Electoral Act Amendment Bill Must Include Data Sovereignty Before Electronic Voting

Abuja (Precise Post) – As National Assembly gets set to amend electoral act, there is need to introduce data sovereignty into the bill before electronic voting. This will assist various tribunals when delivering judgment on electoral cases. We cannot use another country law on data to deliver judgment on our electoral disputes. Nigeria needs law on data sovereignty before we adopts electronic voting. Nigeria needs law on data sovereignty for our election tribunal, court of appeal and Supreme Court before we can introduce electronic voting. Nigeria cannot use another country law on data sovereignty to operate electronic voting in Nigeria. This is fundamental.

I have identified proactive data sovereignty policy framework as sine qua non for electronic voting, cyber and national security drives. The most tactical approach to tackling election fraud, cyber security involves developing local data sovereignty.

When we talk of DataSovereignty we mean the ability to build data centers which host and process our data wholly and locally in Nigeria. If Data is the new oil, Nigeria needs to have that oil refined at home. Yes, we refine and then export capabilities around the world.

Aside section 37 of the Nigerian Constitution (1999) which provides that the privacy of citizens, their homes, correspondence, telephone conversations and telegraphic communications is hereby guaranteed and protected”, there is currently no comprehensive data privacy or personal information protection law in Nigeria that sets out detailed provisions on the protection of the privacy. We cannot use foreign data to conduct electronic voting in Nigeria because we cannot tell our election tribunals and courts handling election cases to use another country law on data sovereignty.

Electronic voting has overwhelming advantages that can help in addressing the nation’s electoral problems but Nigeria needs data sovereignty law first. We need a data law and electronic voting has become imperative in the nation’s political history to fully employ technology to have a better electoral system. For me, any day, I will vote for the voting machines. Electronic voting has overwhelming advantages and there must data sovereignty law to conduct election tribunals. The nation needed a lot of ground work on data sovereignty law, especially to assure the politicians across the country, who believed that anything electronic could be used to commit fraud and be manipulated.

Data sovereignty in Nigeria is the idea that data is subject to the laws and governance structures within the nation. The concept of data sovereignty is closely linked with data security, cloud computing and technological sovereignty.Unlike technological sovereignty, which is vaguely defined and can be used as an umbrella term in policymaking, data sovereignty is specifically concerned
When we talk of Data Sovereignty we mean the ability to build data centers which host and process our data wholly and locally in Nigeria. If Data is the new oil, Nigeria needs to have that oil refined at home. Yes, we refine and then export capabilities around the world.

I appeal to President Buhari not to use electronic voting to create internet fraud jobs for Yahoo! boys and hackers through electoral reforms. Electoral reforms must prioritise and secure electronic voting and Nigeria’s cyberspace against imminent threats from cyber attackers. The activities of hackers and cyber criminals are threat to the economy, elections and security of Nigerians and vital infrastructure connected to the Internet. The activities of criminals in our cyberspace are threatening our individual and collective privacy. There is need to take serious action to protect the country’s cyberspace and electronic voting.

Electoral reform must prioritise law on data sovereignty, standard cyber defence mechanisms as no system is 100 per cent secure. Even with state-of-the-art defences we must always consider the possible consequences of a successful attack. Election integrity is paramount, requiring authentication of eligible voters, and assurance in the handling and tallying of votes. Any e-voting system must be trusted even in the face of the ever-increasing range of cyber threats. These include the possibility of system penetration from well-resourced adversaries; the possible presence of spoof voting sites; malware on voting devices or within the central system; and insider threats from those with privileged access to the system.

The system must guard against cyber attacks, malfeasance, technical breakdown or administrative incompetence which could easily wreak havoc with electronic systems and could go largely or wholly undetected. This is a concern made much more urgent by Russia’s cyber-attacks in USA on political party servers and state voter registration databases in 2016 and by the risk of a repeat – or worse.

We must watch against hacking threat by the use of cyber means to cause disruption before, on, or after Election Day. Disruption has been attempted without cyber means-sometimes with elaborate schemes-but cyber capabilities could make disruption easier to pull off and, as a result, more likely to occur. The obvious targets for disruptive efforts are, e-poll books, digital logs used on Election Day to confirm voter identities.

Cybercriminals have done their best to disrupt national elections around the world over the last few years, be it through fake news campaigns or by directly hacking officials’ e-mails and database. Many have got as far as breaching a country’s online voting systems and manipulating a result like what happened in Democratic Republic of Congo last year. .

The electoral reform should address law on data sovereignty, why less than 30 million voters came out to vote out of over 80 million registered voters. In spite of the massive mobilisation, what is it that makes people register, collect their PVCs and fail to come out and vote? Nigeria needs law on data sovereignty that will address the problem of electronic voting in Nigeria’s next general elections will be held in 119,973 polling units while results will be collated in 8,809 wards.

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Inwalomhe Donald writes from Abuja via [email protected]

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