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

Friday, July 14, 2017

“Our true ‘QA spirit’ brings the light of excellence”

What exactly is Smartmatic’s Quality Assurance (QA) spirit?

According to Herlen Rosales, Compliance Manager, the best QA professionals need to fulfill some basic missions:
·           To feel passionate about improving the quality of applications and products.
·           To combine a perfect dose of both curiosity and wickedness, which motivates them to seek potential bugs in applications before they hit the market.
·           To be brave and prepared to challenge problems and shortcomings. Know how to transmit security when communicating.
·           To maintain a thirst for knowledge- learning from and with the engineers and developers.
·           To stay commited to understanding the whole application in depth before testing starts.
Although Quality Assurance might seem distressing, Rosales is committed to elevating satisfaction by taking the team’s work further than the expectations. “It is not easy, but for us, evaluating and learning from our projects is vital and rewarding. It is our duty to pre-emptively anticipate that applications may have defects. Our job is to always go beyond the expected procedures and tests and guarantee our apps hit the market bugs-free.”

Herlen’s vision for what successful QA is likely comes from more than twelve years of involvement in the area at Smartmatic. “I believe it is a challenge, but also an honor to be a Compliance Manager. One of the reasons for which I decided to take the lead is that I want to help Smartmatic live by the true QA spirit.”

Our efforts go far beyond verifying that we develop good products and that we meet clients’ needs. "We strive to achieve the highest quality standards, focusing on excellence in what we test and how we do it. We also work very hard to innovate and refine the performance testing of all our products, including usability features and the non-functional requirements. And we are not just proud of it, we are loving every bit of the process!”

Herlen is convinced that we are on our way to becoming one of the leading tech multinationals of the world, and that subsequently, “we are both raising the bar for the industry and ourselves. When we are talking about quality, we are really looking at the satisfaction level that our products bring from a point of view of functional and non-functional requirements- particularly during all the stages of a given project. We are fussy; we want better metrics; we want better results; and we want to always improve from what is expected of us in the election technology industry.”

To catalyze change is never easy, but as Herlen puts it: “it is within ourselves not to settle with what is working well, as professionals as much as individuals. We are working on being better coaches; letting people be; giving them more time and space for doing what they think they have to do; and most importantly, allowing them to fail sometimes. It is the only way to be better leaders and better people. Our human side is the only thing we can’t allow to fail.”

Herlen is a vital piece in the success of our products, and consequently, she wants to spread the energy among her team. “I picture all testers and compliance collaborators feeling bonded, confident and proud of their daily job. It is our responsibility to bring the light of quality to our applications. How can we not be proud?,” she sums up, fairly pleased.