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SOMALILAND

Somaliland Biometric Voting

Peacebuilding through free and fair elections

ACTORS

Interpeace, Daon, ATEA, Notre Dame University, Somaliland National Electoral Commission

PROBLEM

Since Somaliland declared independence from Somalia in 1991, it has been transforming itself into a democratic multi-party state. With the opportunity to ensure free and fair elections in the digital age, Somalilanders sought a way to prevent voter fraud while promoting peace.

Solution

The UN-affiliated group Interpeace, which had peacebuilders on the ground in Somaliland, contracted technology firm ATEA to develop technology for free and fair elections. ATEA then worked with Daon Tech to adapt the company’s Identity platform for Somalilanders’ needs. The decision was made to use biometric iris scanning, which is more reliable than the use of fingerprints. Registration was verified by researchers from Notre Dame University, who received iris scanning images, reported duplicate votes, and made recommendations for future improvements after a five-day trial period in two towns prior to the election. The technology was successfully deployed for 2017 elections, making Somaliland the first country in the world to use biometrics for a national election.

Peace Engineering Takeaway

Rather than instituting top-down methods based on what Interpeace or other groups believe to be problems, Somalilanders collaborated with Interpeace peacebuilders to develop solutions. A Somalilander initiated the connection with the researchers at Notre Dame, sending an email to ask for help with voter verification in preparation for elections. Researchers placed priority on an iterative design process by collecting feedback from Somalilanders and conducting studies to determine success during elections. With the Somaliland government, NGOs like Interpeace, external contractors, and academics collaborating on a peacebuilding project, it is still necessary to ensure that local communities are still driving the project with their needs and providing feedback.