Azimio ICT Experts Differ Over Raila Call for Opening of IEBC Servers

Raila at IEBC
Former IEBC Chairman Wafula Chebukati (Left) presents a certificate to Azimio la Umoja Presidential Candidate Raila Odinga (Centre) on June 5, 2022.
IEBC Kenya

Azimio la Umoja's two senior-most Information, Communication and Technology (ICT) gurus on Wednesday, May 2, sharply disagreed over Former Prime Minister Raila Odinga's demands on accessing the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) servers.

George Njoroge and John Walubengo, read from different scripts when they appeared on Spice FM to discuss the nitty gritty of opening the IEBC servers as demanded by their client, the Azimio la Umoja Coalition.

Njoroge and Walubengo were separately asked to aid Kenyans in understanding the definition of a server, its role, the requirements for opening the IEBC servers as demanded by Raila, and if there were better options than having access to the storage systems.

Njoroge, who picked the first set of questions, explained that, as demanded by Raila, the content of IEBC servers would demonstrate who voted, but not who they voted for, where they voted from, how the voters were identified and those who could not be identified digitally. 

Njoroge and Walubengo
A photo collage of ICT experts, George Njoroge (Left) and John Walubengo (Right) who worked for Azimio la Umoja during the August 2022 General Election.
George Njoroge/Multimedia University of Kenya

"A separate report was supposed to be transmitted regarding the particular voters that could not be identified digitally. 

"What we found out is that there were two sets of data - the actual data about the particulars of the voters and the log data, which were basically timestamp tracks. The general presumption is that IEBC would be the custodian of the servers and the data therein," Njoroge stated. 

Journalist Eric Latiff passed the same question to Walubengo, inquiring, "On the results side, what would be in these servers?"

Walubengo immediately disagreed with his fellow experts, who shared much in common regarding their political and technological perspectives. 

"Njoroge and I are techies, but I have a different analogy of IEBC servers and their role in the last election. 

"At the risk of confusing listeners, I don't want to imagine that the IEBC setup is similar to the Central Bank of Kenya. 

While disagreeing with Njoroge, Walubengo stated that the most authentic way to ascertain the veracity of results is not to go to the servers but to check what the results were at polling stations. 

"There is a possibility that you can cheat at the server, but it is very easy to flag that at the source, which is why the Maina Kiai case speaks about the results being at the polling stations," Walubengo stated. 

The sharp divergence in opinion flared as the two sought to drive their points home amidst a Press Corps that seemed eager to learn more than they could in an hour. 

A collage of former Prime Minister Raila Odinga (left) and President William Ruto (right)
A collage photo of former Prime Minister Raila Odinga at a rally on July 24, 2022 (left) and President William Ruto during his inauguration n September 13, 2022(right)
Raila Odinga

"I have known John for more than 20 years, and we wrote the ICT policy together in 2005, and I would not call him a flyby night but the issue here is a question of interpretation of exactly what the actions undertaken by IEBC officials meant," Njoroge attempted to calm temperatures. 

According to Njoroge, IEBC should grant server access since manual verification would be tedious and financially demanding. Yet, the results could still be manipulated, unlike servers where computer logs would be used to verify authenticity.

"What is in doubt is the interpretation of the actions of those who were charged with the responsibility of managing the servers.

Computer servers are powerful computers designed to provide services or resources such as but not limited to electoral activities to other computers or devices on a network.

They work by running specialised software such as electoral management programmes and hardware that allow them to perform specific tasks, such as storing and managing data, hosting websites, processing requests, and more.

George Njoroge worked for Azimio la Umoja as an Electoral Technology Consultant ahead of the August 2022 General Election, which the coalition lost. 

John Walubengo also served Raila Odinga as Director, Information Communication Technology and took part in the 2017 Election, which the former Prime Minster controversially lost to Retired President Uhuru Kenyatta. The Supreme Court, led by Chief Justice (Rtd) David Maraga, overturned Uhuru's win and ordered a re-run which Raila boycotted. 

How Servers Work

1. Requests are received: When a computer or device on a network needs to access a resource or service provided by a server, it sends a request to the server.

2. Processing the request: The server receives it and processes it using specialized software, such as a web server, database server, or application server.

3. Providing the requested resource: Once the request is processed, the server sends the requested resource back to the requesting computer or device. For example, if a user requests a webpage, the server sends the HTML, CSS, and other files necessary to display the page in their browser.

4. Managing resources: Servers are also responsible for managing resources, such as files, databases, and user accounts, to ensure they are secure, organized, and accessible to authorized users.

5. Monitoring and maintaining: Servers must be constantly monitored to ensure they run smoothly and efficiently. This includes updating software, backing up data, and monitoring performance metrics.

Servers can vary in size and complexity, from small servers used for file sharing in a home network to large-scale data centres that power the internet and support millions of users.

They can also be located on-premises or in the cloud, depending on the needs and resources of the organization using them. 

Former IEBC chairman Wafula Chebukati (centre) receives the first batch of ballot papers at JKIA on July 7, 2022.
Former IEBC chairman Wafula Chebukati (centre) receives the first batch of ballot papers at JKIA on July 7, 2022.