National Garifuna Council engages in ICJ education campaign
February 20, 2019
BNTU to host ICJ educational forum
February 20, 2019

Belizeans, Imagine you just E-voted?

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Posted: Wednesday, February 20, 2019. 12:32 pm CST.

The views expressed in this article are those of the writer and not necessarily those of Breaking Belize News.

Charles Leslie Jr.  is the Chairman of the Belize Unity Alliance and the former independent Chairman of Placencia Village (2010 – 2013). He holds an Associates degree in business, accounting and economics and has over 20 years business experience.

By Charles Leslie Jr: A person opens the election management body’s website, registers to vote, and then votes by inserting his/her ID in the computer’s card reader.

That is how Estonians did it in 2007. E-voted. Easily from the comfort of their homes. Making them the first country in history to accomplish such a feat.

But, how did they do this?

Policy, baby. Policy.

Since the mid-1990s, the country has aggressively pursued a national ICT education strategy.

“ICT refers to technologies that provide access to information through telecommunications. It is similar to Information Technology (IT), but focuses primarily on communication technologies. This includes the Internet, wireless networks, cell phones, and other communication mediums.”

This allowed Estonia to be rated by some as the most advanced in Europe in terms of e-government.

I know. Belize has an e-government program. Mostly to collect money from its citizens.

I applied twice for my birth certificate and got my father’s. This is the Vital Statistics Unit. No, it does not have e-government capabilities…it’s 2019.

And this is the Unit for the Government of Belize that holds your…existence…or not. As Belizean born educator, Joseph Alexander Bennett found out.

My apologies my brother. We should be better. Much better. We should all demand better. Much better.

Successful policies requires:

  • Meritocracy
  • Pragmatism
  • Transparency
  • Accountability

The 4 Elements of a nation’s success. Of course, made significantly more powerful with the 5th Element…

…Love.

Belize needs to transform envy and hate into support. Push each other up and over. This gives incentives to those who make it to the top to throw down a rope, a ladder.

Is this why Belizeans in the Diaspora are so reluctant to come home, to participate…

…because our current system does not nurture that mentality? instead of pushing you up and over, you get pushed into the mud and stepped on.

Enough philosophy. Back to ICT.

Since September of 2018 Zimbabwe’s President has been in serious talks with Estonia. Seeking possible assistance in setting up an ICT option for mulled Diaspora participation in elections back home: the e-vote for their next general elections in 2023.

One of the main reason President Emmerson Mnangagwa is considering this? Zimbabwe has a huge Diaspora and one of its most recurrent demands has been the right to vote.

“According to some figures there may very well be over 300,000 Belizeans in the Diaspora spread across America, UK, El Salvador and Mexico, consecutively holding the bulk.”

But, ICT isn’t only about voting.

It’s also about the economy, stupid, as James Carville (a Bill Clinton’s campaign strategist) would say.

For voters at home, e-voting could in the long run reduce the high cost of elections in Belize.

Imagine, Estonia knew the importance of this technology, that The Baltic Tiger has itself allowed e-voting over 10 years ago.

This is after having already given the world file sharing giant Kazaa! online communications systems behemoth Skype, and finance technology mammoth TransferWise.

ICT contributes about seven percent (7%) of their GDP, and its researchers and computer scientists are at the forefront of fields like deep learning, quantum cryptography, business process analysis and bioinformatics.

QUICK FACTS: Estonia Government Debt is 9% of GDP (2018) V Belize Government Debt is 95%+ of GDP (2016)

Policy works:

Especially when a country aggressively pursue education strategy in a particular field.

“What is Belize’s education strategy focused on?”

    • We can’t seem to figure out where we want to go with our education system.

 

  • Many of our smartest people are developing other countries.

 

    • We can’t seem to figure out how to properly modernize our health system.

 

  • Not even our politicians use our local health system.

 

    • We can’t seem to figure out how to upgrade our public transportation system.

 

  • They public transportation we have, developed countries don’t even use them to transport animals.

 

    • We can’t seem to design our infrastructure around people first.

 

  • How can a road look like it was designed as a war-road in Iraq, and worst already cost two beautiful souls their lives. A mother, for God’s sake, a mother.

 

    • We can’t seem to effectively address crime.

 

  • How is it possible to pump unprecedented amounts of money in an economy over 10 years and still have unprecedented rise in violence crime, especially murder?

 

    • We can’t seem to effectively address poverty.

 

  • Same question as above: how is it that more money has been pumped into Belize over the past 10 years, than ever before, and still have more poverty…than ever before. How is that even possible?

 

    • We can’t seem to effectively grow the economy and do all that we are doing, without unbearable debt.

 

  • Our debt is at 100% GDP as of 2018. You make a hundred bucks a week. You have to pay a hundred bucks a week towards your debt…soooo…you have to borrow even more money to pay light bill, water, bill, buy food, school fees…you see how insane that is?

 

    • And most importantly, we can’t seem to figure out how we are actually going to pay off all this debt without continued increase in direct and indirect taxes, and God forbid, a default, which would open us up to international corporate economic predators.

 

  • Playing with gas prices. Lower it, more sells. Announce a day in advance it will go up, and people flock to the gas stations and pump an influx of cash into the GOB coffers.
  • Raising electricity prices.
  • Come on, raise property taxes on all the foreign-owned businesses and large landowners that are paying couple hundred in property taxes, while making millions a year.
  • And make sure a percentage go back to the municipality, no matter who is the Area Rep, and I am sure most of them won’t mind paying more property taxes.

 

More often than not governments have blind spots (lots).

And more often than not, if there is not a system in place that allows citizens to effectively and efficiently articulate their pain points, their needs, their wants…

…those blind spots remain unnoticed/unaddressed, and progress in a nation is…more often than not…haphazard and ineffective.

Here are some benefits Estonians enjoy from e-voting:

  • A Smart National Identity Card with secure digital signature used for e-voting and just about everything else.
  • Vote from the convenience of a computer via secured website.
  • Votes can be cast for about a week before ballots are physically cast by those who do not want the Internet option.
  • A voter can cast multiple ballots online. So if you change your mind you go back online before election day and vote for someone else. This invalidates any previous choice.
  • Even then, on election day one can still go and cast a physical ballot which also invalidates the prior online choice.
  • Voters can check their choices via mobile phone and verify it as it is added to the national/parliamentary/municipal tally.

 

In 2017 about 31% of Estonians voted online during a municipal election.

In 2019 we are still arguing whether Belizeans in the Diaspora should even have the right to vote. Yet, at the same time allowing immigrants from all over Central America that privilege.

Insane.

Imagine, the positive impact on Belize’s economy by Belizeans in the Diaspora, if they were treated like…well…Belizeans.

The www.diasporaofbelize.org website states “Do you want to be a part of Belize’s Development, share your knowledge and be involved? Tell us about yourself and your interest so that together we can help build Belize!”

Maybe it is time for Belizeans in the Diaspora and Belizeans at home, to increase our voices in the demand for a system that will allow ALL Belizeans, no matter where they are, the right to vote.

Don’t you think?

E-voting would change the direction of Belize so rapidly, and be so powerful, that it will positively impact the entire world, and especially Belizeans…worldwide.

Think about it. Thanks for reading.

 

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