KawalPemilu returns to monitor the Indonesian election with technology and crowdsourcing

Kickstarted in 2014 by a group of IT experts, KawalPemilu is back with more sophisticated techniques to safeguard this year’s presidential election.

In 2014, a group of Indonesian IT experts kickstarted a civil society movement to ensure that the vote counting process during that year’s presidential election was fraud-free and accurate.

KawalPemilu (Election Watch)  used digital technology and crowdsourcing to double check the official count. The initiative stole the limelight that year, as it was able to successfully supervise the election by recounting hundreds of thousands of vote counting certificates with the help of volunteers and making the alternative count public in more or less real time.

The data was uploaded every ten minutes at kawalpemilu.org. At that time, the difference between KawalPemilu’s vote count and that of the official committee was only 0.14%.

“Our focus is to tabulate data in real-time and to collect this data using a different mechanism than the official election committee so as to offer a comparison,” Ruly Achdiat,  the spokesperson of KawalPemilu, told KrASIA.

The 2019 Election Updates

Five years later, Achdiat and his friends at KawalPemilu are once again monitoring the election.

The 2019 general election in the world’s fourth most populous country has been described as the biggest and most complex election in the world. The presidential and parliamentary elections are being held on the same day for the first time.

It has a higher level of complexity; the number of polling stations had doubled and the number of voting forms has increased five-fold. With the number of eligible voters reaching 192 million, the potential for fraud in the system is high.

Since fraud can potentially occur before the scan of a voting certificate is uploaded to the election committee’s website, which is where KawalPemilu got is data from five years ago, this time it’s collecting its own primary data.

After casting their votes, KawalPemilu volunteers will monitor the vote counting process in their polling stations, take photos of the voting certificate forms that have been posted on the walls or bulletin boards of the polling station and upload them to upload.kawalpemilu.org.

An example of vote counting certificate in the Indonesian elections.

“The vote counting certificate is the most basic election data, so the collection of photos of this document is the best way to monitor the vote count faster in this year’s election,” Achdiat added.

KawalPemilu will also monitor the election of legislative candidates for the People’s Representative Council.

“The 2019 election is very complicated as we need to vote five times. Therefore, we need to step in to ensure that the representatives who end up on national legislative seats are truly the people’s choice,” said Achdiat. “Back in 2014, we had approximately 700 volunteers and this year we hope to have at least 800,000 volunteers representing all polling stations in Indonesia.”

A collaboration of IT experts

KawalPemilu doesn’t work alone this time. The group collaborated with the Network for Democracy and Electoral Integrity (Netgrit) to launch the 2019 “Kawal Pemilu Jaga Suara” (Election Watch Vote Guards) movement. KPJS combines the tech skills of KawalPemilu and Netgrit’s expertise to allow monitoring of the vote count at an even larger scale. The initiative has now also been registered with the election supervisory body as an official monitoring institution.

This year, not only accredited KawalPemilu volunteers that have been brought in through a referral system will be able to participate. Anyone can be a volunteer by registering with a personal Facebook account. Facebook was chosen so that KawalPemilu can see the profiles of volunteers and detect potential affiliations with presidential candidates or political parties. However, there’s an internal system that remains restricted to trusted volunteers, Achdiat explained.

In addition to the upload feature that automatically checks for the photo’s authenticity, KawalPemilu is now also equipped with an error report feature, so anyone who finds an error in the tabulation can immediately report this. Meanwhile, KawalPemilu has also developed a more comprehensive system to prevent technical problems like hacker attacks and downtime.

“We estimate that there will be around 16 million photos uploaded to our site within a day which requires high storage volumes, therefore our team worked hard to ensure all the system is ready for the big day,” Achdiat said.

KawalPemilu also gathered IT communities in Indonesia to help with a series of security and function test before the election takes place to prevent errors.

“KawalPemilu is really a collaborative project of fellow IT actors. Although our political preferences may be different, we have the same spirit to guard the vote count for a more transparent election,” said Achdiat. “The Indonesian election is one of a kind and KawalPemilu is very proud to take part in this process.”

Editor: Nadine Freischlad