The technology behind South Africa’s 2009 general election.
All South Africans needed to do on election day, 22 April 2009, was make a cross on a piece of paper. But for the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC), this is where a robust and secure counting process began. After closing the voting process in more than 20,000 voting districts, boxes full of ballots are sent to 297 counting stations in relevant municipal areas, countrywide.
Making every vote count
When ballot boxes were opened at the counting stations, the ballots inside were allocated a unique batch number for that voting district. Ballots were sorted, counted and the results were written on a results slip. An auditor and representatives from political parties checked this slip and signed off each voting district’s result. This step was vital, as it ensured that all votes were recorded – and were recorded accurately. The approved results slips, identified by a unique barcode, were scanned on Avision AV220C2+ scanners to create digital back-up copies. The barcodes were indexed using IRIS Powerscan software, which was customised for the IEC. This digital copy was crucial in case any batches went missing and was proof that the votes were actually counted. Additionally, digitising the results sped up the process of collating and verifying the outcome of the election. IRIS Powerscan reads the barcode and data from the scanned results slips and converts it to a small XML file, which could be despatched to the IEC’s Results Centre quickly and easily. Receipt of this information triggered the results to be published as it confirmed that source documents had been backed up. The actual backup images of the results slip were sent to the IEC database in a different queue for preservation and referral.
A winning tender
The IEC sourced the result slip capturing technology via their on-line auction procurement system. Initially, they invited proposals for just the scanners but once these were selected, a second auction was held to source a suitable, compatible software solution. Imaging Machines Corporation (Pty) Ltd., the official distributor of Avision products in Africa, has a number of resellers and is a wholly-owned subsidiary of FirstCoast Technologies. The most prominent reseller is UTAX, an office automation company with an impressive footprint in South Africa. UTAX (Cape Town) managed to secure the IEC’s order for 430 Avision scanners by submitting the winning bid. UTAX’s Sales Director, Garth Ennion, was delighted with this achievement: “We have had a long-standing relationship with the FirstCoast Technologies group of companies and we always market their products with confidence. Products like their Avision scanners complement our own product range and we know that we can always count on their support.” FirstCoast Technologies themselves submitted the winning bid for the software solution. “This proves that our product mix is the best on the market in South Africa at the moment. The Avision scanners and IRIS Powerscan software beat all competitive products in winning these tenders for the 2009 national elections,” commented Grant Stott, a director at FirstCoast.
The technology solutions supplied by First Coast and UTAX in the South African elections are:
- Avision AV220C2+ scanners: These A4 sheet-fed scanners can scan up to 40 pages per minute (80 images using duplex (back-to-back) scanning). They offer double paper feed detection via an ultrasonic sensor and are small and compact.
- IRIS Powerscan capture and recognition software (developed by Image Recognition Integrated Systems Inc., based in Belgium): The software offers sophisticated document indexing, efficient quality control and document and page manipulation. It also provides manual and OCR-assisted (optical character recognition) indexing, image hyper-compression and generates an array of output formats.
These tenders were won based on world-class products that beat every brand on the market. The IEC chose Avision and IRIS products as they not only met their requirements, but in fact exceeded them.
For more information about this case study, or to find out how Avision scanners can help digitise, secure and streamline your organisation’s document management, please contact First Coast Technologies to see what we could do for you.