Thursday, January 28, 2010

Poll machine fails test after Comelec uses defective SIM card

A poll machine failed a test on Wednesday after it used a defective subscriber identification module (SIM) card, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) said. A Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) machine failed to transmit data to waiting servers during a field test held at the Aguho Elementary School in Pateros on Wednesday, the Comelec said in a press briefing. Comelec Commissioner Gregorio Larrazabal clarified that it was the SIM card – which is used to identify subscribers in a telecommunications network – and not the poll machine that had a defect. “The concern there was not actually the system but the use of the mobile network," Larrazabal told reporters. The poll machine worked after the defective SIM card was replaced. "We changed the SIM card and it was able to transmit, which is to say that the system works," he said. He refused to identify the telecommunications company that provided the SIM card. The poll body used signals on the GSM network – the same kind used by cellular mobile phones for voice calls and text messaging – to transmit data, Larrazabal said. Satellite transmission or Broadband Global Area Network (BGAN) was used for areas that had no available cellular signals, which included some parts of Bakun town in Benguet, Naga City in Cebu, and Lake Sebu in South Cotabato. Larrazabal quickly pointed out that all the other field tests were successful, dismissing concerns that the failed transmission may result in failed elections. “That's why we do field, lab tests," he said. “We do other tests on the system to be sure that we are ready for elections." The test involved “feeding" 10 pre-shaded ballots to the machines in each area, Michael Dioneda, regional election director for the National Capital Region, said. Samples of the ballot boxes that will placed under the Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) machines during the May polls. Photo courtesy of GMA 7 reporter Tina Panganiban-Perez The same test also monitored transmission of test votes to Comelec’s central servers and to other servers as well. The transmission roughly took two minutes, Dioneda added. “Ang tinetest natin doon siyempre ay iyong pinaka-importante, ang transmission. Kailangan makita natin na yung pagbibilang noong machine ay siyempre sound at yung kanyang pagta-transmit ng data ay maayos at matatanggap natin nang buong-buo ang datos sa pinagpadalhan natin," said Jimenez. (The most important thing that was tested is the transmission of the votes. We needed to see if the machine counts votes accurately and if we will be able to transmit and receive data properly.) The Comelec on Wednesday held field tests in Pateros (Pateros Elementary School and Aguho Elementary School); Taguig (Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Taguig and Taguig National High School); Bakun, Benguet (Cabutotan Primary School and Beto Elementary School); Naga City, Cebu (Alfaco Elementaru School and Bairan Elem); and in Lake Sebu, South Cotabato (Bacdulong Elementary School and Bandala Elementary School). The commission chose diverse areas so that it will be able to determine whether the machines would be able to cope in different types of environments, Comelec spokesman James Jimenez said. "We can simulate how it will be considering the peculiar characteristics of each of the locations," he said. The Comelec has decided to repeat the field test on Friday, January 29, in Taguig and Pateros, Larrazabal said. This time, however, the test will be opened to the media and to the public. "Some members of the joint congressional oversight committee wanted to observe and some civic organizations also wanted to observe the field test," he said. The poll body will also test the machines by conducting mock elections on February 6 using real voters.

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