How does the cloud influence election processes?

Cat Mules

Cat Mules

Global shocks such as the Covid-19 pandemic have escalated calls for sensor-led, as opposed to shovel-ready, projects.

This push has been fuelled by increased awareness of the technological capabilities and social implications of Cloud computing. The preferred mode of working, the products and services being produced, and consumer expectations are changing. With an election imminent in New Zealand the question arises: could the Cloud have implications for engagement with, and management of, the election process?

While most voting mechanisms are not currently connected to the Cloud, there is widespread recognition that Cloud computing has the potential to facilitate voter registration, manage online voting, store data and speed up the delivery of results on election night.  Added to this the technological affordances of the Cloud can influence the broader democratic political process.

The Cloud has the potential to provide a more resilient voting system. Traditional on-site servers tend not to have the capacity to handle traffic spikes to election-related websites such as those that provide voting information or election results, or, for example, surges during the election. The Cloud has the capacity to auto-scale bandwidths in order to adapt to increased traffic, enabling websites to stay up and running.

Reliable, cheap data storage is another potential advantage of the Cloud. Traditional forms of storage of election data can be expensive. Cloud storage tends to cost less than traditional data systems because Cloud computing is providing storage services on a larger scale.  Public and hybrid Clouds options provide even lower cost solutions.

Security is a major concern for election related data, with some cybersecurity experts advising against using online voting mechanisms or apps because they leave no paper trail. In particular, there is concern that Cloud based data systems could undermine the reliability of election results, and in turn undermine the democratic process. On the other hand, Cloud computing can securely store voter registration and voting data with more up-to-date and robust security systems, and allow for more frequent audits. Sensitive data can be reliably shielded from external scrutiny in a locally managed system, yet restricted access can be granted through the public Cloud, but with highly levels of discretion.

There is no doubt that the Cloud can offer options for increased voter accessibility. Throughout the world governments have begun to investigate Cloud capabilities in order to manage the voting process, particularly as a result of the current public health crisis.  This is leading to increased consumer acceptance that Cloud computing will play an essential role in post-Covid democratic processes.

Cat Mules

Cat Mules

Umbrellar's Digital Journalist, coming from a background in tech reporting and research. Cat's inspired by the epic potential of tech and helping kiwi innovators share their success stories.

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