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CLIENT CASE STUDY


South Africa—Independent Electoral Commission: Technical solution for election process

Accenture worked with IEC of South Africa to support a modern election.

Overview

The IEC of South Africa commissioned Accenture, together with Microsoft Consulting Services, DataCentrix, Vircom and Hewlett Packard, to ensure a stable technical environment to support the election process.

Opportunity

Based on a vision to bring the 1999 South African national and provincial election process into the information age, the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) commissioned Accenture, together with Microsoft Consulting Services, DataCentrix, Vircom and Hewlett Packard to ensure a stable, well-orchestrated technical environment to support the election process.

South Africa's second democratic election on June 2, 1999, was another step forward for a country whose long walk to freedom has not been easy. Determined to deliver free and fair national and provincial elections with first-world efficiency, South Africa's IEC contracted several technology vendors to provide a platform for the registration, voting and results process.

The challenge was enormous: to link one election day, two elections (national and provincial), nine provinces, 436 local electoral officers, 807 municipalities, 14,650 voting districts and 18,172,751 registered voters. To overcome these daunting logistics, the IEC turned to Accenture to establish a complete IT solution. DataCentrix was awarded the supply and installation of Hewlett Packard networking components and Microsoft provided the software and consulting services necessary to implement the solution. Local systems integrator DataCentrix provided logistical support for the project.

Solution

Phase One—Voter Registration
The registration of all eligible voters created a common voters roll. Each eligible voter in possession of a bar-coded ID book was required to register at designated voting districts. The data was captured via a scanner onto a Microsoft SQL Server database and the public could gain access to the voter's roll via a website to confirm their successful registration. On election day, each voter's ID was re-scanned and the names checked against the voter's roll to identify the voters's numeric sequence on the voters' roll and thereby improve the speed of the voting process.

Phase Two—The Election Center
The Election Center provided the infrastructure to host and support the capturing and display of all the election results. Once each of the 14,650 voting districts had closed and tallied up their results, the 436 Local Electoral Officers (LEOs) had to submit the results by three different means.

First, the results were submitted telephonically to 600 call center operators at the Election Center in Pretoria. The operators staffed Microsoft Windows NT Workstations, which were connected to the local area network (LAN). A local solution provider, Vircom, programmed the Web-based interface through which all received results were entered into the Microsoft SQL Server 7.0 database.

Second, the LEOs submitted the results via fax to the Election Center. Four fax servers stored the approximately 41,000 faxes received.

Finally, the LEOs at the 436 polling stations around the country, connected by a wide area network (WAN) accessing the Microsoft Windows NT Workstations, submitted the results electronically via the Web-based election results application. The application was hosted on three Microsoft Internet Information Servers, which served the intranet site via the LAN to the onsite call center and an Internet site via the WAN to the 436 LEOs. A Microsoft Transaction Server was also installed on the Internet Information Servers to keep track of and record all data transactions to the database.

A final verified result would be returned by the application if all three independently submitted results matched.

The third phase of the project involved the hosting of a website by The Internet Solution, which could be accessed by the public. The election results data stored at the Election Center were replicated every 30 minutes to a Microsoft SQL Server 7.0 database at The Internet Solution.

Results

To keep the public aware of the most up-to-date results through media feeds, data extracted from the SQL servers was displayed on screens in the main counting area. With the eyes of the world constantly focused on the displayed results and real-time access to the latest figures, it was essential that the systems were designed for maximum stability and a high level of performance.

The dedicated servers allowed the public to view the results at a national or provincial level with the option of viewing the results in their own municipality and voting district.

The solution offered numerous benefits to the electoral process. "The added level of security assured the integrity of the results, which assisted the IEC's task of ensuring a free and fair election," said Renaud. "In the event of any claims of inaccuracy, the system also provided for full backups of all data as well as transaction logs of every data entry, which could be used to examine the results should this have been necessary.

"Above all, this solution helped bring the election to the general public," said Renaud. "For the first time in our election history, the media and public had immediate online access to all results, to whatever level of detail they desired."

"The Microsoft solution offers a scalable and secure platform providing 99.9 percent operations reliability," stated Pierre Dalton, Accenture partner-South Africa, when describing the Independent Electoral Commission election system. "It is critical that the technology platform is flexible enough to meet demands as they arise, as well as being consistently reliable during the election period." The IEC voting system most recently supported the 48 percent of South Africa's 18 million registered voters who visited 15,000 voting stations around the country to cast their ballots in municipal elections.

Microsoft Products/Services Used:

  • Microsoft Windows NT Workstation

  • Microsoft Windows NT

  • Server Microsoft SQL Server 6.5

  • Microsoft SQL Server 7.0

  • Microsoft Transaction Server

  • Microsoft Internet Information Server

  • Microsoft Office 97

  • Microsoft Exchange Server

  • Microsoft Internet Explorer

  • Microsoft Visual Interdev

  • Microsoft Consulting Services

  • Microsoft Product Support Services