There are 40,883 polling stations spread across the country. Earlier today, IEBC released a statement indicating that 11,155 of the polling stations do not have 4G/3G network coverage. The statement by the IEBC has elicited on outrage on Twitter, with many questioning why the IEBC is releasing the statement right now – merely a day to the elections, several others asking for IEBC to publish the list with names of polling stations affected so that the public can verify if indeed 4G/3G networks are unavailable in those polling stations, and a few finding problems with the IEBC list of the polling stations already released.
The major problem surrounding IEBC list is the fact that in the affected polling stations, Presiding Officers will be required to move outside the polling station in order to link to the satellites before simultaneously transmitting the results to constituency, county and national tallying centers.
11,155 out of 40,883 polling stations lack network. Presiding officers will move for better signal, use Satellite phones to transmit results
— IEBC (@IEBCKenya) August 6, 2017
The requirement that the presiding officers will have to move to get better signal could compromise the transmission of the results. For example, Kennedy Kachwanya pointed out that the movement opens up the presiding officers into the possibility of being abducted by political players and forced to transmit altered results, or even moving forever never to transmit at all and forever never to be found.
Moving is a dangerous thing to do, put the RO at the risk of being abducted and forced to change the results or send the wrong results https://t.co/zhJAaTLuDU
— Kachwanya (@kachwanya) August 6, 2017
For me, the main problem I have is the IEBC list that has been issued.
Personally I have moved across the country testing Safaricom and Airtel networks. The towns I went to were from Nairobi to Bungoma through Kakamega, Kisumu, Kericho, Nakuru back to Nairobi then all the way to Mombasa. I also covered fringe towns like Isiolo, Garissa in north eastern and to Nyeri, Meru, Embu and Machakos towns to cover the central and eastern regions Through my journeys, I realized that there were very few points along the way where Safaricom 3G networks were unavailable. According to a 2016 report by Safaricom, there were only 22% of Safaricom base stations that had not been covered by Safaricom 3G network. That report, in page 67, looked forward to expanding the 3G coverage to 82% of the population.
Even though Safaricom alone has covered almost the entire country, the IEBC list still provides that some 916 polling stations in Murang’a county lack 3G network. Murang’a county is not far from Nairobi, as it is only 70Kms from Nairobi city centre. Murang’a is also surrounded by 4G towns like Nyeri, Thika and Embu, implying that several towns within Murang’a should be able to get 3G coverage. However, according the IEBC list, 80% of polling station in this centrally placed county lack at least 3G network from Safaricom, Airtel, and Telkom Kenya combined.
The other town with a lot of polling stations without 4G/3G networks is Homabay county. Homabay county is my home county. And as someone who comes from possibly the remotest part of Homabay county, just a few kilometers off the unknown Ruma national park, I had to call my brother who is currently at the rural home to confirm from him if his local polling station does not have 3G network. I asked him to go to the primary school that will be used as one of the polling centers and check whether the network bar has either 3G, H, or H+ written. He confirmed that he could see H+ at the network bars on his phone. To be clear, this is one of the primary schools that is yet to receive the promised Jubilee electricity to all primary schools.
After my brother confirmed that the primary school was covered by Safaricom’s 4G, I tweeted IEBC to provide the list of the polling stations without network coverage so that I could do independent tests, same as I did with my brother’s polling station. By the time of going to press, IEBC had not responded.
Have you published the names of the polling stations without network coverage? I want to visit a few and do tests
— Chetenet.com (@chetenetKE) August 6, 2017
Now imagine this, Kisii, a highly urbanised small sized county, has some 922 polling stations without 3G coverage! I am looking forward to IEBC publishing the names of the polling stations without 3G/4G coverage.