Indeed, acting on its mandate to develop a modern system for collection, collation, transmission, and tallying of electoral data, the Interim Independent electoral Commission, ( IIEC) sees the piloting of electronic voting registration (EVR) system as a demonstration of its commitment to delivering modern technology in the management of elections in Kenya.
"If it works with a resounding success, we will look at the possibility of rolling it out countrywide. The greatest benefit will be in the integrity of the votersâ register. We are working with agencies such as the Registrar of Persons to ensure that there are no "dead voters" and double registration," says the IIEC ICT Director Dismas Ongondi, adding that they are exploring ways of transmitting and tallying results instantaneously.
" IIEC, with the support of strategic partners, is also working on a geographic positioning system for mapping polling centres. The technology identifies the electoral units based on constituency rather than administrative boundaries," Ongondi added.
Only recently, the US embassy donated 250 Blackberries to the IIEC. Speaking during the presentation of the gadgets at the IIEC offices, the US Charge dâAffaires Lee A. Brudvig said: "This is to ensure that the field personnel have telephone, SMS, and e-mail access to headquarters, and with each other from any location in Kenya. An added benefit is that with the built-in global positioning system, (GPS) in Blackberry, the IIEC staff will be able to accurately map out all registration and polling locations through the country."
"The 250 Blackberries will go to the 210 election coordinators, 17 regional coordinators and 17 managers who are on the ground. We have employed them on permanent terms to ensure professionalism and accountability," Chirchir said, adding the commission is in the process of GPS mapping, which would ensure that everyone, including the media, would be able to track polling stations in real time.
But even as IIEC waxed confident about use of technology to curb electoral irregularities, it admitted that the defunct ECK had rolled out good infrastructure but failed to implement it to the end.
The ECK tallies had glaring anomalies as highlighted by the Johann Kreigler-led Independent Review Electoral Commission. It cited the National Referendum Evaluation workshop of March 2006, which concluded that to speed up the tallying process, the Commission should computerise its operations, which the ECK did in the run up to the 2007 General Election by purchasing 210 laptops.
Interestingly, the laptops gathered dust only to be retrieved at the last minute, while officials complained that they had not been well trained to use them.
So, is the IIEC prepared to walk the talk? "Yes," Ongondi said swiftly. "The 210 laptops bought by ECK were used in South Mugirango and Matuga by-elections. All the employees of IIEC, temporary and permanent are all computer-literate."