IEBC ICT boss explains the fool-proof polling system
By Lilian Kaivilu
With less than four months to the 2017 General Election, Kenya is set for the first time to fully implement the electronic poll results transmission system. Lilian Kaivilu caught up with Christopher Musando, manager in charge of ICT systems and data centre support at the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) who explains how the Electronic Voter Identification System (EVID) will prevent any instances will prevent chances of rigging the August polls.
In terms of technology, what is new in this particular election?
Well, the commission introduced the biometric voter register in the 2013 elections. In a biometric voter registration platform, you have a biometric voter registration kit that is not online but deployed in a kit on a laptop with a fingerprint canner and a camera. This is the Electronic Voter Identification System (EVID).
The EVID system tracks a voter’s details right from the registration stage, eliminating any instances of double registration. What exactly happens?
Once you have attained the age of voting, you appear in a registration centre and present your identification documents to a registration officer. The officer then goes to the BVR kit which has already undergone retro-fitting. Before we deploy those kits to the registration centres across the country, we pre-feed them with the entire voter register in order to prevent people from double registering. So once you appear with your identification document, our officers will check your registration status in the biometric voter registration system using your ID card number.
What if my name if not in the register?
If they do not find you in the register, then they will commence the registration. Basically, there is a form that you will fill. The registration officer will fill the form for you, using the information on your ID. The details in the form will include the county, constituency, county assembly ward, the registration centre number and the polling station. After that, they will now take your biometric details and a portrait of you using the camera on the BVR kit. Using the BVR fingerprint scanner, they will scan and take biometric fingerprint details.
So how does this data reach your central systems here at IEBC?
Once the registration in the field has collected all this information, the data is then presented to us at the head office. We have a team here who do data management. This is the team that processes the data for the applicants. When the data has been collected, the registration officers would do the registration for like a week. During the Mass Voter Registration, we were doing this every week. Every week, the officers had to go to our regional offices and upload that data they have registered for the week.
So are there others servers besides the central ones here at IEBC?
We have our regional servers in our regional offices. These servers then transfer that data online to our central BVR system. But even so, that data does not go to the central BVR system. When it is transferred to us, it goes to some of ours servers. First, the data will appear in a staging server. Once it appears there, our officers here will see the number of records that has come in. Those records will be automatically checked. For example, if your name in the register is Lilian Kaivilu, the system will check your name against your fingerprint in all the records in the voter register. For now, there are 19.5m. So that one record will compared against all the 19.5m registered voters to check duplicate.
So at what point do you know that there is a double registration? Is it at the registration centre or from your register at IEBC?
At both ends. You see, some Kenyans, and there are many of them, will go and try to register again, even after they have registered before as voters. So if such Kenyans go to another place to try and register, when that data hits our central servers here, it will be checked against all th
e records and we will pick that record.
In what instances does this happen?
This happens in several occasions; When we want to do MVR, we do a pre-fit of the register. When we are doing a pre-fit, if there are records that have not been uploaded in our register, they will not be in the pre-fit record. These are the instances whereby you find cases of double registration. When a voter had registered but the officers had not transferred the data, it will not show in the pre-fit record when they search for it. So they will register you again. But remember you had registered sometime back. When that record comes to us, it will be checked against the 19.5m records.
There have been cases of similarities. Could this tamper with the system?
In our records, we only have similarities of about 45%. These are, however, just but close similarities. In this case, the system will pick and say these biometrics are similar but the variance is about 65%. What happens in this case, the system will pick these records and send them to an officer who is going to do the investigation. That officer will open those two files and establish that perhaps the first record is a man while the second is a lady. The two records could even indicate that the two come from two different constituencies. Everything is different but the system could be saying that there could be similarities of almost 45% in biometric. The officer will definitely know that these are two different people.
So what options does that data officer have at this stage?
The officer will then tell the system to ignore that as a False Rejection Rate (FRR). That means that the system has picked that 45% similarity and saying am rejecting this record because it is similar to another one.
What exactly happens when an officer notices a duplicate record? Does the system delete it automatically?
No. When there is a similarity, the system will pick both records; the one in the register and the one that has come and put them in an exception list. It will then tell the officer that these two records seem to be the same. The officer will then open and confirm that is a double registration. At this stage, the system gives the officer two options; The first option is to accept while the second is to reject. By default, the officer will reject the record. Once they have rejected the record, even the one that is in the register will be removed and put in the exception list.
Why do you do that?
Because double registration is an election offence. We are actually supposed to deny you voting. And that is why we configured our system to remove you from the register by default. It will even remove your earlier record.