Kenya harnesses blockchain for fairer elections

August 24, 2018
Chris Wheal

Kenya’s Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission of Kenya (IEBC) said the country plans to utilise blockchain technology for future elections, to give real-time polling results and also improve vote integrity and trust in the voting process.

Nairobi street

Kenya’s presidential elections have proved controversial: Shutterstock

Both the 2007 and 2017 presidential elections in Kenya were marred by widespread violence, while the 2013 campaign was accompanied by claims of irregularities. Last year’s contest between incumbent Uhuru Kenyatta and challenger Raila Odinga divided the country on ethnic and regional lines after Odinga and his supporters refused to accept Kenyatta’s victory.

Election candidates regularly accuse their opponents of vote tampering, rigging and voter intimidation. Despite losing a rerun ordered by the Kenyan Supreme Court, Odinga declared himself the ‘People’s President’ and went to the lengths of holding a swearing-in ceremony.

IEBC chairperson Wafula Chebukati said that the technology will be used to give presidential candidates secure access to live results  Although last year’s election was not marked by the same level of ethnic violence experienced in 2007, it was enough to prompt the IEBC to review new ways of conducting elections that would be transparent and acceptable to all contestants.

Silicon Savannah

Kenya is recognised as one of Africa’s most developed technology hubs and has been dubbed the “Silicon Savannah”. The Blockchain Association of Kenya has promoted the use of the new technology in addressing the country’s election problems.

Last September, an editorial in Kenya’s Daily Nation newspaper encouraged the IEBC to start using blockchain to build voter trust and its call appears to havebeen heeded.

If the plan is followed through, Kenya would become one of the world’s first government-level blockchain adopters and the second African country to use blockchain technology to some extent in its electoral process after Sierra Leone last March.

In February this year, the government established a task force to assess the efficiencies of blockchain in various areas of service delivery. They include Kenya’s land registry, which has faced allegations that officials will make fraudulent changes in return for a bribe.

It was also reported that Kenya’s Capital Markets Authority (CMA) has recommended setting up a special unit to handle cryptocurrency-related issues as the country increasingly adopts blockchain technology.

Post written by Chris Wheal
Chris Wheal is editor of OpenLedger's news and features service. An award-wining business journalists himself, he runs a team of freelance journalists from across the UK and north America.

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