With India having embraced technology originating in the west relatively easily, it only becomes natural that the embraced technical aspects be employed to solve real-world issues. Now, as far as new technical buzzword in India is concerned, experts feel that this is undoubtedly the Internet-of-Things (IoT) and related smart aspects viz. Machine Learning (ML), Artificial Intelligence (AI), and Deep Learning.
With a sprout in the number of Indian startups engrossed in researching IoT and related smart technology, the degree of application of smart innovations to the actual society is obviously intense. With benefit to society being the criteria, we were curious to know if IoT and related technical buzzwords could find application in a large democratic societal process which is ‘Elections’.
With electoral issues such as booth-level rigging, proxy voting, impersonation of voters, voting malpractices, and other unhealthy practices still serving as hindrances in smooth conducting of elections, we spoke to technology experts to obtain insights as to whether application of IoT towards smooth conduct of elections is feasible in the current Indian scheme of things.
IoT for smooth elections in India is in fact practical – Embedded engineers take note
Experts feel that embedded engineers and IoT solution providers can develop a smart system wherein an incorrect match is detected between a voter’s biometrics at the booth and the biometric information stored in the Aadhar database. These can trigger alerts and communicate these to the nearest police station such that action is enforced on proxy voters.
“A huge amount is spent in conducting a fair election. But, nowadays it has become common for some forces to indulge in rigging which may eventually lead to a result contrary to the actual verdict given by the people,” states Bastin Robins J – Chief Technology Officer and Chief Data Scientist at CleverInsight.
Bastin believes that the initial level technology should be biometrics within a hybrid voting system. “This system uses thumb impression for voter identification as we know that the thumb impression of every human being has a unique pattern. We now have our Aadhar Card which has the biometrics information.”
“During elections, the thumb impression of a voter is entered as input to the system. This is then compared with the available records in the Aadhar database. If this particular pattern matches with anyone on the available record, access to cast a vote is granted. But in case the pattern doesn’t match with the records of the database or in the case of repetition, access to cast a vote is denied or the vote gets rejected,” states Bastin.
This is seemingly a simple solution to a plaguing issue which; is proxy voting. Now, with the Indian government getting pretty serious on the Aadhar number linkages, this system can be linked to voting as well.
“I believe that the Central Election Commission should get more tech-savvy and make biometric verification mandatory at booth level before a vote is cast. Embedded engineers can develop smart systems wherein proxy voters are detected before actually casting votes. This would deter political parties from bringing in people to use as proxy voters,” believes Harish Babu – who is chief technical trainer at Keonics Karnataka and also consulting with the government on technology projects.
The next IoT-driven phase; More the data generated = Lesser the overall cost
Bastin believes that a smart hybrid electronic voting system can comprise of a main host that obtains data from electronic voting machines (EVMs) at various polling stations in a particular area, with these machines connected together through a secure network.
The advantage of such a system, as per Bastin, is instantaneous results.
“Counting is done finally at the main host itself. The overall cost for conducting elections gets reduced and so does the maintenance cost of the systems. The manpower behind manual tallying and verification of the number of votes cast are also decreased drastically, resulting in a technically perfect election result,” adds Bastin.
“Embedded engineers can build data-driven systems where the enormous voting data translates into technical accuracy as far as results are concerned,” believes Harish Babu.
Another advantage of a smart voting system is the fact that the results can be declared relatively early as a majority of the monotonous manual processes are eliminated.
“As of now, technology is adapted only at the level of the EVMs, this is a gaping hole that can be exploited by anti-social elements to artificially engineer results by resorting to illegal practices. Now, if engineers and IoT solution providers can develop a secure gateway for voting data, then there is no stopping of the fact that illegal malpractices can be eliminated whilst keeping costs to a minimum,” adds Venkatesh Babu J who is lead engineer at a Bengaluru-based multi-national corporation.
Developing sensors to be deployed at the booth level
Both Bastin and Harish Babu believe that it is simple to program sensors and scanners to match voters’ fingerprints with that of the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) database. These can then be deployed at the pooling booth levels to authenticate users.
Experts also believe that such a system will not require humongous amount of efforts and can be achieved via conventional programming techniques.
Smartness achieved from the level of voter list preparation
Embedded engineers believe that smartness can be infused into our electoral process right from the level of preparation of the voters list. This can potentially be achieved by securely using the UIDAI (Aadhar) application programming interfaces (API) to validate users when they register as voters.
“The Aadhar data can be used more judiciously by the government,” states Dhruv Nath MJ a Mumbai-based independent technology consultant.
“Aadhar numbers could be made mandatory for people, this can be used to enrol genuine voters and for preparing the list without errors and redundancies,” adds Dhruv.
This would undoubtedly eliminate discrepancies in the voters list, but would require time to catch up and extensive efforts from the government (along with the Election Commission) in ensuring that the Aadhar numbers reach genuine beneficiaries.
Nonetheless, a smart Aadhar-driven voter list can be conceptualised effectively. Engineers can even infuse smartness in the form of iris scanners, and an altogether smart voter identity card which is electronically generated unlike the current paper-generated and machine-laminated arrangement which has existed from ages now.