Sunday, October 29, 2017

Estonia’s online voting is a worldwide reference

More than a decade after its first experience using election technology, Estonia continues to spearhead online voting,
During the recent local elections held on October 15, Estonia set a new record for online participation. 186,034 citizens voted via the Internet, 39% more than the number recorded in the last elections of 2015.
This election was also unique because, for the first time, the Parliament allowed young people between 16 and 17 years old to participate. On the other hand, 27% more citizens over 55 years old voted using online voting, compared to previous elections.
By facilitating voting to people with reduced mobility, residents in border cities and abroad, online voting has proven effective in enfranchise citizenry.
Estonia is well ahead the curve when it comes to e-governance. It is probably the only country in the world where 99% of the public services are available online 24/7.
The commitment of government officials to efficiency and transparency is behind the successful adoption of technology. The video below shows Estonia’s Prime Minister Taavi Rõivas promoting online voting.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Elections in Angola, a new scandal for Indra

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Elections in Angola have always been marred by scandals and allegations of fraud. The ones held in 2017 were not the exception to the rule.

This time, Indra, a Spanish information technology and defense systems company, was at the center of the controversy. Not only because of the way it was chosen as election technology provider, but also because it accepted to implement a vote transmission and tallying system that apparently violated Angola’s legal framework.

Three months before the 2017 election, Angolan opposition parties UNITA, CASA-CE, PRS and FNLA denounced that the government hired the Spanish company Indra "to assist in manipulating election results to their advantage." According to a memo from UNITA, Indra agreed to design and implement a solution to transmit the preliminary results to a destination server different from the one established by Angola's Organic Law on General Elections.

Before the elections, Friends of Angola, a civil society organization based in Washington DC, had sent a request to the Spanish embassy asking for an investigation into the Spanish company Indra, in an effort to prevent this company from being hired again by the Angolan government.

The request letter, signed by Florindo Chivucute, Executive Director of Friends of Angola, points out that "a threat to democracy in Angola should be seen as a threat against all democratic nations." The letter based its concerns on a memo signed by UNITA and shared with the European Union Mission, where three disturbing facts were listed:

1. Bidding process. Indra was the only company that prepared a proposal and participated in the bid. According to the memo, it is likely that the Spanish company had access to privileged information and would have entered into over-invoicing agreements with the Angolan entities involved long before it had officially received the invitation. The official cost of its specific proposal for the two projects on the bid amounts to 1,433 million Euros.

2. Vote Transmission and Tallying. Angola's Organic Law on General Elections establishes two flows of information: one for the preliminary results and other for official results. The CNE requested Indra to develop a software application that would include only one flow of information, which generates a provisional clearance, which is then converted into a final ballot. Indra accepted this petition that violates the legal framework. Instead of transmitting the results from the base of the pyramid, Indra's solution allowed the polling stations’ results to be first sent to the top of the pyramid, the headquarters of the CNE in Luanda, to have the national results to determine the provincial results. According to the press, this request came directly from the MPLA, as they did not want municipal commissions to divulge or publish provisional results.

3. This action may help explain why in the elections held in 2008 and 2012, also organized with Indra's support, the CNE never published the election results by municipality and polling station, as it is mandated by the rules of transparency and good international election practices. Both elections were considered to be fraudulent, and as such were vehemently contested.

Six weeks after the 2017 election, the opposition still refused to accept the results, with discrepancies continuing to emerge in the tallying process of the National Electoral Commission (Comissão Nacional Eleitoral - CNE) and the opposition's own numbers. The opposition is not disputing the MPLA victory but rather the tabulation process that awarded the ruling party more votes.

Corruption scandals have surrounded Indra in other latitudes. One of its most recent scandals was revealed in March 2017, when the Brazilian government sanctioned one of Indra's subsidiaries, Indra Brasil Soluções e Serviços Tecnológicos Group. The company is now under administrative sanction, which prevents it from participating in public tenders.

Indra Brasil Soluções e Serviços Tecnológicos Group was called Politec, but changed its name a few years ago after the Brazilian authorities broke into its offices to investigate whether or not it had paid approximately $100 million in bribes to win bids.