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Voting vesus productivity

MAY I begin by congratulating the sixth President of Zambia, Mr. Edgar Chagwa Lungu, on his election to the highest office in the land and also congratulate Ms. Inonge Mutukwa Wina for being appointed Zambia’s first female vice president.  
I wish the duo and the rest of the Cabinet, God’s blessings as they undertake their work.  It is good that we are now slowly getting back to work and to business as usual and this would not have been possible if the other 10 presidential contestants did not concede defeat.  I therefore take this opportunity to commend opposition political party leaders for doing their best to uphold peace.
The Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ), too, should be commended for doing their best under difficult conditions considering that the election took place in the rainy season and some places were extremely difficult to access by road.
The election provided many lessons for different stakeholders and it is important to look at how we can improve future elections in terms of participation and logistical arrangements.  I will leave the analysis of voter apathy to political analysts and comment on different aspects.
As a human resource practitioner, it always hurts me when huge numbers of productivity hours are lost.  The government declared a public holiday so that as many voters as possible could go and cast their vote but alas!
Out of a total of 5,166,084 registered voters, only 1,671,662 people turned out cast their ballots.
We may as well have just allowed those who were going to vote time away from work without suffering any loss of pay.  By closing all businesses, we denied ourselves an opportunity to provide service and make money.
Surely some people could have alternated in certain places of work rather than close businesses completely.  Of course not all businesses and work places closed as some services are critical for human existence.  Those who provide essential services such as water, electricity, transport, fuel and medical facilities, for instance, could not close.
So, many people had to travel from one end of Zambia to another to go and cast their vote.  I am aware that some voters even travelled from outside Zambia at great expense to come and vote.
It would cut down on expenditure at personal level if the ECZ came up with a way of allowing the electorate to vote electronically from any part of the world. Of course, this would present its own challenges but the benefits in my view would outweigh the challenge.
Surely, this requires huge investment and a lot of sensitisation of some of our people who are skeptical about technology, but it can be done.  Come to think of it, why can’t we allow a person to vote with only one document – the National Registration Card (NRC) as is done in some developed country?
Why not introduce certain features on the NRC to make it usable for voting as well as for identity?  This would of course require reviewing the minimum voting age to make it uniform with the age at which one obtains an NRC.
This would also require huge investment in technology, but if we do it well it would pay off in the long term.  If done properly, there is no way that two people would have the same identity document.  At the click of a button, one’s details would come up on the screen anywhere in Zambia.
I shudder to think of how many people failed to travel to go and vote in a constituency where they registered three years ago and also how much money was spent by individuals and families travelling from one place to another.
Not to mention the hours of productivity that were lost by organisations, whose employees had to take at least three days off to go and cast their votes in places where they registered from.