Chennai: They have not even cast their first vote yet, but they have been constantly innovating in the hope to reform the system of voting in the world’s largest democracy. It all began in the Atal Lab situated in the modest PCKG Government Higher Secondary School in Chennai’s Kodambakkam.
Students of the school have been mentored and trained to work on various concepts and develop them into projects. Their work broadly falls under the contemporary challenges such as waste management, sustainable development, water management, renewable energy, agricultural science, etc.
However, these projects don’t just adorn the walls and tables in their school labs, the best of projects get to compete with the top projects from over 5000 schools across India. One such project that made it big in the Atal Tinkering Labs Marathon is the AI-biometric voting machine prototype, which aims to make the voting process faster, more secure and improve accessibility.
“Voting is the duty of every citizen, however our national average voter turnout is around 65%. This happens as people migrate and can’t come back home to vote, the waiting time is quite high, then there is the issue of fake votes. We wanted to rethink the way we vote, make it foolproof and also reduce the overall cost involved in the process and that’s how we thought of an AI-Biometric Electronic Voting Machine Prototype”, said A Vishal, a student of class XI.
The biometric EVM in its full-fledged version is intended to be connected to multiple servers and Internet of things devices (in a secure manner), that have access to voters Aadhaar data, so every vote is linked to a fingerprint and retinal scan, which eliminates the possibility of fake votes and impersonation. For those trying to vote a second time, the machine would show ‘already voted’. This biometric authentication would ensure that the voting process does not require one to carry his/her identity documents.
N.Sudharsan, a member of the EVM team told WION, “Our current prototype is not connected to any database and only showcases the possibility of using such biometric authentication. However, when scaled up and connected to the biometric database, we can ensure that people can vote from any booth(their respective candidate list would appear based on registered address data). By adding retinal scanners and creating additional programs, even ATM machines can be possibly used as voting machines.”
The students' prototype that was built at a cost of Rs.2300 only featured dual displays, and a fingerprint scanner. This model was placed first in the ‘Sustainable Development Goals’ category in a NITI Aaayog National competition and was showcased before the President of India Ramnath Kovind on the occasion of Children’s Day.
“The President of India urged us to meet the Election Commission of India with our machine, idea and hoped that such a machine would be in use in the next elections”, recalled R.J. Sushil Raj Singh, with a cheer.
An Innovation Coach, supported by Learning Links and Dell had trained the students in learning the concepts and bringing their ideas into reality. Sathiyan, who mentored the team told WION, “The government aims to provide the kids exposure via Atal labs and turn them into innovators. We help them understand complex topics and suggest community issues that need attention. Our goal is not to help kids make projects, but we aim to make these brilliant ideas into sustaining businesses via Atal Incubation Centers located in colleges.”