In 2024 elections in India, several factors likely contributed to low participation in the electoral process. Voter fatigue, regionalism and disillusionment are some of the usual suspects. The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic has brought about significant disruptions to daily life, including the electoral process. The fear of contracting the virus at crowded polling stations may have deterred voters from turning out in large numbers in the 2024 elections.

As of the 2019 general elections, India had approximately 900 million eligible voters. This number makes India the largest democracy in the world in terms of the number of voters followed by United States 240 million, Indonesia 193 million, Brazil 147 million. Rusia has nearly 110 million, followed by Pakistan with just about a fraction of Indian voters – 105 million. The question is: nearly 400 million voters, that is nearly the sum of voters in 5 of the largest democracies in the world, did not participate in shaping Indian governance and policy.

Even as India transitions towards more technologically driven electoral processes, the digital divide poses a challenge. Those without access to online registration platforms or electronic voting facilities may face barriers to participation, potentially impacting voter turnout. So how does India get nearly half its whopping voter population to participate in a strong governance? Weather conditions withstanding, is it fair to have the spirit of Indian democracy be subservient to electoral and topical behavioural maladies? Is policy alienation also amongst a pivotal factor for low turn outs?

The good old spirit of having people come out to a voting booth was to ensure voting in a fair manner, without any obvious inducement or threats or force per say. Voters queuing outside of the Indian booths is a statement that universal adult franchise is being exercised in accordance with the spirit of elections. India has a rich history of using technology in its electoral processes. From the introduction of Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) to the implementation of Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) systems. Technology has been instrumental in enhancing the transparency and credibility of elections in the country.

In recent years, artificial intelligence (AI) and technology have emerged as powerful tools in promoting fair and efficient elections around the world, including in India. These advancements have reshaped the electoral landscape, offering new opportunities and challenges in the electoral process. Therefore, is it not just the time for a discourse on AI and technology to play in elections in India and how they can be leveraged to maximise voting and strengthen India?

Looking ahead, the future of electoral innovation lies in harnessing IoT advancements to create seamless, transparent, and inclusive voting experiences for all citizens. By integrating IoT devices, artificial intelligence, and data analytics into electoral practices, India can pave the way for a more digitally driven and participatory democracy that empowers every voter to make their voice heard. In recent years, AI has gained prominence in Indian elections, offering capabilities such as predictive analytics, voter sentiment analysis, and personalised campaigning. Political parties and election commissions are increasingly turning towards AI-driven solutions to streamline electoral operations and engage voters more effectively.

The integration of AI and technology in elections brings numerous benefits, including increased accessibility for voters, enhanced voter engagement through targeted messaging, and improved efficiency in voter registration and verification processes. These advancements have the potential to break down barriers to voting and encourage greater participation in the democratic process. The link between technological innovation, specifically the Internet of Things (IoT), and voter turnout is a critical aspect of modern electoral processes. In India, the efficiency and accessibility of electoral systems heavily influence voter participation. This article explores the impact of the lack of technological innovation and IoT on the poor voter turnout in the country.

The best example of deploying AI is DigiYatra at various Indian airports. DigiYatra has ushered in a massive transformation in ease of navigating painful airport experiences in India. However, it is not just the airports that have used facial recognitiion and AI as means of security franchise and ensuring nearly threat-free exercise of an assignment. The examinations to various international universities, the ILETS, TOEFL among various exams have been conducted under the watchful and nearly zero error eyes of facial recognition and technology. Even a basic OTP generation single use link can be used to exercise our franchise.

Facial recognition technology offers a novel approach to voter verification and authentication, simplifying the identification process while ensuring its accuracy. By leveraging biometric data, this tool has the capacity to streamline voter registration, reduce wait times at polling stations, and create a more seamless voting experience for citizens, thereby encouraging higher turnout rates. One of the key advantages of facial recognition technology in the electoral context is its ability to prevent voter fraud and identity theft. By eliminating discrepancies in voter identity, this tool enhances the integrity of the electoral process, instils trust in the system, and motivates more individuals to participate in elections.

The use of AI and technology has the potential to significantly impact voter turnout by simplifying voter registration processes, providing real-time information on polling locations, and enabling remote or electronic voting options. By enhancing the accessibility and convenience of voting, these tools can help increase participation among diverse segments of the population. Ensuring accessibility and connectivity are crucial components of addressing low voter turnout. By leveraging IoT capabilities, election authorities can establish secure, user-friendly voting platforms, provide real-time updates on polling locations, and offer remote voting options to enhance the overall voting experience for citizens across diverse demographics. IoT technologies can revolutionise voter engagement strategies by enabling personalised communication, targeted outreach campaigns, and interactive voting interfaces. Through IoT-enabled devices such as smart kiosks, mobile apps, and online voting portals, election officials can enhance voter awareness, facilitate registration, and encourage participation in the electoral process. Social media and digital platforms have become indispensable tools in modern election campaigns. AI algorithms can analyse vast amounts of data to tailor political messaging, target specific voter segments, and mobilise support effectively, making social media a powerful medium for engaging voters and influencing electoral outcomes.

As AI and technology continue to shape elections, it is essential to address ethical considerations surrounding their use. Transparency in data processing, safeguards against manipulation, and accountability for algorithmic decision-making are crucial to maintaining the integrity and trustworthiness of electoral systems. Implementing IoT solutions in electoral processes presents challenges such as data privacy concerns, cybersecurity risks, infrastructure limitations, and technological adoption barriers. Overcoming these obstacles requires comprehensive planning, stakeholder collaboration, and stringent safeguards to protect voter data and ensure the integrity of election systems. Countries like the United States and Japan have experimented with facial recognition technology in elections to enhance voter authentication and streamline the voting process. By studying these experiences, India can draw insights on the best practices and potential pitfalls associated with deploying such tools in its electoral landscape. Even Estonia, which has pioneered e-voting systems, can offer valuable insights for India to adapt and customise its electoral processes.

Then comes to the fore, the 2nd largest delta in the Indian electoral process – the women of India. Women in India encounter a myriad of obstacles that impede their engagement in the electoral process. Social and cultural norms, limited access to education, lack of awareness about voting rights, and concerns over safety and security at polling booths are just some of the challenges that hinder women's participation in elections. Additionally, discriminatory practices and patriarcal attitudes continue to marginalise women's voices in political decision-making.

The underrepresentation of women in the electoral process has far-reaching implications for democratic representation in India. When women are sidelined from the voting process, it not only undermines their rights but also skews the composition of elected bodies, leading to policies and decisions that may not align with the needs and perspectives of women. This lack of gender diversity in political leadership can perpetuate inequalities and hinder progress towards gender equality. The route we take, any route we take will be a massive leapfrog in shaping the India of the future, for the future and for India to be the VishwaGuru.

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