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Kenyan Hi-Tech: Blockchain to Challenge Corruption

Ann Sotnikova

The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) eyes to use blockchain technology for elections. It is expected that this will allow candidates to access the results in real time, which in turn contributes to the “transparency” of voting.

In 2017, Kenya held a presidential election, which cost the country about $530 million They have become one of the most expensive in the history of the country. Besides that, the vote was accompanied by allegations of fraud, voter boycotts, and even violent clashes. The scandalous elections of the past years (1990, 2007, 2013) also undermined the public confidence in the electoral commission.

Тaking into account this background, the talk of reforming the electoral process seems more than appropriate. The idea of using blockchain appeared in February. At that time, a whole group was organized in the country to study the advantages and disadvantages of technology. The commission intends to use it for government purposes, including the fight against corruption.

However, the initiative faces skepticism and distrust. This was caused by a number of problems of East Africa: tribal differences, lack of leadership, institutional dysfunction. So it is indeed very hard to solve only by technology itself and needs far more complex approach.

Political analyst Nanjala NYABOLA confirms:

“Throwing technological experiments at the problem isn’t the way to solve it. The political leadership in Kenya only wants to “waste” money, she says—not deal with the core “human” issues of integrity and ethics. Technology can only enhance or exacerbate whatever is already there. Technology can’t make a proper election. You can’t manufacture public trust using technology.”

In general, the country is somehow not perfect when it comes to the introduction of new technologies. So, in 2013, Kenya launched the biometric voter registration exercise. However, the system continually gave failures throughout the elections, and in the end did, not fully justify itself.

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