The reason I’m trying to figure out the data flow (of the IEBC RTS system) and parties involved, is because I’m curious as to what the IEBC’s technical difficulties have been today. There hasn’t been much information on the actual details behind their inability to get provisional polling data from around the country, from the IEBC, or any of the corporate partners.
I’m looking for clarity on something that should already be documented, but which I can’t find. Something that should be openly communicated, but hasn’t been. We all benefit from a transparent electoral process, and this is a key process for all of us to understand.
If it’s out there already, please shoot me the link.
Additional Thoughts from today (3 days later)
If you don’t know me from my avatar, I’m Erik Hersman (@WhiteAfrican on Twitter). Feel free to ping me with any thoughts comments.
This all started with me genuinely being curious as to how the system worked and who was involved in the steps that data would take going from the polling station to the IEBC API. I searched online, but only found a couple articles, then I tweeted some questions and had some people on Twitter send in some information and further links.
At that point I didn’t have enough information to write anything, nor to speculate. Instead I started this Tumblr as a way to aggregate the links, comments, sources and all other information I could get on the RTS system. I did it openly and online so that more people could find it and help answer some of the questions, and so that there would be a centralized place to find the some facts about the system.
So, why now? Why not wait a week until the process is over? It’s been very troubling for me to see people speculating on social media about the IEBC tech system, claiming there have been hackers and all types of other sorts of seeming misinformation. Those of us in the technology space were looking to the IEBC and its partners for the correct information so that these speculative statements could be laid to rest. I deeply want the legitimacy of this election to be beyond doubt. The credibility of the electoral system was being called into question, and clear, detailed and transparent communications were needed in a timely manner. These took a long time to come, thus my search.
Interestingly, Safaricom came out with a very clear statement on what they were responsible for and what they did. Google was good enough to make a simple statement of what their responsibilities were on Tuesday. both of these companies helped answer a number of questions, and I hoped that the other companies would do the same. Even better would have been a clear and detailed statement from the head of IEBC’s ICT department to the public. Fortunately they did provide some general tech statements, claimed responsibility, refuted the hack rumor, and made the decision to go fully manual.
(Sidebar: it should be noted that the IEBC’s RTS system was a slick idea and if it had worked we’d all be having a much more open and interesting discussion. Remember though, the RTS system was an add-on for additional transparency and credibility, and that the manual tally we’re doing now was always going to happen and was the official channel for the results.)
My assumption was that since this was a public service for the national elections, that the companies involved would be publicly known about as well. This wasn’t true, it took a while asking around to get an idea of who did what. On top of that, In a country that has been expounding on open data and open information, I was surprised to find that most of the companies didn’t want to be known, and that a number of people thought it was a bad idea to go looking for who they were and what they did. I wasn’t aware that this information was supposed to be secret, in fact I assumed the opposite, that it would be freely announced and acknowledged which companies were doing what, and how the overall system was supposed to work.
I’ve spoken directly to a number of people who are very happy that I’m asking questions and putting the facts I find in an open forum, and some that are equally upset about it. Much debate has been had openly on Skunkworks and Kictanet on it this, and when we debate ideas openly we fulfill the deepest promise of democracy. My position remains that this information should be publicly available, and the faster that it’s made available, the more credible the IEBC and it’s partners are.