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Technology hiccups heighten election anxiety in Kenya

By , ITWeb
Kenya , 06 Mar 2013

Technology hiccups heighten election anxiety in Kenya

Glitches with Kenya's ‘Electronic Result Transmission System’, used to relay results from polling centres to the tallying center, has heightened anxiety across the country as Kenyans wait for the presidential results.

After Kenyans went to the polls on Monday and the polling stations closed at 5pm, the transmission system was operating smoothly in relaying the results until 9 30 pm when the system began to experience what was said to be “network problems,” according to Electoral body chief executive officer James Oswago.

“The engineers later discovered the cause to be a disk space issue on one of the servers,” said Oswago while addressing journalists.

The hiccup persisted for the better part of Monday night as thousands of local and international media and election observers watched how the commission had to rely on manual forms submitted by election officers at the constituencies.

“We had to use the manual system as back-up because with technology you should be ready for any eventuality like the one that we are experiencing. We are however working hard to ensure results are released within 48 hours after the voting process like we promised,”said Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) chair Isaack Hassan.

By midnight Tuesday, only presidential results from about 13,000 polling stations of a total of about 31,981 stations had been received, leaving more Kenyans jittery.

On social media Kenyans have been ranting and speculating on the systems' failure.

“I hope this is not a way of trying to hoodwink us or steal the elections like they did in 2007. We are watching this time round and demand the results as soon as possible,”wrote Kimani Wahiga on Twitter.

Mobile operator Safaricom, which was providing their servers to the IEBC, has, however, distanced itself from the delay.

Safaricom officials say they are only involved in transmission of results from Nokia handsets in use by IEBC returning officers to the national tallying centre.

This, they said, was still functioning.

“We do have adequate capacity and our network is fully functioning. The problem is not with us,” tweeted Safaricom CEO Bob Collymore.

Google, which has also been working with the electoral body, has clarified that it has nothing to do with the delay, insisting that its role was only limited to the provision of an application

A Google Application Programming Interface (API) enables developers and media stations to obtain a live relay of the results from IEBC servers. Google also says it has also allowed internet users to access provisional results on the domain.

But the electronic flops have started right from the first polling day, when over 15,000 poll kits, which Kenya had acquired through a $54 million loan from Canada, failed to either work or recognise the fingerprints of registered voters. The kits were meant to ensure a transparent and free election with the manual system taking the blame for the alleged rigging of the 2007 presidential elections.

One election coordinator at a polling station in Nairobi said they had to resort to manual registration instead, as the kits failed to work due to lack of power at the school where the station is based.

“We had just two classes with electricity. My officers opted to use the manual registers,” said Florence Kwamboka the election coordinator.

The kits also had a mix up of voter registration zones with some confusion about where voters had actually registered.

In the Western part of Kenya, a man broke into tears when voting clerks turned him away after the electronic register indicated he had registered in another province despite his voter's card indicating that he was a voter in Western region.

Overall observers says electronic voter identification kits (EVID) recorded more than 50% failure rate in Monday's poll.

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