ICT experts brush off manual IEBC back-up system

A voter being registered using electronic system in Nakuru last February. [Photo: File]
Computer experts say it is possible to conduct the 2017 General Election without a manual back-up system.

A cross-section of experts disputed claims by ICT Cabinet Secretary Joe Mucheru that a manual system is necessary in case the electronic voting system fail.

In a memorandum sent to the Senate under the lobby Kenya ICT Action Network (KITCAnet), the experts drawn from both the private sector and academia have asked Parliament to revise the amendment to sections 39 and 44 of the Elections Law (Amendment) Bill, 2016.

“The employment of technology in elections management is meant to address questions of integrity of the election and efficiency in transmission of the results,” explains KITCAnet in part.

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KICTAnet further states that once the IEBC system has been procured, it is possible for the technical committee to agree on the best way of mitigating potential system vulnerabilities.

“Good systems are built with inherent redundancy and it is possible to develop a system that safeguards the integrity of the vote as well as efficiency of transmission,” explains the memorandum in part.

This is a departure from the submission made by Mr Mucheru, who stated that a paper backup of the verified voter register was necessary to serve as back-up in case of system failure.

“One per cent failure means over 200,000 Kenyans can’t vote,” explained Mucheru when he appeared before the Senate committee last week accompanied by top ministry officials.

Mucheru further stated that electronic voter systems are vulnerable to hacks and the manual copy of the verified register will only be used as a last resort.

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“The paper copy is of the verified voter register not of the entire database and we need to have it as a country as a back-up in case the technology fails,” he said.

Mucheru’s submission caused heated debate especially after the CS stated that the Al Shabaab can hack into the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission’s (IEBC) systems and interfere with the country’s voting process.

KICTAnet further states the Universal Service Fund (USF) can be used to fund the acquisition of alternative technological solutions to allow for results transmission in areas without network coverage.

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“These are few areas that can be covered by alternative technologies such as Wimax, VSAT, or satellite phones,” explains KICTAnet.

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“It is our view that the costs associated with these technologies could comfortably be covered by the Universal Service Fund,” it says.

IEBC has further been asked to think of possible scenarios of system failure beforehand and establish a threshold of acceptable failure through proper training, pre-charging devices and having back-up of devices.

“Electronic voter identification devices should be local databases that do not require real time network connection,” explains the memorandum in part.

In addition to this, KITCAnet also wants IEBC to have a redundancy provision for the results transmission system with at least three different means of transmitting results available at the transmission centres.

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