AWEB Handing Over Speech by SoE

Bula Vinaka Ladies and Gentlemen,

Thank you very much for accepting our invitation. May I also take this opportunity to warmly welcome our guests from the Republic of Korea.

The Fijian Elections Office joined the Association of World Election Bodies in 2015. AWEB at the time had 106 members. Following our acceptance into AWEB, we participate in numerous training sessions in Korea as well as Election Visitor Programs during Korean National Elections.

We may all remember the Secretary General Kim Yong-Hi came to Fiji in March this year and signed a record of discussions confirming AWEB’s support to the FEO in the area of Trade Union Elections and ICT titled ‘Project to support Building Electoral Transparency through Automation of Voting and Counting System in the Republic of Fiji’

The objectives of this Project were to:

  1. Provide 50 Units of touch screen voting machines to contribute to the improvement in the voting process for Trade Union Elections
  2. Build redundant networks and security systems for the stable management and operation of the FEO server room.
  3. Offer Training, education and technical assistance about the touch screen machine and systems to be newly introduced by AWEB

I am glad today to announce that the action items from the record of discussions have been successfully realized.

Ladies and Gentlemen, this morning we will witness the delivery and handing over of Touch Screen Voting Machines for Trade Union elections in Fiji. We will also mark today as the completion date for the AWEB support to the FEO ICT division interms of network upgrade and security enhancement.

I would like to briefly explain both these projects before I hand-over to our respected speakers this morning.

  1. Touch Screen Voting Machines for Trade Union Elections

Based on Goal 1, Objective 2 of the 2015-2019 Strategic Plan of the FEO which states

Implement innovative solutions to improve the administration of elections in Fiji

The FEO had been conducting Trade Union elections since 2014 and they have reported considerable improvements. We have annually run over 100 elections on average since 2015.  Additionally, the FEO also runs elections for University Student Associations.

Automation of Trade Union elections will definitely improve the transparency and efficiency of the process. Trade Union Elections also present an ideal environment to introduce innovative enhancements in a smaller scale.

  1. Build redundant networks and security systems for the stable management and operation of the FEO server room.

The AWEB is a leader in terms of elections ICT in the world. AWEB has significant capacity when it comes to access to and availability of experts in various IT fields that may not be readily available in the Pacific let alone Fiji.

This part of our project involved the AWEB experts carrying out an audit of the FEO network and server infrastructure to ascertain the strength of our security systems as well as our data handling protocols. In simple terms for us lay people, AWEB security experts checked our network vulnerability.

After the initial audit, the experts found our network to be at sufficient security standards and recommended that we further enhance our security platform to ensure greater protection.

AWEB team worked closely with our network engineers to build extra redundancies, create additional firewall protocols, and create network zoning for greater protection against unauthorized access as well as data protection.

AWEB also supplied industry standard hardware and equipment for FEO’s data centre. I am informed by my network team that our electronic data and systems are now state-of-the-art enterprise level.  AWEB gave us 2 fortigate 500D firewall appliance which is used by ISO certified ISP’s.

AWEB also provided technical assistance for our planned second data redundancy located somewhere in Fiji. We would like at all times to be prepared for disaster recovery and business continuity and this second redundancy guarantees this for us.

These are huge futuristic investments in our country by AWEB.

  1. Offer Training, education and technical assistance about the touch screen machine and systems to be newly introduced by AWEB

AWEB undertook this aspect of the agreement in Incheon, Korea. 20 staff of the FEO, including approved Returning officers for Trade Union Elections participated in a 9 days hands-on training program from 20 to 29 October 2017.

At the training, our team studied the functionality, the operability and the trouble shooting of the machines. Technical training was also provided to our IT teams in terms of encrypted data transmission and handling.

Our IT teams managed to forge greater networks with industry specialists. This will prove to be an excellent resource in the more pressing and demanding times for the 2018 General Election.

As with all AWEB programs, our team also got to experience the rich culture and other advancements of Korea.

On behalf of my team I would like to sincerely thank the executive and staff of AWEB for this wonderful collaboration. We especially thank AWEB for agreeing to work with such a small emb like us to help us in expanding our ICT capacities.

Mr. Director General, AWEB’s investment in Fiji and the FEO is sincerely appreciated and I look forward to continuing our partnership.

Vinaka – gamshamnidaaaaa!

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