Kenya has in recent weeks witnessed a sharp debate on matters election as different sides of the political divide make a case for the use of technology in the General Elections slated for later this year. The government has argued that the process requires a manual backup in case technology fails.
These assertions have however been sharply opposed, with many stating that the country has the capacity and capability to conduct the entire election electronically (not fully but the identification of voters and transmission of results). Different players including the Media and CS ICT have since made submissions before the senate to make a case on what needs to ensure a fully transparent process.
The Kenya ICT Community has through KICTANET (Kenya ICT Action Network) submitted a memorandum to the senate on the Election law (Amendment) Bill 2016, pursuant to a gazette notice seeking the views of the general public on the bill. In their submissions, KICTANET focused on the amendment to section 39 and 44 of the act. The amendment states:
“..the Commission shall put in place a complementary mechanism for identification and transmission of election results that is simple, accurate, verifiable, secure, accountable and transparent to ensure that the Commission complies with Article 38 (2) and (3) of the Constitution. (2)The Commission shall use the complementary mechanism referred to in sub-section (1) for identification and transmission of election results only where the technology initially deployed fails.
KICTANET urges that this amendment should be revised to ensure to offer more clarity as it is possible to have both the primary and redundant systems electronic. Once the IEBC procures the system, the technical committee can come to a consensus on how to mitigate any vulnerabilities to the system.
The argument fronted by the government has been that some areas are not covered by a network and as such result transmission may be difficult. KICTANET argues that alternative technologies such as WiMAX, VSAT, or satellite phones could be used. The costs for the same can be covered under the Universal Service Fund for which telcos contribute 1% of their revenues.
Technology may in some cases fail but there is the need to determine the threshold for failure, which should be defined in the amendment. For instance mitigation measures to prevent failure of EVID equipment (Electronic Voter Identification Equipment) may include proper training, charging of devices and having backups for the devices.
At the same time, the EVID devices should have local databases such that they do not require connection all through and will be audited after voter identification and results transmission. At the same time, there need more mechanisms for the transmission of the results to improve efficiency.