Time for Asean to consider risks and rewards of e-voting

  • New study analyses, creates roadmap for online and e-voting
  • Technologies that handle online financial transactions can be used
Time for Asean to consider risks and rewards of e-voting

IN light of upcoming elections in South-East Asia and the recent commotion about alleged irregularities in Indonesia’s presidential elections this year, it is worth considering making online voting and e-voting a larger part of the political process, said security specialist McAfee.
Online and e-voting are not currently widely implemented because of technical barriers that have been hard to overcome, and it still has relatively low public acceptance, the company said in a statement.
However, according to a new Atlantic Council study Online Voting: Rewards and Risks, sponsored by McAfee, many of the technologies that handle online financial transactions could be applied to make e-voting and online voting a reality in the future.
Around the world, including South East Asia, e-voting could ease voting processes in the near future, if the right technologies are implemented to ensure its security, the company said.
The Atlantic Council study noted that in 2005, Estonia became the first country in the world to hold nationwide elections through an e-voting system, with voters logging in through a personal computer and voting with an application that required the voter’s ID smartcard and a unique PIN (personal identification number).
The system has worked well, with more than a quarter of the Estonian population voting online.
E-voting has since taken place successfully in other countries, including Australia, Brazil or France. India has installed more than 900,000 electronic voting machines that have saved money and helped its illiterate citizens vote.
“As e-voting is coming on the agenda of governments across South-East Asia, it is ever more important to consider the risks of online and e-voting to revolutionise democratic processes around the world,” said Wahab Yusoff, McAfee’s vice president for South-East Asia.
In considering technologies that handle online financial transactions for online and e-voting, McAfee said that unlike financial hacks, lost votes cannot be regained, and electronic intrusions could alter previously cast votes to change the results of an election.
But with the right, carefully chosen security considerations, online and e-voting could become more widespread, the company said.
“Online and e-voting are examples of how a greater emphasis on security could empower a new era in digital democracy,” said Michael DeCesare, president of McAfee, part of Intel Security.
“Yet it will take more than technology to foster acceptance of online and e-voting; people need to have trust and confidence in the process.
“Pilot programmes for local elections could be the route to earning public trust on a small scale. Once that trust begins to expand, we could start seeing online and e-voting’s benefits – from increased voter turnout to more efficient elections,” he added.
The Atlantic Council researchers noted that cryptography, strong access control enabled by biometrics and securely written software could ensure the safety of votes cast online and the integrity of the system.
Along with these security considerations, online and e-voting could become more popular as young people who have grown up with the Internet – the so-called ‘digital natives’ – become older.
“It’s been fascinating to dive into case studies, like Estonia, and the theoretical research around this subject,” said Jason Healey, director of the Atlantic Council’s Cyber Statecraft Initiative.
“Online and e-voting’s potential in terms of reach, access and participation has the chance to revolutionise the democratic process, but there are a series of serious risks that will have to be mitigated.
“However, Estonia has shown that it is possible, and we hope that our recommendations for a path forward will generate more discussions and trials,” he added. (Click to enlarge slide).

Time for Asean to consider risks and rewards of e-voting
 Time for Asean to consider risks and rewards of e-voting

To download the Online Voting: Rewards and Risks report, click here.
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