KISERO: Too many questions surround the IT systems collapse - Daily Nation

Too many questions surround the IT systems collapse during the election

Tuesday March 19 2013

 

By JAINDI KISERO

With the presidential petitions already filed, our hands are now tied by the sub judice rule which prohibits commenting on the substance of the allegations and arguments being canvassed before the judges.

Still, it does not stop us making broad observations on how the court room battle is shaping up.

I think we have a cause celebre in our hands. During the electioneering period, we were told of a battle between the “digital generation” and the “analog” generation.

It is, indeed, ironical that when it came to polling and tallying of votes, we abandoned the digital route and adopted the discredited manual system.

We are back to the digital space as a good part of the courtroom battle will be about proving allegations touching on gross abuse of information and communications technology. (Read: Raila files application to allow audit of IEBC IT system)

Indeed, the documents presented in court make intriguing allegations and tales about connections to computers servers which were not disclosed to the public, and claims about parties that were sharing servers in arrangements that raise issues of conflict of interest.

These are just allegations at this stage. But every other ICT geek I have spoken to is waiting with bated breath to hear whether the parties who have made these allegations will prove them and how the Supreme Court will navigate the complexities. (Read: Poll team ignored advice on vote kit)

I know of experts who swear that with the advanced technology we have today, computer servers don’t crash because they have automatic redundancies.

I have been taken through boring lectures about mirror disc drives, multiple disc drives and Raid 10 Array.

This is going to be a battle royal between computer experts. What caused the IEBC server to crash? Did the alternative also crash or was the system planned to fail from the very beginning?

And, if the system failed, how is it that the results display system did not shut down and continued to process and display results to the very end?

These are some of the questions the Supreme Court will have to determine.

Depending on how the matter plays out and the weight of evidence presented, this petition may present a huge risk to the reputation of some of IEBC’s technology partners, especially companies that were contracted to provide services in critical areas like data transmission and results processing.

On the petition filed by the civil society, my views are the following. I disagree with those who dismiss this lot as puppets of foreign masters who have no respect for this country’s sovereignty.

In accordance with a Constitution that provides for free speech and freedom of association, the State must learn to cohabit with civil society groups that are involved in policy and human rights advocacy.

In most cases, the relations between the State and civil society groups engaged in public policy advocacy will be a measure of the democratic space and tolerance in society.

Were it not for Nobel laureate Wangari Maathai and her GreenBelt Movement, Uhuru Park would not be there today. We still remember how the Kanu political elite closed ranks to condemn her as a stooge of foreigners.

We also remember how, at the height of former President Moi’s dictatorship, the government in February 1995 deregistered the civil society group, Clarion, for publishing a book on corruption in Kenya.

The directors of Clarion were dismissed as “home-guards” and lackeys of foreigners who had no respect for the country’s sovereignty. Do we really want to go back to the ways of the ancien regime?

Granted, these groups are funded by foreigners. But isn’t it also the case that the State’s development budget still has a very large “donor” component?

And, the mushrooming of these groups has a context. Starved of funds for research and publishing, and frustrated by the lack of an enabling environment for scholarship in the university system, public-spirited citizens and scholars are organising themselves around such groups to tap funds from willing donors so that they can support public causes.

Let the civil society organisations put their show on the road and leave it to the Supreme Court to determine whether their election petition has a point.