Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Computerizing Philippine Elections: The Comelec Computers

The Comelec has spent a lot of money on those PCs with OMR (Optical mark readers). PCs are delicate machines and get obsolete very quickly. If you keep them in storage, like Comelec is doing now, and the storage facilities are not the proper kind for sensitive electronic equipment, then they may break down in storage, or if they don't, they may become obsolete if stored for too long. Just compare the 300MHz Intel Celerons of a few years back to today's 2.8GHz Intel Core Duos. You do not want to use the 300MHz Celerons today because, either they are just too slow for your needs today, or they have already broken down. That is why in my original article, I suggested that Comelec should not buy PCs for use at the voting precincts, because Comelec will end up with obsolete or broken-down PCs in just two to three years. That is why I suggested that Comelec rent PCs from schools, Internet cafes, banks, etc. What Comelec should buy are the PC servers for the Comelec server farms. Comelec should also buy bandwidth to connect their servers to the Internet.

We are a country consisting of more than seven thousand islands, separated by seas. If you use the Comelec PC/OMRs to produce precinct summaries on diskettes, which is what Comelec wanted to do, you still had that serious problem of moving those diskettes via land and sea, to the election tabulation Centers. God sent the Internet to these seven thousand islands as an instrument of unity -- to unite our people in one communication link, so that our voices and votes can be heard instantly, just seconds after we cast our votes. What buses and sea-going vessels failed to do, the Internet will -- that is, connect our people together, so that our voices can be heard as one, instantly!

What do you do with those Comelec PC/OMRs? They are already here, laying idle in the Comelec warehouses, probably slowly breaking down in storage, their cmos batteries discharging, the DIMM ram connectors oxidizing, etc. Do we just let billions of pesos of our tax money go to waste? I suggest that we use these machines. We equip them with network cards, and on election day, we place them in the Internet cafes, at school computer labs, in banks and in offices that have Internet connection. And we use them for paper-ballot voting, for those people who are afraid of touching computers. The only difference is, as soon as the voter finishes accomplishing his paper ballot, he can stick it into the OMR, which reads his votes, sends his vote via the Internet to the Comelec server farm, so that his vote is instantly counted, just like the vote of everyone else.

So now, people can vote using [PC/Internet/browser] in cafes, schools, or at home. People can also vote using the [ComelecPC/OMR/Internet/paper-ballot] in Internet cafes, and schools. People can also vote using [mobile phone/GPRS/Internet] anywhere they are.

Just take your pick.

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