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Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Build a tech to enable Indians on the move to vote – Latest News

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A little over a year ago, in the run up to the last general elections, The Times of India pioneered the lost votes initiative. Crores of Indians are unable to vote in elections because they are on the move for work or education, and are not where they are registered as voters. Now, given the Covid environment, existing electoral practices seem particularly difficult. Can we find a tech solution to this? Towards this, The Times of India is hosting a Lost Votes Tech Challenge in association with IBM and GitHub. Thousands have already registered for it. The three best ideas will receive cash prizes and the best one will be presented to the Election Commission.

At the Times Techies Webinar last week, IBM India’s lead architect for data & AI, Soma Shekar, and GitHub India’s country head, Maneesh Sharma, provided a primer to aspiring participants. Shekar said in any coding system, you need to first resolve the identity issue. “If I’m voting remotely, I need to be identified as to who I am, securely,” he said.

Shekar said scalability proof-points will be one of the major considerations due to the sheer volume to be dealt with. “Keeping data protection and governance as part of the framework, every action on the system should have traceability. It should be an open platform which can scale and have the ability to integrate with open systems,” he said.

The resources that could come in handy, he said, include IBM Cloud, GitHub, MongoDB, CouchDB, PostgreSQL.

Sharma said it would be patriotic to participate in this challenge. The lost votes, he said, is a huge injustice to democracy. “When I was in Bangalore, my vote was in Delhi. I didn’t vote for many years and I always enjoyed it as a holiday. But it’s important to exercise our franchise. The work all of you are doing will have an impact on how India will move forward,” he said.

Sharma said technology is today facilitating a lot of things – like Aadhaar as a system for authentication, mobile applications, and the fact that secure ways can be built using blockchain. “Techies will have to piece the puzzle and pull these technologies together. It’s an idea whose time has come,” he added.

Ideas and source code need to be submitted by November 3. Asked by the audience about the short timeframe, Sharma pointed out that technologists can reuse the existing codes on GitHub to build solutions. “Reuse is going to be an important part of it. GitHub can also help you in identifying similar projects across the world,” he said.

MV Karan, who leads developer relations for GitHub in India, said the challenge throws open different approaches to build solutions. “For instance, if building a mobile app for e-voting is an option, then some of the e-voting solutions are open-sourced on GitHub,” he said.

Karan said if a participant wishes to drive it through SMS, then you would want something at the backend and that’s also available on the platform. “Then there are components of open source that you can use to build a solution. Most open source projects come with a license that is available on the project itself. Having some understanding of what you can or cannot do with that license is helpful,” he said.

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