AI in African Elections: Trust and Transparency Urged

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Host Executive Director Electoral Support Network in Southern Africa (ESN-SA) Rindai Chipfunde Vava has urged election observers on the African Continent to be cognizant of stakeholders’ acceptability and technician manipulation that may arise from incorporating Artificial Intelligence in elections.

Artificial Intelligence refers to the ability of computers or computer designed programs to perform tasks ordinarily performed by human beings.

Speaking at the inaugural Artificial Intelligence and Elections in Africa Conference held in Kenya, Chipfunde acknowledged that AI and ethical use of the technology was a trending topic but emphasized the need to build trust among stakeholders.

“Ethical use of AI is a popular topic and AI presents both opportunities and challenges to explore.

Chipfunde added that AI is increasing the efficiency of citizen observation, accuracy and improved verification of results.

However, she highlighted that while the technology presents opportunities for election observers, there was need to address manipulation of data by technicians.

Manipulation

“With just a tick by technicians everything can turn upside down and that language is understood by technicians so that can be the opposite.

“While we hope for integrity the result can be manipulated by technicians and it’s very difficult for observers to observe such a process,” she added.

Additionally, Chipfunde insisted that the use of AI in elections would require stakeholder acceptability.

“There may be resistance from stakeholders if there is a lack of understanding or transparency about how AI systems operate, especially political parties.

“If we don’t trust human beings, how do we trust machines, so first of all we need to build trust among ourselves before we even go to use technology in elections,” Chipfunde said.

The purpose of the conference was to discuss the potential challenges associated with artificial intelligence in election integrity.

The two-day event was attended by over 40 participants from Election Management bodies, election practitioners, citizen observers’ networks, civil society leaders, Big Tech Companies among others.

AI is already being used on the continent for various reasons, but the question has arisen on the opportunity and threats it poses for elections on the continent.