Kenya’s technology evolved. Its political problems stayed the same.


By Nanjala Nyabola—MIT Technology Review—August 22, 2018—

In 2007, incumbent Mwai Kibaki won a divisive presidential election in Kenya. Street protests escalated to ethnic violence in parts of the country, and by April 2008 more than 1,500 people had been killed. A decade later, another election also featured widespread allegations of fraud, and more violence. The casualties were lower this time, but just over 100 were killed, almost all by the police in opposition strongholds.

Technology and politics are inextricably linked in Kenya, in part because technology was proposed as the solution to the structural issues that led to the violence following the 2007 election. The Independent Review Commission established in 2008 argued that technology would help bridge the trust gap between key political actors and protect the autonomy of the bureaucracy surrounding elections. In line with the commission’s recommendations, voter registration, voter identification, and vote tallying are all nominally computerized. These efforts culminated in the 2017 election, which was supposed to be Africa’s first fully digital election.

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