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Why technology should be adopted for voting

By PETER OKONG’O | Published Wed, March 15th 2017 at 00:00, Updated March 14th 2017 at 19:10 GMT +3

I probably shouldn’t, yet I can’t help but be perplexed at how the country that gave the world M-Pesa cannot fix its elections once and for all.

Why is it that our political development is hamstrung by the kind of tunnel vision from top to bottom that is best exemplified by our incompetent management of elections time and time again, even after the lessons of 2007/2008?

Surely it cannot be true that the same Kenyans who use their phones every day for a multiplicity of mobile banking functions with ease are quite happy to queue for hours to vote even though they are not sure that the election results will be a true reflection of the ballots cast?

Or are we saying that when it comes to voting, even the most educated Kenyans willingly abandon 21st Century technology in favour of what are rather crude if not primitive methods for picking their leaders? Do we transform into cavemen and women when elections come around only to re-emerge afterwards in modern garb as if nothing happened?

Here we are hurtling with Machiavellian certainty towards what promises to be another controversial General Election, barring a last-minute miracle that will suddenly equip the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) with the abilities it clearly lacks.

With all due respect to commissioners of IEBC, it is my opinion that an honest and independent polling of most Kenyans would affirm that roughly a half of those eligible to vote do not believe it can conduct a credible General Election. You cannot blame them because history is on their side.

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There isn’t a General Election after the watershed vote of 2002 that was not marred by significant incidents of irregularities, enough to plant seeds of suspicion, justified or otherwise, in the minds of many voters that the ‘I’ in IEBC has an entirely different meaning.

 It is laughable to see Parliament, in the name of public interest, scheme to break up a company like Safaricom, whose success is partly fuelled by embracing technological innovation, yet they are unwilling to bring the electoral commission into the current century of algorithms and robots.

Until they understand that a credible electoral process is to their advantage, their desperation for votes - and the massive benefits a win brings through access to the largesse of corruption – ensures that electoral malpractice remains a vicious cycle eating away at the core of our stunted democracy.

If our politicians really want to restore Kenyans’ faith in the electoral process, they would strive to equip IEBC early enough with breakthrough technology that would make voting a more pleasurable and less excruciating process, eliminate the meddling of vested parties in the tallying of the votes and make the outcome less contentious. Fingerprint technology to verify voters, when backed by secured infrastructure, is virtually foolproof.

But it is not in the interest of politicians to bring clarity to the voting process, especially when our youths, who are so technologically attuned, have the largest share of the ballot.

Five years ago, the process of procuring electronic voter identification kits (EVIDs) that were meant to drastically reduce voter fraud turned chaotic and was marred by irregularities. What is different today?

With less than 200 days to another General Election, our politicians have again ensured that the more things change, the more they stay the same.

After all, ironically enough, a tainted election benefits both the winner and the loser. God help us all!