The technology behind South Africa’s general election.
On election day, 22 April 2009, all South Africans needed to do, was make a cross on a piece of paper. Behind the scenes, the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) still had a lot of work lying ahead to ensure that the election count was accurate, secure and as fast as possible. While the entire country was sitting on the edge of their chairs in expectation of the result. After closing the votes in more than 20,000 voting districts, sealed boxes filled with ballots were sent to 297 counting stations countrywide.
Making every vote count
Once the sealed ballot boxes reached the counting stations, a unique batch number was allocated to the ballots. After the ballots were sorted and counted, the results were written on a results slip. Representatives from the various political parties as well as an independent auditor checked these slips and signed off the results for each voting district. This step was vital, as it ensured that all votes were recorded – and were recorded accurately. The approved results slips are all identified by a unique barcode, these barcodes were scanned on Avision AV220C2+ scanners to create digital back-up copies. The AV220C2+ has an ultrasonic sensor that detects double paper feed, making it impossible for paper jams and double feeds. The barcodes were indexed using IRIS Powerscan software, which was customised for the IEC. Having a digital copy served as proof thet the votes were actually counted and were crucial in case any batches went missing. Digitising the results also sped up the process of collating and verifying the outcome of the election. This is where IRIS Powerscan made quite a difference in the speed with which the result was delivered. The software was customized to read the barcode and data from the scanned results slips and convert it to a small XML file. These files were then sent directly to the IEC’s Results Centre. As soon as this information reached the Results Centre, it could be published knowing that the 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. At first, they invited only proposals for 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 Firstcoast 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 and for more technical information about the hardware and software that was used, please see the full case study here. 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.