Camarines Sur Polytechnic Colleges
Best Practice Focus Area/s
Strategy, Citizens / Customers, Operations
This is a GBPR entry.
The uVote or Universal Voting System for student government elections has been extended to secondary schools in the Rinconada district since 2018. Each year, from January to March, the extension services team of the Camarines Sur Polytechnic Colleges (CSPC), spearheaded by the College of Computer Studies (CCS), facilitates the use of uVote, including the conduct of training among students and teachers on how to vote and operate the e-voting system independently. The uVote system was offered to secondary schools as a Voter Education alternative, grounded on the research finding that experiential voting in school increases the likelihood of voting in subsequent elections and eventually in government elections in adulthood. Similarly, this initiative aims to help educate voters about their role, responsibility, and civic rights and establish good election habits at a young age.
Background and Problem
The first e-voting system in the Philippines started in the 2010 elections. It was the most expensive election ever conducted by the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) due to the new electoral technology and massive voters’ education campaigns implemented.
This reality suggests that developing a mature and responsible electorate with strong democratic values depends highly on government institutions’ voter education approach and implementation mechanism. Viewed in this perspective, strengthening the democratic values of the electorate at an early age gravely hangs on the country’s educational system. Fortunately, Philippine lawmakers also see education as a useful vehicle to enhance voters’ consciousness and improve the election system and outcomes in the country; several bills have been proposed toward this end in Congress. These bills seek to integrate voter education with the mandatory inclusion of patriotism and nationalism into the high school curriculum in both public and private schools. Yet, the enactment of these bills has remained in the planning stage up to the present.
According to studies, experiential voting gives a positive attitude for students to build trust in the modern e-voting system. Yet several schools still deem student e-voting systems as inconsistent and expensive. This perception is reinforced by how a student e-voting system is often not affordable to underprivileged and technologically inept schools, such as the public secondary schools in Rinconada.
Given this challenge, uVote was developed to bridge the gap, offering the utilization of this innovation as an alternative Voter Education campaign tool, free of charge, in Rinconada’s secondary academic institutions.
Solution and Impact
Before the implementation and utilization of uVote, a needs assessment survey was conducted to learn the initiatives or strategies adapted in promoting and implementing voter education, assess current ICT infrastructure, and determine which uVote platform is appropriate for the partner school. The assessment resulted in a customized extension-training proposal for each school that included the target dates, venue, participants, training cost, materials or equipment needed, and training flow. The purpose of the training (Users Training) was to expedite the acquisition of the necessary knowledge and skills required for the main target groups-teachers and students, when using the uVote system. The training was divided into two sessions – the Teachers track and the Students track. The Teachers track introduced teachers to the basic functions of the uVote System as Administrator and Voter. It provided some pointers on exploring the uVote GUI modules and managing the system to generate reliable and secure election results.
On the other hand, the Students track introduced the process of pre-voting, voting, and post-voting to eligible student voters. This strategy was common to all partner schools. Several parallel sessions were facilitated for this track due to the number of students per grade level. The training also included a mock election designed as a practice exercise to assess if target users acquired the required skill in managing and casting votes using uVote from start to finish. The actual uVote utilization was the election day of the partner school after the training activity.
The accomplishments above reveal how uVote is dynamic, universal, and adaptable to any form of student government election procedure. Any public or private school interested in converting the traditional paper ballot system to an automated electronic voting system may avail of the extension service. Downloads and citations of the published article on uVote increased. This boosts the potential to expand the use of uVote to secondary schools beyond Rinconada.
Post evaluation per extension activity is conducted to determine uVote’s Quality of Use (based on ISO 25010 metrics), which will serve as a basis to improve the uVote system and future extension initiatives. The uVote process allowed the partner school to save money and time that would have been spent printing, distributing and counting paper ballots. Since vote casting and tabulation were completed within the same election day, the process was faster by 300% compared to paper balloting, which took two to five days to complete. Voter turnout increased by 30.47 percent. Lastly, the speedy process encouraged transparency and election integrity.
Very few secondary schools were interested at the beginning of the uVote extension service, and most were hesitant to adopt the uVote system. However, after a year of campaigning (and informing the schools that the system was free-of-charge) and as word-of-mouth spread the news of the effectiveness of uVote, Memorandums of Agreement (MOAs) and/or Memorandums of Understanding (MOUs) of CSPC with schools interested to adopt uVote increased by 100%. Downloads and citations regarding the uVote research article also increased as posted by ResearchGate, Academia, and Google Scholar. Moreover, the uVote extension paper was accepted as an official entry for the Outstanding Research Paper on Extension Award during the 2019 Philippines Extension and Advisory Services Network Inc. (PhilEASNet) Biennial AFFNR Extension Symposium held in Tagbilaran City, Bohol, on October 8-11, 2019.
Expanding the use of uVote to secondary schools beyond Rinconada is the ultimate extension goal of the CSPC-CCS. For this reason, post-evaluation of the extension activity is being conducted to determine uVotes’ Quality of Use (based on ISO 25010 metrics). The general result of the evaluation shall be the basis for improving the uVote system and future extension initiatives.