At the time of this interview, Nyimbi Odero was a consultant for the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in Nigeria. A native to Kenya, Odero has extensive experience as a software, Internet, and network entrepreneur with various startups in Africa. Prior to joining INEC as an electoral assistant, he worked as the Office Lead for English-speaking West Africa at Google. In that role, he created programs, initiatives and projects to increase the number of Internet users in Nigeria, Liberia, Sierra Leone, and the Gambia. He has experience engaging the government as well as the public and private sector regarding policies regulating the competitiveness and accessibility of the Internet. Odero has a special interest in education, and he initiated the Google University Access Programme, which delivers bandwidth, wireless networks and inexpensive computing devices to university students and communities.
INEC (Independent National Electoral Commission)
Country of Reform:
Date of Interview:
Wednesday, October 5, 2011
In this interview, Nyimbi Odero explains the role of the Independent National Electoral Commission in providing a certified voters’ register for the 2011 elections in Nigeria. He describes his role in designing and obtaining the necessary equipment to run the election through the mechanism of a reverse vickery auction designed to improve transparency. He details the process by which the INEC redesigned the power system to run on extended lithium ferrous phosphate batteries to increase efficiency. He explains how he led the INEC in taking advantage of existing open source software and altering it to fit the Nigerian context. He elaborates on how this effort to be cost efficient was initially met with a backlash from companies that had traditionally profited from the elections. Odero describes how his team installed a patching infrastructure to facilitate the process of installing software on a large number of computers that were used for the voter registration, and explains how culturally embedded meanings of the word ‘patch’ caused Nigerians to be skeptical of the new technology. He discusses how severe time constraints forced the INEC to train people and improvise with equipment throughout the registration process rather than before it began. Odero touches on the key role that Nigerian youth played throughout the process. He explains how the INEC used social media to involve the Nigerian electorate, and details the widespread use of mobile phones to improve security and information sharing. He concludes by emphasizing the potential of open source software to improve the transparency and efficiency of democratic elections across the African continent.
Nyimbi Odero - Full Interview
electoral management body