The Internet is Making Elections More Transparent


As sixty-four countries and the European Union hold elections in 2024, the Internet is a vital source for many people worldwide to have access to live information on the results of our own and those of other countries.

Like many other nations, Kenya faced polarized and highly competitive elections when voters went to the polls in 2012. In the past, an absence of transparency during elections caused a rise in suspicion.

In the 2022 presidential election, the Internet was a major factor in shifting the mood and improving the democratic process in Kenya. This followed years of hard work to boost and enhance Internet access throughout the region.

The Internet’s Role in Kenya’s 2022 Election

August 2022, Kenya’s presidential election was planned to be the most significant digital election Kenya has ever seen, featuring biometric verification for voters, electronic devices, and real-time results reporting at the very first moment in Kenya’s history. With over 40,000 polling places nationwide, more than 12 million ballots on paper were cast, and the polling stations’ payoff was sent to a central database in Nairobi. This was an achievement in itself.

The raw payoff was available to download and calculate, providing a fresh perspective on the electoral process. The government needed to believe that the right technology was available to handle the demands of such a delicate and crucial procedure.

However, on Tuesday, the second day of the voting process, the day that voting station payoff was being sent via the Internet to Nairobi, one of the submarine cable providers operating in the region experienced unexpected downtime close to Egypt. 

In East Africa, people experienced different degrees of service interruption, including lagging video calls due to reduced Internet Service Provider (ISP) capacity.

Despite the widespread regional disruptions, the election process in Kenya did not suffer from the disruptions, and nobody was aware of the situation due to the advancements in infrastructure locally. 

Since the votes were transmitted over local routes and not through international networks, the interruptions did not affect reporting the outcome according to the schedule. The strength of connectedness and transparency has helped create a sense of confidence in Kenya’s elections.

At a time when tensions were high during the election, an Internet interruption could have caused doubt or accusations of sabotage to elections. For Kenyans, the nation’s Internet infrastructure proved its strength and endurance and demonstrated the democratic process without interruption.

The Growth of Africa’s Internet

It is estimated that the number of Internet exchange points (IXPs)—where Internet networks connect to ensure local traffic stays local—increased by 52 from just 17 in 2008. It also has rising Internet traffic by more than 1000 percent, growing data center infrastructure on the ground, and connectivity across borders. The Internet is becoming more affordable and reliable.

Many African people are vigorous and unwaveringly committed to expanding the region’s Internet infrastructure. 

The regional Internet Society chapters worked tirelessly to warrant a rise in connectivity to the Internet by engaging stakeholders, developing the peering ecosystem, and monitoring the progress of policy reform and implementation of Africa’s AXIS Project, among other initiatives. 

Fair Elections

Elections can only be fair and free when there is transparency, which eventually results in accountability. This includes, but is not restricted to, election monitors, checks and balances, assignment of duties at polling places with real-time reporting, and much more. The Internet is becoming the key factor in election transparency.

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