The (un) making of electoral transparency through technology: The 2017 Kenyan presidential election controversy

Monday, 13 March, 2023 - 16:00

Presented by : 

& Marie-Emmanuelle

Marked by the killing of a senior ICT professional working for the Electoral Commission and the invalidation of the presidential election by the Supreme Court, the 2017 Kenyan elections make for a good case through which to study how digital technologies shape contemporary electoral practice. This article examines the practice of electoral transparency through technology and argues that it can be conceived as a socio-technical device based both on distancing people from knowledge of the electoral infrastructure and on staging a simplified discourse on public access to the electoral infrastructure. Drawing on interviews with key actors in election technology implementation and ethnographic observations of public events around it, the article argues that digital technology has had three sets of implications for elections. First, it has shaped the electoral infrastructure and the nature of the final result (now a paper and digital hybrid). Second, it has shaped the distribution of knowledge among electoral professionals, giving a central role to ICT actors, objects, and knowledge in the definition of electoral transparency. Third, the centrality of ICTs in elections and the order of knowledge they bring are highly controversial and criticized by other electoral actors who demand for material proof for understanding the inner workings of elections.

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