Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Simple solutions to tough problems (or, #NigeriaDecides card readers don't read through protective film)


Various types of biometrics - face, finger, iris, vein, voice, etc. - are used in a variety of vertical markets, including elections. While the use of biometrics in elections is controversial in my country, it's a little less controversial in other countries.

A little.

There is a spirited debate about the use of thumbprints to identify legitimate voters in Nigeria. Some argue that this can reduce fraud, while others argue that the technology doesn't work, and may disenfranchise qualified voters who are falsely rejected.

But it turns out that some problems are very easy to solve.

One of the tools used in Nigeria's voting process is a card reader that needs to read a special card that stores the features of the voter's thumbprint. Premium Times reports that at one polling place, the card readers just wouldn't work. A citizen observer approached a woman who worked for the election authority.

(She) inspected the reader only to find the protective film on the lens of the reader had not been removed.

That's right. When the readers were shipped to Nigeria, they had the type of protective material that all electronics have when they're shipped. And in this case, someone apparently failed to remove the protective film that protected the card reader.

You can guess what happened next.

An argument.

Yup, there was an argument between the observer, who was trying to tell the election worker to remove the film, and the election official, who initially refused to do so.

She eventually relented...and the card readers worked much, much better.

In defense of the election officials, this is the first time that they had worked with such a device, so they wouldn't have necessarily known that the protective film was only a temporary measure.

If only all problems were that easy to solve.

More here.

P.S. For those who like to follow the links, here's another one.
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