to reduce unemployment?
It is mainly by providing an enabling environment. I don’t believe the government should be the Alpha and Omega in doing everything. The main role of the government is to provide an enabling environment. Make it easy for the government to be in business, make it easy for people to access their work places, make it easy for people to streamline taxes and become more transparent. If you collect taxes, where does it go so that people can see the fruit? So, government should just be an enabler not where people dumb their problems and say you have to feet
With an enabling environment, people will prosper. I am a very big fan of young people, especially women. I love to see women excelling
in their different fields and I believe they have what to offer. Also, we need to work with the highest generation to be able to bridge the
gaps. We have the experience and the agility to be able to bridge the gap. It’s not a fight or war, but just collaboration with the
youths. Even though experience is limited, there has to be a handshake to see how the older generation can nurture the upcoming ones. Also,
the old generation must accept the new ways of doing things. Alot of things have changed. For the youth, all you need to do is believe in
them and you will see the difference. Things are happening all over the world. Now the world is a global village. The youths need a lot of
support. Mostly it is not financial but a guide. Lead them to draw their career part. I also want to see more collaboration among the
younger generation. We have to be sincere to ourselves, we are lagging behind. You see people resume responsibilities but they are not up to
the tasks. The youth need to wake up, learn, read and take over the responsibilities.
We’ve seen a lot of creativity and innovation in CANs. How did you come about this and where do you want to take this creativity to?
Well, how we came about it is simple. You build an ecosystem that attracts creative people, you give them a framework and you sit down
and relax. It has come to a point that every day I come to work, I see something new because we have set the ball rolling and you’ve given
people freedom. You’ve seen everything here in CANs is made-up of recycled materials. We are not trying to copy the technology hub from
Germany or the US. We are building something very local, very African. It’s very original. I think the main thing is to open your doors, open
your channels. I’ve seen people I am really proud of. People are now doing better as a result of coming to a place like this. And I hope to
see more places like CANs coming up all over the continent if not the country.