| 4. In which ways is the initiative creative and innovative?
Implementation of the 2011 election was premised on the 3rd pillar of the Emirates ID Strategy (2010-2013): To facilitate delivery of innovative e- services by establishing the ID card as the most valued card in the UAE.
(A) REGISTRATION OF THE POPULATION: 2010
In 2010 the ID Authority ramped up its emphasis on developing an accurate and comprehensive population register to provide the basis for delivering secure and trusted government services, including e-voting. This period focused on increasing the number of registered people and issuing them with ID Cards by making the registration process simpler for all citizens through the new efficient registration centers and online e-Form applications.
(B) PLANNING THE ELECTION: MARCH 2011
Timescales to deliver a secure and trusted election were short. In 2011 the ID Authority had just 6 months to create and implement a secure and trusted eVoting solution. Unlike other ICT projects, the dates of elections are legally absolute with no room for change, so it was important that detailed delivery plans documented exactly what needed to be done, when and by whom.
(C) DEVELOPMENT OF ID PROCESSES : APRIL 2011
Developing an effective eVoting process centred on the ID Authority’s commitment to use innovative IT tools to radically design services around citizens needs – with the National ID Card as the primary method of authentication. The aim was not only to use the ID Card to deliver innovative e-government services, but also to engender strong public trust in the democratic process. Business processes for using the ID Card for authentication and verification were articulated from multiple stakeholder workshops. Technical work focused on understanding the infrastructure needed to set up an election, use of scientific calculations to determine how many polling stations would be needed, and creating accurate specifications for the seamless integration of the ID card with eVoting hardware and software.
(D) DEVELOPMENT OF VOTERS LIST APPLICATION: APRIL 2011
The creation of an accurate electoral roll that could be updated in real-time by any polling station formed the basis of a trusted and secure election. The Electoral Roll was generated from the existing and current National Population Register applying legally defined eligibility criteria. Balancing the need for data accuracy and integrity with the accessibility and usability needs of voters, the Team created integrated applications that could verify each voter with their National ID card in 30 seconds or less. Thanks to the innovative nature of the UAE ID programme, each Polling Station could process 750 votes an hour, or 9,000 voters each per electronic voting kiosk across a 12 hour voting period.
(E) IMPLEMENTATION: JULY 2011
The ID Authority ensured that authentication and verification applications for the ID Cards, including hardware and software, was ready by the end of July in order to allow a full month to prepare polling centres and training the supervisors who would up-skill voters on how to cast their ballot. The provision of supervised eVoting in polling stations was an important step to empower citizens who would normally shy away from using new technologies to overcome ICT fears and increase their skills. Voting took place on the 24th September 2011.
(F) FUTURE PLANNING: 2014 - 2019
After the election and buoyed by the success, Parliamentary Affairs Minister HE Anwar Gargash announced that the Electoral College would be exponentially increased again for the 2016 election in anticipation of the introduction of universal suffrage in 2019. The ID Authority launched its 2014-2019 strategy to help fulfil these ambitions. The eVoting system has now been redeployed as the Internet Voting System enabling citizens to vote securely from the comfort of their homes!
| 5. Who implemented the initiative and what is the size of the population affected by this initiative?
The 2011 election represented a landmark step in the UAE’s determination to foster a culture of public participation in national decision-making. Key stakeholders are:
VOTERS/CANDIDATES: The 2011 elections had an over 20x expanded electoral college made up of 46% females and 54% males, of which 35% were younger than 30 years. These stakeholders would be directly impacted by the election process and outcome. They needed knowledge of the voting process, the election schedule, candidate selection process, campaign rules and how to participate on election day.
Voter/Candidate needs were identified and met by:
NATIONAL ELECTIONS COMMITTEE (NEC): The NEC headed by Program Manager Tariq Lootah (Under Secretary of the Ministry of Federal National Council Affairs) was responsible for the overall election framework including: supervising the election, supporting electoral awareness efforts, locating Polling Centres, establishing the legal framework, and setting dates.
Two key stakeholders supported the NEC:
- EIDA: Emirates ID Authority was responsible for technical programme management under the leadership of the Director General Dr Ali Al-Khouri - who personally ensured the delivery of a reliable and secure eVoting infrastructure using the National ID Card as its premise. EIDA’s CIO delivered the effective use of toolkit and identification applications for eVoting. Other key stakeholder roles included (a) ID Card Integration Coordinator to provide input on ID card integration with the voting system, (b) Application Data Integration Coordinator to provide data from the EIDA system, and (c) Network and Set-up to oversee the WAN required to implement the ‘vote in any polling station’ solution.
- TECHNICAL COMMITTEE: Responsible for software customisation and UAT of the eVoting solution. The whole system was designed as per technical specifications setup to meet the business requirements and election processes prescribed by the NEC.
| 6. How was the strategy implemented and what resources were mobilized?
Like public elections the world over, the e-Voting project was funded from a government budget. The key resources involved are:
The key personnel for delivering the foundations for the election were chiefly deployed from the Emirate ID Authority’s 750+ pool of resources to work on the National ID Infrastructure. Core staff members were supported by staff from eVoting solution providers. Technical experts built applications to create accurate electoral rolls from the population register, devised methods to wire and network polling stations, and customised software to enable voters/votes to be authenticated and validated using the National ID Card. Additionally, marketing experts were used to raise awareness about the elections and the wider importance of participation in the decision-making process.
Additional operational roles created solely for polling day were:
374 Polling Station Workers to complete validation of the voter by ID authentication using the National ID Card. 107 Trainers to demonstrate the eVoting process to voters on election day. 13 Voting Centre Managers responsible for all operations in their polling centres. 41 Voting Centre Assistants who supported the Centre Managers. 21 Electoral Board members – one board per Emirate – responsible for publishing elections and initiating counting and tallying.
To strengthen the creation of a culture of participation throughout the UAE as a whole, Polling Station Workers were all UAE Nationals drawn from a representative range of organizations across society. Workers were trained rigorously in the ID verification process. Alongside physical schooling, training videos were prepared so polling officers could access continuous learning on the process of ID Verification.
Voting Centre Assistants were sourced from an organization called Takatof UAE to further ensure maximum participation of UAE society as a whole in the election process. Emirates ID Authority contributed 500 of their employees to provide the ID Verification Services at all the polling stations. Election Day was a proud moment for all the participants!
Technical resources included, but were not limited to, the procurement of: 800 touch screen terminals for voting purposes equipped with Smart Combi-ID card readers with biometric sensors for authentication. 400 laptops to be used for ID verification, training and operation also combined with the card readers and biometric sensors. 700 printers for generating receipts at voting terminals. 451 power supplies. 54 servers to allow central voting at each Emirate conjoined with a central server set up in the National Capital- Abu Dhabi. This set-up allowed votes to be collected online in real time at the Central Operations Center in Abu Dhabi.
The overall cost of delivering the election, outside of the National ID Infrastructure budget was 30 Million AED (8 Million USD). The hardware itself amounted to a relatively small amount at a total of 18 Million AED (5 Million USD) including the server network. The cost of personnel is estimated at 10 Million AED (3 Million USD).
| 7. Who were the stakeholders involved in the design of the initiative and in its implementation?
1. ENHANCED DEMOCRATIC CAPABILITIES
Prior to 2011, the majority of UAE Nationals had never heard of eVoting let alone seen a ballot box. Dedicated awareness raising and training initiatives via advertisements, public meetings, workshops, and local conferences helped to generate nation-wide understanding about the value of participating in national decision-making, national pride in the UAE’s commitment to democratic engagement and increased support for expanded enfranchisement. Extensive use of social media showcased participation in action by featuring real-time interactive dialogue between the NEC, local communities and individuals.
2. FOUNDATION FOR UNIVERSAL SUFFRAGE
After the success of the 2011 election, the UAE President told the FNC: “Your membership in this Council places great trust and responsibility on your shoulders. Governance here belongs to those who have bestowed their trust on you (the electors). Do be mindful to maintain your eligibility to receive this trust and be committed to the interests of the country and its citizens.” Success in 2011 prompted the Minister for Legislative Affairs to declare a historic commitment to introduce universal suffrage for UAE Nationals above the age of 21 in 2019.
DELIVERY OF A TRUSTED & SCALABLE e-VOTING INFRASTRUCTURE
From a technical standpoint, a major achievement was the use of advanced cryptographic protocols enabling election processes to be carried out in a completely secure, transparent and auditable manner. The solution delivered high levels of security in terms of voter privacy, ballot box integrity, and voter-verifiability. Use of the ID card provided a strong model for legally binding authentication and verification that drove efficiencies and helped to transform conventional public sector service delivery.
4. CREATION OF ORGANISATIONAL DELIVERY FRAMEWORK
On an organisational level, the electoral management structure played a key role in getting many government departments to work together seamlessly and cooperatively. The structure included more than 100 officials representing different government and public sector organisations, in addition to 900+ volunteer staff to support voting centres. This management structure will form the basis of a dramatically expanded election in 2016, and the ultimate introduction of universal franchise in 2019.
5. INTERNATIONAL KNOWLEDGE SHARING
Government delegations from a range of countries – from as nearby as Lebanon to as far away as Kurdistan - have approached the UAE to share expertise about use of the new voting system. The UNDP representative in the UAE has approached Emirates ID to help other countries with their own ID Management and Governance processes.
| 8. What were the most successful outputs and why was the initiative effective?
There was no scope for failure in the FNC 2011 election. A successful result was crucial to the continued expansion of democratic participation in the UAE. To manage the strict security and privacy requirements of the eVoting solution, and to comply with specific constitutional, legal and regulatory contexts related to the electoral rules in the UAE, the following steps were taken:
(1) The NEC applied an agile methodology for the design, development, deployment and implementation of the eVoting system. Structured workshops with key stakeholders and commercial suppliers’ staff were undertaken before system implementation to allow for government concerns and requirements to be addressed.
(2) On polling day, Operations Centres in each Emirate had a dashboard that constantly monitored the IT systems to ensure that all the network connections were working as per the bandwidth requirement.
(3) An Electoral Chief Officer was appointed for each voting centre who was responsible for the polling station operation. The Chief Officer would monitor all transactions and activities taking place on polling day. In addition technical staff were deployed at every polling station to attend to any issue.
(3) An Electoral Board (EB) and Administration Board were established for each Emirate. The polling stations were monitored for participation on every hour. The results of the voting process were announced and published by the Electoral Chief officer of each Emirate.
(4) Finally, Heads of State and other international election experts were invited to oversee the process. Linda Maguire, a senior policy adviser with the UN Development Programme's democratic governance group in New York, offered the following praise on the increased electoral roll. "The UN makes it a habit not to comment on any state's electoral process," she said, "but certainly the more democratic and inclusive a system is, the better it will reflect the will of the people and adhere to the human rights norms and standards of the UN. Enlarging the electoral college means that more people - and potentially more diverse interests - are in power and can influence policies."
Alejandro Salas, a Berlin-based regional director of Transparency International, a global group whose tasks include monitoring elections, said the expansion of the electoral college marked a move from "almost nothing to something significant. It will help in building culture in citizens not aware of the importance of elections. It will have a positive effect in the country."
| 9. What were the main obstacles encountered and how were they overcome?
Delivering advanced eVoting processes in a country that is unfamiliar with elections and has limited experience with political participation created many challenges. Technical obstacles were tackled fairly easily due to the cutting-edge ID authentication and verification system that underpinned the software solution. Human obstacles, however, were more difficult to overcome:
STAFF READINESS TO DELIVER AN ELECTION
Working on an election was a new experience for practically all members of staff from government officials to volunteer polling station workers.
Readiness was achieved through 2 key strategies:
(1) Training - A comprehensive training plan was implemented to cover all polling day activities. All staff were trained in e-voting to a level that enabled them to provide comprehensive on-site voter education themselves.
(2) Dry Run - The eVoting system was piloted 2 weeks prior to election day to not only test the complete solution but to also train staff so they were familiarised with the voting system. More than 600 volunteer staff from the Emirates ID Authority participated in the testing of the system in a mock-election at an actual voting site in Dubai.
In the run-up to the elections, surveys showed that 41% of Emiratis were ‘very interested’ in the polls. However due to the newness of elections in the UAE, voters and candidates were unfamiliar with the election process itself. This obstacle was combated by:
(1) Candidates – Government held a series of open seminars for candidates to teach them the rules about campaigning including financial limits of campaigns and fair messaging.
(2) Voters – A branded awarenss campaign consisting of public events, information flyers and social media outreach helped to promote the forthcoming elections in a manner that ensured that 80% of Emiratis surveyed were aware of the FNC elections. 14% said they followed the election news every day.