Telangana to hold India’s first smartphone based e-Voting trial

The e-Voting system will use AI for a 3-factor authentication of valid voter. The initiative originated from the SEC's plan to enable the facility for certain categories of people for whom voting in person is difficult.

Hyderabad: The Telangana government on Wednesday said that it has developed India’s first smartphone-based e-Voting solution. The digital implementation has been successfully developed and tested, and a mock election via an app will be held at Khammam district. Registrations are open from October 8 to 18 for the same, and dummy voting is on October 20.

The ‘TSEC eVote’ Android app to be used for the trial is a ‘security hardened’ mobile application that will prevent tampering, said a statement from Telangana IT minister K. T. Rama Rao’s (KTR) office. The app will also bind a device ID and phone number to a specific citizen registration process such that only the same device can be used during voting, thereby enhancing security by design itself, it added.

Although the initial scope was limited to a subset of citizens, the dry run is open for all citizens of the district. The system for e-Voting was created considering the COVID-19 pandemic, which has “rushed the world into all-digital operations”, said the government.

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“The initiative has been driven by Telangana State Election Commission (TSEC) with the implementation support of Emerging Technologies Wing of ITE&C Department, Govt. of Telangana and the technical development by Centre for Development of Advanced Computing (CDAC),” stated the release from KTR’s office.

The technical development of the project has also been guided by an expert committee comprising Prof. Rajat Moona, director of IIT Bhilai and technical advisor to the Election Commission of India, and professors from IIT Bombay and IIT Delhi.

The new e-Voting solution will leverage Artificial Intelligence for a three-factor authentication of valid voter i.e. name Matching with Aadhaar, liveness detection of individual, and image matching with EPIC Database (with up to 15~20 year old records), said the government.

Further, blockchain (Distributed Ledger) technology is also being used to secure the de-identified and encrypted votes so that they are maintained as immutable record. The smartphone application follows a minimalist design approach and supports both English and Telugu, and also has a detailed help section with tutorial videos and helpline number to aid the citizens.

The entire process can be monitored and controlled by the admin using a web portal, wherein the generation/access of results is further protected with the requirement of a physical security token based decryption. Additionally, the entire data is being stored in the State Date Centres (SDCs) as an added security consideration.

The idea to create an e-Voting system initiative reportedly originated from the State Election Commission’s plan to enable the facility for persons with disabilities (PWD), senior citizens, citizens employed in notified essential services, sick people, polling personnel, IT Professional etc.

Hence, TSEC partnered with Emerging Technologies Wing, whose mandate is to support the government’s technology projects, to initiate the development and deployment of project on a pilot basis by leveraging emerging technologies to ensure it meets the strict requirements of the voting process.

Jayesh Ranjan, principal secretary (IT), said, “Artificial Intelligence and Blockchain are two of the most versatile emerging technologies that already empower various of our GovTech projects. The support and confidence of election commission in the such technologies is a testament of India’s growing strength in the field.”

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