Elections in Africa have been a very contentious issue in recent years. However, Kenya is intensifying efforts to enhance the integrity of voting in the country by using blockchain technology to offer real-time results.
In a statement released by the Chairman of the country’s Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission, Wafula Chebukati says Kenya wants to leverage the distributed-ledger technology to boost transparency and reduce perceptions of opacity and to enable presidential candidates securely access results.
Since the advent of multi-party democracy in 1991, elections in Kenya have been blighted with claims of widespread rigging that often resulted in deadly violence. In 2017, opposition leader Raila Odinga rejected the outcome of two presidential polls last year with the first annulled by the Supreme Court citing massive irregularities. The violence that accompanied last year’s election left at least 1,100 people dead and displaced an estimated 600,000 others before Odinga agreed to form a coalition government and share power with incumbent Mwai Kibaki.
This would not be first time it would be deployed in an election on the continent, as Sierra Leone recorded votes at 70% of the polling to the blockchain at the polls in March. The tech created by Leonardo Gammar of Agora —a company specialized in building a functional voting platform—anonymously stored votes in an immutable ledger, thereby offering instant access to the election results. A little smaller in scale, but equally important, polls closed in West Virginia’s primary election on May 8 seeing the completion of the first government-run, blockchain-supported vote in US history.
As countries battle low voter turnout, voter fraud and other threats to the intergrity of elections, online voting as an alternative to paper ballots or electronic voting machines may become a healthy alternative to solve the problems.
In a blockchain mechanism, data is secured via cryptography and new transactions are linked to previous ones, making it virtually impossible to alter older records without needing to change subsequent ones. Since multiple systems or “nodes” run the blockchain network, a user would need to gain control of more than half of the nodes to make changes hence altering data within transactions or faking an identity would be extremely challenging. Kevin C. Desouza (A professor of business, technology and strategy at Queensland University of Technology) explains that block chain could enhance voting integrity and voter confidence, giving its ability to secure transactions and ensure traceability, so that every transaction is vetted and there is permanency of record and no ability for a single entity to manipulate the record.
No doubt, by using blockchain as a means to immutably record ballots and results, a renewed sense of legitimacy around elections on the continent and reduced fall-out from opposition parties on the continent may be achieved. At the end, countries would ultimately reduce the voting costs by cutting out paper ballots as well as reducing the corruption in the voting process.
Featured Image: Bloomberg