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Is a Vote Rig-Proof Solution Possible?

The widespread allegations of vote rigging in the recent elections and many others in developing countries is not just threat to democracy and good governance, but also a total waste of billions of money used to organise the election. On the other hand opposing parties often take advantage of the failures of the Electoral Commissions by sometimes blowing claims out of proportion so to rally the masses behind them. None of the above should be tolerated as each has enormous consequences.

This has been the case in all the Ugandan elections i have witnessed without major improvements to reduce the claimed vote rigging. Whereas the opposition suggested changes to the electoral process that were ignored, am not sure if there were specific solutions suggested specifically on the voting itself as i think focus was on just the electoral process before the voting. But can there be a trusted tamper-proof, and transparent solution to the voting? Building up on Stephen Musoke’s suggestion of “An alternative to Legal Independent Tallying”, it is interesting to first understand how rigging is actually done, since independent tallying is always meant to check vote rigging.

Keeping all factors constant, i.e. without disenfranchisement by delaying voting materials as was claimed in last week’s election, voter-buying, intimidation with Mambas, teargas on the streets and of course a few bullet deaths here and there, and now a funny new-one of switching off mobile money so that opposition agents can’t get the much needed transport to go and monitor activities polling stations, Here are a few widely used rigging techniques.

  1. Altering of Results on the results declaration forms (some agents refuse to sign because they disagree with what is on the form)
  2. Buying off candidate agents to sign changed results on declaration forms. This can also be smartened up so that polling agents and candidate agents agree to tick the remaining ballots in favour of the “Buying” candidate. At my polling station it was polling and candidate agents waiting for voters, it could take around 30 to 60 minutes without a voter showing up which is a very ripe opportunity to deal under the table.
  3. The old-fashioned and infamous ballot stuffing.
  4. Electoral commission announcing different results, well this is hard enough to prove due to the opaque way EC has been operating but it has been claimed by several candidates. I would think if attached or uploaded somewhere, the scanned signed results Declaration forms would give EC a popular benefit of doubt but no they didn’t hence the widespread suspicions.
  5. Declaring final results without those from some polling stations allegedly those of opposition strongholds.
  6. Of course not ruling out possible genuine error during entry into the EC results system, or Ms Excel if it is what they used. This is very likely given the pressure data clerks have to endure. It becomes deliberate if one candidate is always the beneficiary of these “errors” and if they only increase his tally rather than decrease.

So what ready cost effective solution can be used against all the listed and other unknown avenues of rigging? I think it is important and more transparent to work with the UNIT as this removes any suspicious queries and creates a clear fall back incase of anything. The unit here being the Ballot Paper. There are scanners with the Automatic Document Feeder (ADF) feature where over 400 ballot papers can be inserted and scanned at once without having to manually change the ballot papers. If an algorithm is then developed to automatically, digitally sort and count the votes per candidate (yes this is very possible with advances in computer vision) and relay results to the accredited tally centres, including the digital scans, ooops sounds like you need loads and loads of disk space and bandwidth. But pretty much affordable given the importance of a transparent election anyway. So if this is possible, it pretty much takes care of rigging techniques 1, 4, 6 and 5 (because delays in counting are cut-out).

Sounds like buying candidate agents (Number 2) to betray their bosses is the way to go, and it can also accommodate ballot stuffing (Number 3) after all they are already paid. Stuffed ballots, even those sneakingly ticked in favour of the “buying candidate”  can still be scanned and sent and duly counted by the algorithm  proposed above. But we can also beat the big spenders and their billions by using a biometric counter. Am not so sure what the current biometric machines deployed by EC were meant for, but apart from identity, I doubt keeping a count of those who voted was one of the tasks. The same biometric machines if they didn’t already have it, can be programmed to keep a count of those who voted. This then prevents the “rigging agents”, from taking advantage of the many people who don’t show up on voting day for several reasons including the now trending disenfranchisement. The count recorded by the biometric machine can then be verified against that of the total from the algorithm suggested above. Ofcourse as a fall back or plan B incase any hitches occur somewhere, the usual counting can still take place.

There is also the issue of invalid votes, whose alarming percentage increased from the previous election. The developed algorithm needs to be as intelligent enough to consistently sort out invalid vote popularly known as KAFU (Luganda). EU observer reports said a vote counted as invalid at one station, passed as valid at another station. This however is not a solution to the increasing invalid votes. That takes me to think of a whole new user friendly voting machine that combines biometrics and vote counting above, without having to use ballot papers, which also makes me wonder, how do Developed countries vote???.

All in all given the many complex dynamics involved in organising an election, a fully rig-proof might be impossible but a lot can be done to make the experience more transparent, and generally acceptable to avert any suspicions leading violent reactions. Am saying it is impossible given the very slim possibility that someone can still pay experienced hackers to get the result they want. The important thing is that all stakeholders have confidence in the system well, and the process.

EC, NRM, CEON-U, FDC, should upload Original Signed Results Forms

Tweet showing election irregularity- #UgandaDecides

Tweet showing alleged election  irregularity- #UgandaDecides

There are very many unanswered questions on the validity of results that are coming in as read by Electoral Commission (EC). Chairman Dr. Kiggundu. The order in which they are coming in is another issue altogether that some commentators have linked to a psychological preparation of the electorate but that is an argument for another day.

Agents of Candidates have left the National Tally Centre at Namboole claiming that EC is announcing results they (the Agents) can’t verify or that are different from what they have from their agents, this is as seen on several media channels including Aljazeera.com and social media, read #UgandaDecides . The same channels have drawn attention to several other claimed irregularities about the results especially at the presidential level. All these are linked to unverified results being fed into EC’s results system as claimed by the channels above.

The EC has ofcourse embraced several technology solutions to implement this election albeit some challenges which can be excused given that both technology and people can fail to deliver 100% of expectations at a given point. However with violence looming over different areas around the country, the EC should have done more to improve transparency to mitigate the motivations to violence which are very much because of the rather opaque manner results are tallied. Well, some commentators are even questioning whether it is even a “Tally Centre” since they can’t see any tallying of votes going on, again a discussion for another day.

This is where Technology if not deployed with user-friendliness or usefulness in mind can do more harm than good. Usefulness meaning it satisfies all the key requirements of key stakeholders. One very key feature that EC’s results system ignored is that agents or citizens REALLY need to verify the results it displays. Apparently results from the polling stations are scanned and sent to the “Tally Centre” where they are then updated into the results system. A lot can happen or change during 1) the electronic transfer and 2) updating the system. This is why it is important to provide proof, in this case the originally scanned Results Declaration Forms (DR forms) which are verified and signed by the agents of the different candidates. It is actually not just important but necessary because its absence is now fueling suspicion and violence at a time where we need to trust the EC. Since it is already public information, the original signed DR forms should be uploaded for concerned citizens to independently validate against the announced results.  For easy navigation, the files can be arranged in the same administrative structure as is the national voter’s register as atec.or.ug/register.

One may argue that it is too much to add into a system, it is unnecessary, and that if someone needs to verify they should go to the EC. But given what is at stake, if you are going to show “lone or unverified” results on a publicly accessible system, then don’t get surprised that people are going to question their authenticity. If you can put those up, then you can definitely put the original ones up to dispel any suspicions and instead build confidence and trust and more acceptability of the results. This is a worse threat to public order, peace and safety than the now closed social media and mobile money.

I mean there are only 28,010 polling stations, let’s say each scanned copy takes up 1MB which is even on the high side, then you only need no more than 30,000 MBs of disk space for this, of course bandwidth to upload these wouldn’t be of much concern to EC given the billions they have invested in this.

As this was not thought about or under-looked by the EC, then it is now necessary that the other Tally Centres, of FDC, NRM, and the independent CEON-U also upload this data. You will be amazed by what our buzzing IT youth can do to validate this data against each other to of course dispel any false claims and propaganda from competing parties. Currently FDC has different results online putting Besigye in the lead against those of EC where Museveni is leading, but if this claim is true then it also needs to be verified by uploading the signed DR Forms from FDC agents, same applies to NRM and CEON-U.

Everyone wants to use the media to buy popular public trust, but being the cut throat dirty politics we all know, we only trust God, others must show us proof before we rally behind you (EC, FDC, and NRM) and the truth.#ipledgepeace

Radicalisation: A Hollywood Solution to the Spreading Wildfire

radicalisationAbout the characters and meaning of a Muslim, The Prophet (PBuH) said a Muslim ishe from whose tongue and hands others are at peace. Clearly there is a disconnect between Prophet’s message and that of violent extremists now spreading like a wildfire thanks to media.

A Cherokee grandfather told his grandchildren, “In life there is a terrible fight between two wolves. One is evil: he is … anger, hatred, envy, greed, arrogance, self-pity, resentment, and deceit. The other is good: he is joy, serenity, humility, confidence, generosity, truth, gentleness, and compassion.” A child asked, “Grandfather, which wolf will win?” The elder looked him in the eye. “The one you feed”. The wolves referred to here are the Nafs (evil soul) and Ruh (good soul) both resident in every person. This concept is also emphasised in Imam Al Ghazali’s “Revival of Religious Sciences.”

Thousands of media materials/content are focused on life on earth, feeding billions of souls to focus on material earthly life. Yet it is the shortest of the three abodes (world, grave, and hereafter) of a soul. Whereas earthly life is one we should pursue as encouraged in the Quran, we ought to equally remember the hereafter and the same media can be used to visually explore the hereafter.

On earth, the soul has three states; an-nafs al-ʾammārah bil suu’I (soul inclined to evil), an-nafs al-lawwāmah (self-accusing soul), and an-nafs al-muṭmaʾinnah (soul at peace). Most of the content in media, movies, TV, feeds souls to be more and stay in the first state (inclined to evil). But what do souls in the other two states feed on? On deen, reminders of the hereafter, among others.

Violent extremists have reinterpreted the notion of jihad in the light of constraining circumstances away from a focus on internal (soul) struggle toexternal struggle (‘migrate and fight’) and salvation through a (more individualised) deadly form of ‘jihad’.

Here’s “Extremist propaganda is too widely available, particularly online, and has a direct impact on radicalising individuals. The poisonous messages of extremists must not be allowed to drown out the voices of the moderate majority.” UK Extremism Task Force (ETF), 2013. “The reaction of individuals to this propagation in our fieldwork varies widely; from attempts to keep religious belief separate from politics, to personal piety, to adoption of more radical views.” Says a 2008 EU funded study.

But some dozens of terror analysts have sentiments like, “Meanwhile, it’s clear that ISIL has been using the internet to aggressively recruit to its death cult – using all the tools available, while governments have not been so fast and able to put together an effective counter-narrative that can permeate online.”aljazeera.com, Rachal Shabi, 2015.

Reports say as a key narrative for a revivalist trend, many Muslims are always searching to be good Muslims, it is important that they don’t find the terrorists’ narrative first or more appealing to hearts, hence the need for creative ways to delineate between the dominant understanding of jihad from its focus on the inner and outer dimensions of self/soul against ego, worldliness, tolerance, among other good characters taught by the peaceful prophet.

On average young people spend 10 hours on media daily, feeding hearts and minds with whatever they see. It’s on record most of the content they see is violence related, whether it is news or fiction movies, studies have shown watching violence influences especially young people to act violently let alone taking away focus on being the “good” Muslim.

So what is the likely chance that a radicalised individual’s heart and mind would independently drop or avoid violence and hatred ideals if, they saw a thought provoking animation video exploring the true hereafter as described in the Quran/Hadith? This project seeks to answer this and other related questions.

The EU funded study says “while there is no shortage of other currents and counter ideologies, a central problem remains of how they[the counter-narratives] are enabled, funded, disseminated, how they gain access to the broader mass Muslim ‘field’ and can be reinforced.” And that “…states cannot be seen to be the key actor if they are to have legitimacy.” Below is my suggestion.

A Hollywood Solution

As a practising Muslim I have over time learnt that when our hearts transgress, it’s sometimes not because we don’t know what we are losing (in Janna) or what torment is in store for us (in hell), but because we just fail to visualise the two clearly.  That is why severally Allah has painted pictures and encouraged the Prophet (SAW) to paint pictures or examples for people to better understand what to expect in both heaven and hell as a result of their actions. Qur’anic concepts of judgement day, the Siraat, boiling hell, paradise among others can be artistically animated for people to better visualise what to expect as a result of their actions.

Being that pictures speak louder than words, the idea therefore is to create animated movie/film TV series using the advanced technology and production expertise at Hollywood, to help souls give well informed thought to their actions and priorities before acting in violence, hatred, evil, terror, etc.

Hundreds of TV series are themed on terror and extremism, whereas they are fictional, several scenes demonise the West in the eyes of a novice Muslim, in a way promoting the extremists’ narrative. It is time for a slight shift of focus to the hereafter to neutralise this phenomenon.

Whereas social, political, economic constraints legitimately fuel radicalism, the real ultimate zeal or trigger to take on evil actions like suicide bombing is encapsulated in the heartily belief that one is destined for martyrdom and will receive eternal bliss on the hereafter.

Overlooked by many now failing counter-radicalisation campaigns like UK’s Prevent Strategy, the doctrine of reward and punishment forms the axis of Islam and other Abrahamic religions, for long influencing hearts and minds. Extremists, know and use it equivocally, twisting the message to situate their actions into what is already believed as rewards, refer to ISIS Leader’s Ramadhan message of 2015. An estimated 5.4 Billion people believe in judgement day and its rewards and punishments.

A credible thought provoking dramatized series (and a corresponding interactive web resource) of experiences and events of hereafter Islamic narrations comparatively highlighting rewards and punishments as results of an individual’s tolerant and terror acts. The general objective would be to influence the individualMuslim to willingly drop violence then value and adopt tolerance as did the Prophet.

Our world has become so media-centric including the average Muslim who can’t steer clear of misleading interpretations of Islamic text let alone find time off media. Islamic text (Qurán, Hadith) and indeed the Bible have VERY richdescriptions of hereafter experiences and events on judgement day, hellfire, paradise etc.

Visually dramatising and interactively articulating these, sets records straight, creates viral buzzwords and impressions superior to the hitherto elusive terrorist narrative, appeals to those on the radicalisation path to rethink their course, softens individual souls to tolerance and away from evil, eases access and genuine comprehension of specific beliefs, and most importantly help “build the capabilities of communities and civil society organisations so that they can campaign against the large volume of extremist material, including online”Extremism Task Force.

Movies can be a great mechanism for individual reflection but also conversation, catalysing discussion on highly charged topics in society, and providing a way to tackle issues without doing it explicitly. Movies also influence ideology which is the root cause of conflict.

Since the soul is by nature forgetful, a corresponding interactive and engaging web resource will be used as a spiritual follow-up mechanism constantly reminding the individual of how to be a good Muslim and how not to, helping them to focus on subduing their ego and living within the acceptable realm of Islam, offer a platform for debate and aggressive propagation of tolerant Islam. This will be highly user-centred with visual tools clearly articulating relevant Islamic concepts that are not easily understood.

Mutualism Is The Glue To Sustainable Public Participation

Birds feed on food remnants inside a crocodile.

Birds feed on food remnants inside a crocodile.

Just before campaigns begun I saw President Museveni on TV struggling to show Ugandans what government has done. He gathered a few photo of schools, hospitals and roads and markets among others and ended with complaining about his team not being able to have a comprehensive resource of government information, atleast the achievements for that matter. Recently government ordered all media houses to broadcast or promote government programs and services or face closer. Unfortunately for them, there was hardly any ready information resource about government programs and services, meaning they  hard to invest money in promoting government /ruling party, meanwhile the ruling party was splashing billions of cash in bribing voters, appeasing its loyal cadres, among others.

The last few months have been tough for the ruling party as they campaign to seek re-election for is it the fifth or sixth term. It obviously is tougher than previous campaigns for a number of reasons but mostly because more hoodwinked citizens are finally removing the hoods off.

Governments are infamous at Public Relations (PR). We have seen people successfully talk against government on poor-performance not because they aren’t performing but because government is famed for poor PR. I mean severally government opposers have gone away with false claims like the road in such and such an area is not good yet it is good, there is no medicine in such and such an hospital yet there is, among others, just because they are pretty sure no one will come-up to oppose their claim as government hasn’t put the information out there. Of course am not saying government is performing but that even the little they have accomplished can be easily used against them thanks to their in-sensitiveness to publicity.

“Communication, communication, communication” is a popular idiom by relationship counselors. Government’s indifference to public interaction can be likened to a man who wins the heart and marries a beautiful wife after an expensive and competitive courting affair, then a few days after the wedding the man travels for business leaving the wife alone in the house. No communication, no gifts, phone calls “not available at the moment”, emails “Delivery failed permanently”, WhatsApp status “last seen 4 years and 7 months ago” no interaction at all she is basically fending for herself. Then from the blue he reappears asking to renew marriage vows. If the wife is kind enough to accept the new manifesto, with a great deal of lying ofcourse, it is unlikely she will accept the third term if the same disrespect is repeated.

With more likelihood of a loss or re-run than ever before, News has it that government has spent over 120 billion so far in this campaign, actual figures could be far more but going by the analogy above, government(s) are responsible such predicaments. They even don’t have to be good performers but good communicators. Rollo May says Constant, effective “Communication leads to community, that is, to understanding, intimacy and mutual valuing.” So what if both sides can mutually, positively, and richly interact throughout the term?

Former UN Secretary General Koffi Annan says that good governance is perhaps the single most important factor in eradicating poverty and promoting development. If governance matters, so does the need for more reliable and valid data and convenient public participation on key governance activities.

What if the government had committed just less than 5 Billion for citizen-state interaction to improve PR, am sure it would be spending far less in the campaigns since citizens who already know what they have done, doing, and planning to do. Governments therefore need to treat their citizens as mutual partners not just during election campaigns but throughout the entire term they are in power. Quality interaction through well planned and strategic constant communication about government programs and services can ensure this mutual trust on both sides. Thus investing in systems that promote this interaction can greatly improve government-citizens trust and ofcourse the ruling party won’t have to invest millions of dollars in campaigns since the citizens are in constant communication with government and already trust them.

Strategise for the new trend; the internet.

Ugandans love and fondly follow trends, you can see that in the way they dress, cars they drive and many other ways. Even international companies know that for a fact that is why you now see Walmart, KFC, among others launch here to quench Ugandans’ thirst for trendiness. So what is the next if not current big thing on the lips of Ugandans? You will hear “siyina ko” (am out of) MBs, bundle, internet, then facebook, WhatsApp, twitter, Instagram, etc. What’s that? It’s all internet.

With over 8 million Ugandans using the internet on PC, and mobile or smart devices especially for social media connection, there is no doubt the internet is the latest trend. Our society has become highly media centric and the internet offers a faster, convenient and maybe cheaper way.

For business owners however this trend comes with numerous opportunities depending on how you what you do, size of your business, who you consult, and above all how you plan. Early adopters like banks, URA, and most recently a few retail dealers have taken their businesses to another level riding on the internet. You can now order even food online and it is delivered at your doorstep at hellofood.ug, you can sell and buy anything at olx.co.ug, and others.

So what about your business, you can also take advantage of this new trend to maximise sales, offer customer services & support, create customer loyalty and stay connected to your employees and suppliers. 

Why Your Website Isn’t Yielding ROI

With many thousands of companies and organisations in Uganda (9th in Internet Usage in Africa) now owning websites, it’s no doubt a grown industry, but website owners are yet to benefit from their website investments. We think the time is now to pay more attention to Return on Investment (ROI) on website projects to tap the now fanatical growth of internet users lest your competition devours you. Below are some of the reasons why your website isn’t yielding the required ROI. 

1.    Short Term Mentality

Most Ugandans have an inherent mentality of quick gains, getting rich quick has actually become a standard for success as some scholars say. The get rich quick syndrome has caught up like bush fire transcending almost all sectors of work. But like the English saying goes, “if all wishes were horses, beggars would ride” the fact is that success on

Read more: Why Your Website Isn’t Yielding ROI

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