What you need to know about the semi-automated elections as we head to the polls today

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(Photo Credits: commonwealth.org)

The second elections since the promulgation of the Kenyan Constitution are slated for today and all eyes are set on Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC), to ensure that the body manages the elections effectively.

Technology has been a key driver to this thus pushing IEBC to invest heavily. The commission has invested over Ksh 4.3 billion on technology alone to ensure that the elections managed effectively.

One of the major investments made was around the Kenya Integrated Electoral Management System. The technology has four key components: Biometric Voter Registration (BVR), Electronic Voter Identification (EVID), Results Transmission System (RTS), and the Candidate Registration and Management System (nomination of candidates).

The 2017 elections will be semi-automated, meaning that parts of the election cycle will be automated while others remain manual. In an interview with CEO of IEBC, Ezra Chiloba, he walked us through the semi-automated election process. First registered voters will be required to appear in person on election day at their polling systems. They will then be identified by their identification card.

Once that is done voters will be presented with a technological gadget at the station which has the registry of the polling station. Through the gadget, voters will be identified biometrically. Once identified, they will be issued with the ballot paper. That process is manual.

When the voting is closed, the presiding officer will close the polling station using a new technology. They will then tally the votes manually. After the tallying of the votes, there will be the statutory results forms that will be filled. After that, the presiding officer will open the tallying centre for results transmission electronically through scanning a QR Code.

After that, the results of each candidate will be fed into an interface. For the purpose of the presidential results, Mr Chiloba explained that the law requires that the presidential form should be scanned and transmitted together with the results to a public portal. He further explained that once the results are transmitted for a particular seat at that polling station, the function becomes disabled.

During the elections, IEBC will be working with the three major network providers in the country, that is Safaricom, Airtel and Telkom Kenya. This creates the backbone on which the results will be transmitted to the back-end processing. Every network provider has a section in the country given to them to do transmission. In areas, with low network, Mr. Chiloba explained that they had set-up satellite devices in all the 290 constituencies.

“The gadgets will be fitted with two SIM Cards, and on election day, the two cards will be activated. One will act as a back-up for the other. Where there is a lack of total GSM Coverage, we will provide satellite as an alternate way of transmission. Besides, in our gadgets, we have an application network gadget application that is intelligent enough to, without human intervention, pick the strongest network in the area to transmit the results,” explained Chiloba.

To ensure fair and just election, IEBC has also invested in two new data centres that cost the commission Ksh 250 million to deploy and are redundant to each other.

“We have upgraded our datacenters from what they were last time to modern datacenters. We have a Primary and secondary datacenter, both redundant to each other. We have also invested in Cloud technology to ensure business continuity,” added Chiloba.

On Data Security Mr. Chiloba stated that one of the measures they had put in place was to ensure that the Voters register was offline to manage access. The elections kits are also custom made to deal with highly sensitive data.

“We are also working with other partners some of the big names in town to implement different security programme to secure the environment within which the data is being processed. On the Cloud platform, we are using a very reputable company to deal with that. We have also had support from network providers, where they are providing safe networks,” he said.

Among the key control measures put in place around the technology this year include capping the number of voters in each polling station to only 700.

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