Somaliland, a semi-autonomous region of Somalia, was the guinea pig for iris-recognition technology at a presidential poll, according to election spokesman Saed Ali Muse.
The self-declared sovereign state became the first in the world to use the scanners, which is the world’s most sophisticated voting register.
Somaliland’s implementation of iris recognition devices follow incidents involving duplication of voters and other alleged fraud and logistic problems dating back to the 2008 elections.
The region, as a result, sought out international experts in the biometrics field and started preparing for the election since 2015. Biometric expert at the Notre Dame University, Professor Kevin Bowyer, was contacted to help determine the best of the various face, finger and iris recognition technologies. The latter was pegged as being superior.
The eyes of registered voters were scanned to verify their identity before they are cleared to vote. Also, social media was blocked during the voting process.
Support for technological advancement on the continent is reflected by the African Union’s inclusion of the Science, Technology and Innovation in Africa Strategy.
Ghana, Kenya and Angola all use the fingerprint biometric to identify registered voters.
Members of a 60-man team of international election observers arrived in Hargeisa last week to monitor the poll. The British-funded International Election Observation Mission (EOM) was also invited by the National Electoral Commission.
“The EOM is particularly hopeful that the implementation of the voter registration system will address issues that have marred previous elections, and looks forward to commencing its mission,” according to a statement from the observers.
On Monday, Somaliland voted to elect their fifth president.
Over 700,000 registered voters were expected to cast their votes at more than 1,600 polling stations.
Officials began tallying votes after polls closed at 6:00 p.m. local time.