Friday, 5 March 2010

Technology firm in automated polls trains 50,000 staff

By Anna Valmero


MANILA, Philippines – The automation partner of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) has started hiring and training about 50,000 technicians and technical personnel for the May elections, a spokesman for the company told Thursday.

Smartmatic-Total Information Management spokesman Gene Gregorio the firm was hiring and training 42,000 technicians and 2,000 supervisors for precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines situated in voting centers nationwide and 4,000 technicians for the consolidation and canvassing system (CCS) in municipal, city, provincial, regional and national canvassing levels.

The technicians will assist the Board of Election Inspectors and Board of Canvassers, mostly teachers, in the conduct of the polls on May 10 as stipulated in the P7.1 billion automation agreement with Comelec.

“Overall, we are hiring 48,000 technicians to ensure operations of the PCOS and CCS machines in 76,000 polling centers. Each technician would handle the PCOS units in two clustered precincts situated in one polling place or school. Then we have to hire another 700 agents for our contact solutions office,” said Gregorio.

“Deploying PCOS technicians and supervisors is a standard procedure for Smartmatic in its previous automation contracts to ensure reliability of the operations,” the official added.

He said they would hire another 700 call center agents to man the 24/7 contact operations center it was setting up for the May 10 polls. The office will be operational from the eve of election day until all winners are proclaimed, he said.

The 700 call center agents will guide the field technicians for PCOS and CCS to troubleshoot when, for example, the machine won’t print an election return (ER) due to lack of ink or won’t transmit the ER due to lack of network coverage. In the last scenario, contact solutions agents would arrange for PCOS units to be delivered to the polling precinct.

In case of lack of cellular network coverage, Smartmatic-TIM agreed with Comelec to provide 5,500 mobile satellite units or BGAN terminals and 650 units of VSATs, a satellite terminal which is less portable than the first, said Gregorio.

“We already have 5,000 units of BGAN and we are renting 500 more plus 650 VSATs to allow transmission of ERs to Comelec servers for areas without network signals,” said Gregorio.

On February 27, the remaining 13,500 machines arrived in the country and were turned over to Comelec March 1 for stress, accuracy and security testing at its Laguna warehouse.

This week, Comelec has also started the training of some of the 400,000 teachers who will sit as BEIs on election day. About 500 Comelec personnel were trained by Smartmatic-TIM on the new functions of the BEI, including the operation of the PCOS machines and basic troubleshooting solutions.

PCOS is a technology that scans, captures ballot images and counts the shaded ovals opposite the printed names of the candidates in the ballots for the automated generation and transmission of Election Returns from polling precincts to servers. The CCS is the automated canvassing system that will generate the consolidated votes for a candidate from municipal or city up to national levels.

Comelec expects 50 million registered voters to cast their ballots on May 10.

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