Wednesday, July 19, 2017

What if Westeros from GOT were Electronic Voting Land?

As the seventh season of Game of Thrones (GOT) is finally here, we decided to have some fun, fantasising what the most memorable characters would be if The Seven Kingdoms were our own Electronic Voting Land.

Among the Great Houses would most probably be, as the real big players for ruling Westeros: Internet voting, Direct-Recording Electronic voting systems (DRE), Biometric voting systems, Punched cards machines, Optical scan systems and, E-voting apps. Of course, just as the Lannisters, Starks, Tyrells, Greyjoys, Baratheons, Arryns, Tullys and Martells; they could all potentially work together as allies in conjunction with vassal houses, or unconnectedly as adversaries.

The power struggle for ruling the realm, in this case, might not include magic, dragons or war arsenal, but it definitely includes powerful not-so-secret weapons such as voter verified paper audit trails (VVPAT), verifiable electronic ballots, a strict audit chain of custody, cryptographic systems, and cutting edge hardware and software. So, let the battle for the Iron Throne in Electronic Voting Land begin…
  1. Daenerys Targaryen, as Internet Voting. Some distrust her capacity for great achievements but when given the opportunity she knows how to lead the way to modernity and gaining people’s love and trust. Many believe that "madness" is in her veins- so she still needs to court potential allegiances- but she’s working hard to have her seat on the throne. Besides, she can perform fanciful actions (maybe not with dragons), but with the latest online technology and cryptographic capabilities.
  2. The Starks vs. The Lannisters as electronic voting machines in elections booths. They have worked together in multilevel elections (just as they did work together under Robert Baratheon's ruling), but they have also been crucial and long-standing antagonists. In this case, we visualize the Lannisters as document/paper-based voting systems and the Starks as direct-recording voting machines. The Starks have been working hard preparing for the future. As they know, “there will always be a winter that we must prepare for.
  3. Tywin Lannister as the punched cards system, who saw his house’s splendour a few years back, but is now gone- leaving other Lannisters (marked paper based systems) as rival claimants to the throne. 
  4. Cersei Lannister as optical scanning systems that, despite all the controversies and animosity from certain users, has maintained itself as a strategic leader. It not only makes use of traditional and innovative means to gain power and credibility, but also takes advantage of its lineage’s experience.
  5. Eddard "Ned" Stark as lever machines, strong and powerful in the beginning while its leadership lasted- leaving his descendants prepared for battle, for winter, and for working towards the future of the electronic voting field.
  6. Sansa Stark as DRE with no voter verified paper audit trail. Many people value her efforts and her journey but she is lacking the most significant support- power and strategic tool (VVPAT)- which makes her less lovable and enchanting. She might want to sit on the throne, but while missing the basic warranties for trust and reliability, she still needs a long way to go.
  7. Arya Stark as public network DRE voting system, the defiant one (that transmits data from the polling place to another location over a public network.) It might seem as a blind and unruly one, but some believe that the future is closer to her.
  8. Jon Snow as DRE with voter verified paper audit trail. At the beginning, some believed he knew nothing. However he has proven them wrong every time (leaving his mark as an industry’s standard - VVPAT). He has become a valued leader, who offers security, auditability and he’s a good team player. Some believed he was gone, but he has come back to life stronger, with better tools, inspiring trust and ready to engage more and more diverse supporters. He might be among the strongest contestants for the throne.
  9. Tyrion as biometric authentication systems. Forgetting he was born as a Lannister, Tyrion’s battle is more about valuing the most vital and unique characteristics of people, making easy and feasible incredibly large and complex projects. Although he might be underestimated or questioned, Biometric registration and authentication systems –just as Tyrion- can actually work with different systems. He could be a changing-game character in the conquest of the Seven Kingdoms.
  10. The White Walkers as electronic voting’ fraud advocates. Our own GoT also has creatures that are always advocating against e-voting. They might be considered ghosts or legendary creatures by many, but they do exist and you can usually find them on the other side of the wall of modernisation and auditability.
In this Westeros, ultimate power- instead of deriving from a King- would come from conquering effective, auditable, transparent, secure and reliable automated elections. Mastering election technology will leave Election management bodies (EMBs), voters, parties and all other election stakeholders satisfied in our peculiar ‘electoral Iron Age’.

Image by Rob Obsidian

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Mildred: Proud of my company, proud of my work

Mildred vividly remembers that day twelve years ago when she started working at Smartmatic as a Documentation Analyst. Like it was yesterday, she can still recall that heady feeling that swept over her at the realization that she was working with a company imbued with a sense of purpose.    

Now a Deployment Services Manager, she hasn’t lost any of that pride. Now, more than ever, she is convinced that Smartmatic is a company on a mission. She realizes too that one’s success inside the company comes with deep commitment and an affinity for the values and principles of Smartmatic.
For her, it’s not so much the personality that matters but the everyday attitude what make the difference.

When it comes to promotions, Mildred believes that slow and steady beats a meteoric rise. “I have been growing both personally and professionally in the company. One step at a time,” she says.

As Deployment Services Manager within the Global Services team, Mildred is in charge of human resources related to deployment of logistics and operations in support of requirements set by Project Managers.

“Despite the many challenges faced, I have always given the best of myself,” says Mildred, who swears that the countless ups and downs have helped her to turn her weaknesses into strengths and become a better person.

Mildred recognizes two important traits of team-players in Smartmatic: a service orientation and a helpful attitude towards a co-workers; both critical in fostering an ideal work environment and an exceptional corporate culture.

“While at work, I have cried and laughed. I feel part of a great family, “ Mildred says. “Helping each other has always been our motto.”

As with any other family, achievements start with individual effort and passion.  
“In Smartmatic, you need to have LOVE for what you do. And you need to be consistent and to stay committed to your goals, to be more than a fellow worker (become a friend) and always pursue excellence with great humility.”

For some colleagues like Mildred, the beauty of life is not necessarily finding success but also lies in feeling inspired even by the smallest details.

 “Nobody said it was going to be easy, but nobody said it is supposed to be too hard either. Whether it goes one way or another depends on us and the love we put into everything we do.” 

Monday, March 13, 2017

Barbara: ‘In the Boca office, we work like captains and play like pirates’

Smartmatic has grown exponentially in the last decade. However, most of our offices have remained as personal and embracing as when they first opened. Our Boca office is one of them.

Barbara Leon-McDonald, who has been here for almost a decade working on Global Business Support, gives us a general idea of the ‘Alice in Wonderland’ kind of life that our Boca team is used to. Not really for the craziness, which is still there, but mainly for the incredible mix of energy, fun, peculiar stories and long-lasting influence within the company.

Barbara warn us not to be fooled by first impressions. “The environment here aesthetically is college campus style and, high paced yet relaxed in a make-it-happen attitude kind of way.”

90% of the office contains all high level Smartmatic employees -at any given time-. “We house some of the top executives of the company, thus you have a collaboration of high energy, strong work ethics and the attitude that together we can make it happen. This, without losing the ability to smile, play pranks and make it a very comfortable environment. Very unusual for a high level executive arena.”

This is the reason behind the Boca office’s thrilling energy. “In this atmosphere where all employees are high level, we need to get used to a fast paced environment. However, our high level team members are the easiest going and they always make it a happy and easy going workplace. There is high respect but in a very peaceful almost comedic way.”

Barbara is one of the few women working in the Boca team, but the situation is changing and she is glad about the balance. “I was the only women in the office for a long time amongst all the men colleagues; but I’m happy to report that The Boca Raton office now houses 3 female employees, so for the first time ever the field is fair play.”

Joking apart, Barbara tells us that among the many things she appreciates about Smartmatic is the opportunity to work with people she respects and admires. “I take my job seriously and with high integrity. The highs are the people I work with, the lows are probably the deadlines we are always working on with minimal time - yet we always make it happen.”

For this devoted colleague, in the Boca office the camaraderie they have achieved during all these years, it is like the saying ‘work like a captain and play like a pirate.’ “We are a work family.”

However, the work itself and the organisation mission are also significant reasons to keep going for Barbara. “I enjoy the diversity of projects I work with on a daily basis. The daily phone calls with colleagues all over the world; and the satisfaction of knowing that as a company our main goal is to bring democracy to the world by offering quality services, machines, software and the best people, it is gratifying.  I'm from a country where democracy has suffered quite a lot, so, working for a company that strides to ensure that everyone can vote and that everyone's vote counts, fulfills me as an individual.”

Barbara has her purposes clear, as well as many other Smartmatic employees: “This team works hard. Most travel a lot which keeps them away from family and friends for a large portion of time, so when we work together, we try to keep it real and make it happen.”

Monday, February 20, 2017

Paul Chen: “We believe in working hard and united to achieve quality”

The Smartmatic Taiwan team have something clear: the light at the end of the tunnel is called “quality”. It does not matter how hard the road present itself. The secret to success, according to Paul Chen (Senior Hardware Branch Manager), it is having a team that work with cohesion and who share common aims to produce the best quality products.

The hardware development team is responsible for an important part of all the magic within Smartmatic’s creation and design of products and devices. Yet, their work is full of challenges.

“Our most pressing challenges include: the increasing workload we are facing although we have been under staff for quite a long time; the need to solve a number of issues in really short time to meet the target schedule and; the responsibility to produce the best machines without any delay for meeting our customers’ deadlines,” ponders Paul.

But for Chen and all the Taiwan team, there is only one way to face challenging times. They announce it with a mixture of calmness and fun -convinced there is no better way- “Work hard!  Work Harder! Work Harder and harder, to solve the problems.”

Working hard is te first step, but there is much more into achieving the company’s objective for their team. “We are united” shares Paul, when describing  the work environment of over 25 people building the Smartmatic Taiwan HDM group.

That unity comes from learning together how to bring some Smartmatic values to the everyday life of the office. “The top 5 highlights of our jobs here are working with integrity, honesty and candor, trying to be efficient and commited in everything we do as a team.”

It has not being difficult to follow this motto, taking into account that Paul lists among the top strengths his team brings into the company:

1.      Good internal communication and fast react to the tasks
2.       We share the passion and commitment to develop the best quality machines, while always meeting the customer’s schedule
3.       Smartmatic Taiwan is an ISO certified company. We have very clear and stricts procedures and protocols to follow, ensuring we can develop and produce the best quality machines.”    

The Taiwan troop is another example of the way we do things in Smartmatic. We believe working hard to achieve quality goes hand in hand with building a solid and cohesive team.

Friday, January 20, 2017

A Dragon Awardee’s take on the success of the 2016 Philippine elections

The 2016 Philippine Elections has proven to be a huge success not just for the country but for the Philippine Commission on Elections (Comelec), which has been reaping accolades from around the world for its role in administering one of the largest, fastest, and most credible elections in Philippine history.

Undeniably, it is also another sterling feat for Smartmatic; one which further reinforces its global market leadership.

A lot of factors underpin this accomplishment, not least of which are the efforts of two Smartmatic Dragon Awardees - Fe Ordoño and Nonoy Escolin.

For Fe, who is Bid Manager for Smartmatic Philippines, key to the success of the project started with the early preparation for the tender. “To be ready for the bids, high-level planning and preparation of potential eligibility requirements with corporate and senior management started almost six months prior to the bid publication,” Fe said.

Her experienced team ensured that documents were in compliance with all the local procurement law in advance, hence, getting a good head start in the process. “It was really a team effort. The whole APAC team, with the support of corporate, was on bidding and contract negotiation mode for almost one and a half year. We were working on an average of one bid per month, so it was a very exciting and stressful period,” she added.

Fe’s leadership proved efficient as Smartmatic won the most important tenders to provide the automation platform for the General Elections. Putting the experience of its previous two Philippine elections in practice, Smartmatic was able to work with the Comelec to guarantee the election ran smoothly.

As a Filipino voter, Fe believes that the 2016 elections were yet another leap forward in terms of transparency and efficiency. “Automation brought cleaner and peaceful elections, better transparency, faster count and election results,” Fe said, adding that Filipinos will expect at least the same bench mark for future elections.

When asked to compare automated elections with the previous manual elections in her country, Fe cited the speedy release of election results as the game-changer. “This change equate to more peaceful election as the “dagdag bawas” syndrome, rampant in previous manual elections, was corrected.”

Having seen the process of technology adoption from up close, Fe believes that other countries wishing to shift to automated elections could definitely take a leaf from the Philippine experience. For her, all efforts should be made to circumvent the usual barriers to election modernization, that is, political will, and budget.

The two-time Dragon Awardee also advices other countries aspiring to implement technology in their elections to collaborate closely with all the major stakeholders to ensure that automation gets the needed push.