School of Built Environment and Development Studies Seminar (UKZN)

Title: Digital Democracy in South Africa: Is it on or off?

Speaker: Colin Thakur

Time: 12:30-13:50, 26 March 2014.

Venue: Seminar Room F213, School of Built Environment and Development Studies, Memorial Tower Building, UKZN. Google maps: -29.866933,30.981963

Colin Thakur was the Vice-Chair of the KZN Computer Society of South Africa (two years), Chairman (three years) and National Treasurer for a year. He served on the inaugural Complaints and Compliance Committee (CCC) of ICASA for three years. Thakur was commissioned by the IEC to undertake an international study of electronic voting (e-voting) practices  completed in 2012 called “Electronic Voting – the cross-national experience.” This was a comprehensive study of all countries trialing, piloting, implementing, and (yes) using and then abandoning e-voting.

He will describe the evolution of voting practices, and explain how certain contexts drive technology adoption with respect to elections. For example India used 12000 tonnes of paper in its last paper-based election which is a whole forest – while the Filipinos used e-voting partly due to its status as the second largest archipelago.  The talk will be non-technical and multidisciplinary, although the author will welcome technical engagement at appropriate times.

The study revealed that while e-voting solves some problems such as accurate neutral count, tallying speed; it also simultaneously introduced other challenges such as transparency, technology challenges such as security, possible vote monitoring, computer-related errors (software bugs, hacking), grid challenges, etc.

Colin delivered 6 key notes on this topic, wrote five papers and was an international observer in the 2011 Zambian election. He will observe two e-voting elections this year. He is researching two projects 1) Developing a multimodal biometric remote voting system to leverage the ubiquity of mobile devices and 2)  and evaluating the effectiveness Voter Registration practices on behalf of the UNDP  (2013).

Colin is Director at the KZN e-Skills CoLab which is tasked with e-skills education in general, and particularly on the e-enablement of government services for effective service delivery, with a bias on e-democracy and e-participation. He conceptualized and introduced InvoTech, an innovation incubator at DUT, where one of his patents is being registered.

He developed a multi-media presentation “Safe Internet for Parents”, which he delivers across the country at no cost.


Planned seminars (This is a provisional schedule. Events will be confirmed about a week before through the mailing list. If you would like to be added to or removed from the mailing list, please contact 

31 Mar: Paul Routledge ‘Networking the politics of climate justice’

23 Apr: Ernest Khalema (HSRC), Catherine Ndinda (HSRC), Mohamed Vawda (BEDS), Lungelo Bhembe (BEDS), and Ndoda Zondo (BEDS) ‘Situational Analysis of Sexual Reproductive Health Issues in KZN & EC:  Challenges in Achieving Health Related-MDGs Pre-2015’

30 Apr Peter Robinson ‘Future, Change & Choices. Strategic planning methods and issues for development professionals’

5 May: Derek van heerden ‘Recent Architectural work in Rural and Peri-urban SA with emphasis on creating effective Teaching and Learning space through ‘bottom up’ Processes’

14 May: Mvu Ngcoya ‘Topic to be confirmed’

21 May: Daniela Casale ‘The relationship between early nutrition and cognitive outcomes in children of preschool age: Evidence from the South African Birth to Twenty Study’

28 May: Balazs Nemeth ‘Competitiveness challenges facing the automotive industry in Hungary’

Posted on