It began life as the brainchild of husband and wife team, Mike and Diane Morrell. Their product, the Genie ID now has the potential to help transform voting systems across the African continent and minimise electoral fraud.
The couple shares a passionate commitment to democracy having moved to Australia from South Africa where they lived through the end of apartheid and rise of Nelson Mandela.
Aware of the obstacles to free and fair elections, the pair saw the need to develop a more secure voter registration system in about 2006. The voter registration system in many African nations was geared around digital technologies which could be manipulated and used in electoral fraud.
Mr Morrell tells Dynamic Business his WA based business is now in negotiations with the electoral commissions in Malawi, Mozambique, Uganda and Tanzania for Genie IDs to be used to run their polls more securely.
The Genie ID has the ability to produce a photographic identification card on the spot while capturing the image of the individual, their signature and fingerprints. That information can be quickly sent back to the electoral commission HQ, cross-referenced and used to prevent individuals voting twice or manipulating the votes of those still on the electoral role but who are deceased.
The Genie ID system also runs on solar power and thus has an advantage over laptop based competitors whose platform can shut down once their power source runs out. In the bush, that can be a significant problem.
“We designed a very low powered product that works on solar energy,” Mr Morrell says. “Laptops are high powered. They have a high power usage and they also are stolen a lot.”
Mr Morrell says the Genie IDs were made in Shenzhen, immediately north of Hong Kong and that supply contracts usually stipulate a period of at least 90 days for manufacture. Air-shipment of the product requires at least a further 20 days.
The large number of kit orders being negotiated by Mr and Mrs Morrell point to a thriving international market for entrepreneurs interested in voter registration systems. For example, Tanzania is weighing up an order of about 15,000 units while Mozambique had been looking at an order of about 2,700 units.
The couple’s company, Jazzmatrix, was established about a decade ago after they sold off their former Polaroid based company in South Africa. Mr Morrell was formerly the managing director of Midsouth Distributors which was appointed as a distributor for Polaroid. He would sell Polaroid film to people who wanted instant photographs or entities that produced documents requiring ID photos.
“Towards probably 2006 we could see that Polaroid was coming to the end of its natural life so we decided to develop a product that could take over from Polaroid and also be able to work anywhere in the bush.
“Polaroid themselves were getting into trouble as their market started to drop off and digital photography was taking over and Polaroid was really dying a natural death.”
After a developing a digital solution in 2008, Mr Morrell realised there was demand for a more secure platform.
“We realised that we needed to move on to something secure that would stop certainly all of these tens of thousands of dead people from voting every year and stop duplicate registrations.”
“Jazzmatrix was actually established in South Africa first in probably 2005 and then in 2006 it was registered in Australia for the first time and we decided to close down the Jazzmatrix in South Africa.”
The company brings Mr Morrell’s lifelong interest in photography into fruition. At high-school he ran the photographic society and maintained his interest in the medium after he qualified as a tradesman and obtained employment with South Africa’s Iron and Steel Corporation.
He got his start in business after he came into an inheritance following the death of his grandmother. “I haven’t looked back since then,” he says.
While he sometimes encounters challenges, Mr Morrell says the difficult problems are the most important to solve. “It’s those problems that keep everyone else out,” he says.
“You have to be a dreamer… I’ve always aimed for the stars. If you can see what you want in the screen of your mind you can have it in reality. There is absolutely nothing we can’t do.”