Realising digitalised electoral process in Africa: Public policy implications from Kenya's electoral technology systems
University of the Witwatersrand
Leveraging digital technologies in Africa's voting systems has recently become a battleground for political elites to influence election outcomes in Kenya, as elsewhere globally. Although the technology used in voting has received its fair share of criticism, it has consistently demonstrated that the public can get detailed results much earlier, including reduced electoral fraud and increased accuracy of results. However, whereas electoral bodies are making good progress in their digital institutional learning and transformation, a comprehensive policy gap remains. Without national policies on electoral system digitalisation, electoral technologies remain vulnerable to malpractices, such as hacking and data manipulation by political actors. In this paper, we argue that a comprehensive policy framework to guide the digitalisation of electoral systems could potentially improve and smooth the journey of democratisation of African countries. Electoral digitalisation policies can achieve a greater degree of authority and political independence, besides enhancing the efficacy of the technological systems over time. Most importantly, institutional acceptance and embedded cultures of technological change must be aligned with existing policies and legal frameworks. We show how this can work in Kenya, whose electoral systems have had tremendous experience and incremental digital technology transformation since 2013. We unpack the reciprocal relationships between technical and policy aspects of digitalising electoral systems, pointing out how and what aspects need to be covered in designing a national policy when creating digital electoral systems in developing country contexts. Doing so also displays some critical challenges confronting the administrative transition to electoral technology systems.
Data protection, Electoral technology, Technology adoption, Policy digitalisation, Elections, Digital technology, Digital publics