Communications Authority told to roll out 3G before poll

Parliament on Tuesday directed the Communications Authority of Kenya to roll out a 3G network countrywide to be used in the 2017 elections, in a raft of proposals to right the many wrongs in the 2013 poll.

Currently, only 17 per cent of the country is 3G enabled yet equipment for the August 8 elections will use the network to transmit scanned copies of results to constituency tallying centres.

The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission had in the last elections procured 17,500 electronic kits that failed to work partly because of poor connectivity.

On Tuesday, a joint committee of both Houses asked the CA to draft a report on the use of a Sh4 billion Universal Service Fund that has been lying idle for five years as Kenyans struggled with poor network access.

In another proposal, the MPs want political parties to monitor tendering, append quality acceptance signatures and have access to its pre-use results, of the ICT equipment that the IEBC will use in the election.

Both Cord and Jubilee coalition will have one representative each in a 12-member Elections Technology Advisory Committee that will “advise the commission on adoption and implementation of election technology as well as receive regular updates on the status of election technology.”

“We want all political parties to sign and say that they agree with the technology, its testing and how it will work so we phase out complaints later,” Makueni Senator Mutula Kilonzo Junior said.

Mr Kilonzo Jr had chaired a joint session of the Senate Delegated Committee and its Justice and Legal Affairs counterpart in the National Assembly.

The joint committee was meeting with representatives of the CA, in a meeting that was also attended by representatives from the Computer Society of Kenya.

In the meeting, Mr Kilonzo Jr proposed that the IEBC be compelled to move its server from its Anniversary Towers headquarters in Nairobi to a place at least 35 kilometres away.

“Are we saying that the IEBC has its server in the same building it is housed? It is not in some cloud somewhere? Really? What happens if the building is sabotaged?” Posed Mr Kilonzo Jr.

Equally, the computer society proposed the use of a virtual private network (VPN) that will be virtually impossible to hack.

Cord leader Raila Odinga has claimed that some unknown forces had access to the IEBC server in the 2013 elections that was used to alter the votes in the Jubilee coalition’s favour.

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“This way, no one can hack the system. It will be designed in such a way that it only identifies IEBC entities and rejects any other by completely locking them out,” said Mr Julius Ogony, a member of the society.

The ICT regulations were drafted after a protracted bi-partisan talks that led to the exit of the Issack Hassan led team last month.

Yesterday, the team also proposed the change of the law to ensure that any deal by the IEBC with a service provider is not only publicly disclosed, but also ensures that it will be held responsible for its failure.
The MPs also proposed that the source code by the service provider to be held at an Escrow account- for both the IEBC and the service provider to access the data.
That way, MPs said, the IEBC will not abdicate its responsibility to run the elections.

The formation of a 12-member advisory committee with three members of the IEBC, the Attorney General, Treasury Principal Secretary, and the registrar of political parties will also alter how electronic equipment will be used.

The other bodies that will send one representative each are the CA, the majority and minority political party, the Information Communication Technology Authority, the National Council for Persons with Disabilities, the Telecommunication service providers association, the National Registration Bureau, and Information Systems Audit and Control Association-Kenya Chapter.

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