Of late, the Zimbabwe Electronic Commission (ZEC) has been under pressure from civil society organisations to give the public access to their servers. Turns out ZEC is not too keen to do that.
The Herald today published a response from a ZEC representative, ZEC commissioner Dr Q Moyo which said
Zimbabwe has millions of people and if we open up our servers you can imagine what will happen. But the key thing is that storage of data is purely a security matter between ZEC and the person who is registered. The moment you begin to open that data to anyone else other than the party that has registered, you will be, therefore, compromising the whole issue of secrecy of data,
Okay, so what’s the big fuss over this? Why is it a big deal if they don’t give us access to the the servers? and what’s the big deal if they do?
Why should ZEC give the public access to their servers?
1. It’s a sign of good faith.
At this point, after our presidential elections have been allegedly rigged one too many times, people want extra assurance that this will not happen again. Even better now that our voters’ registration process is much more digital than ever and hence can easily be accessed online. This means that it’s easier for us to ‘monitor’ ZEC hence somehow breeding some accountability on their part.
2. It’s the citizen’s right to know.
In case you didn’t know, the right to access information is a human right protected by law of Zimbabwe. Therefore, denying citizens information that concerns them is an infringement on the constitution and hence a punishable offence.
3. It’s a New Zimbabwe (or at least we hope it is)
In this new Zimbabwe, we don’t expect shady business to continue. We’ve seen a couple of criminals being brought to book and that has somehow set precedence (naive is okay with me). We now expect every issue we ever complained about to be sorted. In this, all we want is transparency, especially following that His Excellency the president promised us free and fair elections in 2018.
Why shouldn’t ZEC give the public access to their servers?
The first and probably most important reason, well, let me not say probably since it’s the exact same reason that was given by ZEC, security.
Security however comes in two fold, the security of the registered individuals and that of the system itself. If personal information like ID numbers and addresses are made accessible for anyone and everyone to access, then that could be a problem. Not only can businesses manipulate information for their own interests, but individual can use it to phish or ‘stalk’ people.
I’m not sure how big a deal this is in Zimbabwe at the moment, maybe I’m stretching it but simply brushing it aside would not be wise either. But then again, remember, online has no geographical boundaries. Any other entity from anywhere else could potentially access these files since big data is big money, I already see the likes of Google and Facebook lurking and salivating over the data.
The second security issue would be that of the database, how secure is it if the public has access to it?
ZEC at some point promised us that they are using the most secure systems ever, from temper-proof flash drives to hack-proof databases. However, sorry to show a little faith but I still think being hacked is a possibility, if the cards are not played right that is.
The government’s website has been hacked once before, but that’s a 2013 incident so I can’t say it’s fair to keep bringing it up. But question is how strong is ZEC’s cyber security? By this I don’t just mean in local terms but all around the globe.
So How should ZEC do it?
This part is left for you to fill in, feel free to utilise the comments section.
However, I could just start the discussion with 2 brief suggestions: 1. make use of accounts and 2. adopting the blockchain technology.
1.It could be helpful if having an account becomes a prerequisite for one to access the data. In as much as that system can be cheated, it still helps. It’s better to have one’s activity on the database tracked than not at all.
2. Adopt some properties from block chain technology. One of the things that make blockchain interesting is how every transaction or change recorded and not easily erasable, if at all.
You can’t just delete an entry on the blockchain because all the transactions on the blockchain are stored on all the full nodes that are part of the network so even if you could delete it from a specific node, you would have to then delete it from at least 51% the nodes from the network at once.
Therefore, ZEC could create an open source software which people can use to access the voter’s registration information.
Nonetheless, if it’s already too late to implement this for the 2018 elections, then it can always be implemented in the future elections.
Now over to you…
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