ICTs Supporting Democracy in Rwanda through Capacity Building at the National Electoral Commission

Photo of data entry clerks. The previous voter registration updating process relied on paper submissions to the central office and data entry on borrowed computers.The USAID-funded dot-ORG project in Rwanda is actively engaged in improving the speed, accuracy and transparency of the country's election management system. This work forms a vital part of strengthening Rwanda's electoral process and overall democratization and good governance efforts.

The ICTs for Elections and Community Access project is working with Rwanda's National Electoral Commission (NEC) to improve their capacity through the use of ICTs in three main areas.
  • Strengthening the Commission's ability to manage the country's national voter list database, which includes some 4.3 million registered voters;
  • Enabling the NEC to link its twelve provincial offices with its headquarters in Kigali through computer networks; and
  • Assisting in the production of 4.3 million "variable data" cards based on the NEC's revamped national database. An additional 200,000 blank voter cards will be produced so that the Commission can produce new voter cards on an ongoing basis, using a high-speed laser-jet printer provided by the project.
Challenges to Effective Election Management
dot-ORG Project Coordinator Gerald Mpyisi, National Electoral Commission Executive Secretary Pierre Damien Habumuremyi, and dot-ORG Senior Program Officer Michael Tetelman signing the official Memorandum of Understanding between the NEC and AED/dot-ORG. As in many other countries, Rwanda's election management system efforts had been hampered by a lack of IT infrastructure/applications and capacity to use its IT systems effectively.

For example, prior to the dot-ORG project, the NEC had to store its national voter registration database on a small server loaned to them from the Ministry of Local Government. Moreover, the NEC had relied on a consultant from another ministry to build and update its database.

And much of voter verification and updating was processed by hand from the provincial offices, using paper ledgers sent to the central office. This often handwritten information was then entered into the database on borrowed computers from other government departments, a process that was rife with inaccuracies, lost documents, and opportunities for misuse.

The NEC therefore needed the internal capacity to develop and maintain an enterprise level database, a server to house the database, high-quality printers, and stronger IT capacity to ensure the timely, accurate, and transparent management of the voter registration data.

Developing the Infrastructure for Higher Quality Data
AED and its resource partner, GeekCorps, are focusing on providing high-value IT infrastructure and applications to the NEC as well as technical assistance and training to the NEC's IT staff who will maintain this infrastructure.

In February 2003, dot-ORG and the NEC signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that defined the IT equipment and training/TA that the NEC would receive under this project.

Prof. Chrysologue Karangwa, NEC President, officially accepts computer equipment from the USAID funded dot-ORG project on behalf of the National Electoral Commission of Rwanda. On June 11th, in an official hand-over ceremony attended by NEC officials, USAID, dot-ORG staff, and members of the press, AED delivered and installed one server with MS 2000 Advanced Server (to house the entire voter database) followed by a high-speed HP printer which will allow the NEC to print out new voter registration cards, configured the same day.

dot-ORG also delivered 12 personal computers (with modems and CDRom drives) and Deskjet color printers, which will be installed in the NEC's provincial offices to expedite the database updating process. With these new computers, most of the data processing will be done at the provinces and files transferred electronically to the main server at the head office. Between elections, the computers will be used to maintain data communication between the provinces and the head office.

In the upcoming months, dot-ORG intends to support the NEC's IT staff by providing intensive training in database and election management.

Building Transparent and Democratic Systems
National Electoral Commission Executive Secretary, Mr. Pierre Damien Habumuremyi, recently noted the value of dot-ORG's assistance in strengthening democracy in Rwanda. As he observed,
Organizing a national election is a very daunting task. The task becomes even more challenging when it is being done in a country with very limited resources and which, less than ten years ago, went through a war and a genocide that took the lives of close to a million people and left behind a shattered infrastructure.

We are therefore very grateful to the dot-ORG project which is assisting the National Electoral Commission to improve our capacity to manage the referendum and the national elections through the use of Information and Communication Technology (ICT). Considering our limited resources, we also appreciate the project's other tasks in the management of the voter database, a task that would have otherwise been overwhelming.
AED was awarded the Rwanda Project July 3, 2002 for a period of two years (Award No. 623-G-00-02-00056-00 under the dot-ORG Leader Award No.GDG-A-00-01-00014-00.)

For More Information, Contact:
Michael Tetelman
Acting Director, dot-ORG
Academy for Educational Development
Tel: 202 884 8856

Gerald Mpyisi
Project Coordinator, dot-ORG/Rwanda
Academy for Educational Development

Related Resource Partners
Related DOT-COM Activity
Rwanda - ICTs for Elections and Community Access
Related DOT-COMments Newsletter Articles
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Core funding for the DOT-COM Alliance is provided by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), Bureau for Economic Growth, Agriculture & Trade, Office of Infrastructure and Engineering (EGAT/OI&E), Office of Education (EGAT/ED), and Office of Women in Development (EGAT/WID), under the terms of Award numbers: GDG-A-00-01-00009-00, dot-GOV; GDG-A-00-01-00014-00, dot-ORG; GDG-A-00-01-00011-00, dot-EDU.
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