Tech players called in for NSW iVote overhaul

Tech players called in for NSW iVote overhaul

Wants ideas on how best to refresh the state’s digital voting system for the 2019 election

Credit: Dreamstime

The NSW Government is calling on local tech players to pitch their ideas on how best to refresh the state’s digital voting system.

The iVote System is the NSW Electoral Commission’s platform for remote electronic voting, first deployed in 2011, giving eligible voters the ability to vote using the internet or telephone as an alternative to voting in person at a traditional polling booth.

The system was enhanced for the 2015 election, with Australian managed security service provider, SecureLogic, engaged to help push the electronic voting system along after securing a million-dollar, five-year deal with the NSW Electoral Commission.

Now, the system is set to be improved further in time for the State General Election in 2019.

In June, the NSW Government pledged $12.8 million in capital expenditure from 2017-18 to 2020-21 for the NSW Electoral Commission’s online systems. Part of this funding is going towards the improvements to the iVote system.

Following this backing, the NSW Electoral Commission released a request for information (RFI) to the market on 5 July, calling for pitches from tech players over how it should refresh the iVote system in preparation for the 2019 election.

According to the NSW Electoral Commission, the RFI process will give suppliers the opportunity to demonstrate new or innovative solutions that may better meet the needs of the agency.

Once the NSW Electoral Commission has understood the solutions being proposed, and has determined to procure commercial software, request for proposal (RFP) documents will be written to ensure that no solution that meets the agency’s requirements is unfairly disadvantaged.

The current iVote system comprises multiple software components, including registration, which includes the Registration System and the Credential Management System, both developed internally.

The components also include the Core Voting System, which was built from commercial software procured from Spanish online voting system vendor, Scytl, and the verification system – a telephone service developed internally.

However, the procurement strategy selected for the iVote refresh program will cover a range of procurements from the specialised software components to the procurement of specialist advisory services and other more general services such as data centres, call centres and mail house services.

At present, the NSW agency claims that only a handful of organisations worldwide have the requisite experience in deployed systems to meet its needs, including Scytl, Everyone Counts Inc. and Smartmatic, based in the UK.

Whilst the NSW Electoral Commission is confident that these organisations would have the capability to deliver and support an enhanced core voting system for 2019, it claims that there are no suitable suppliers on government panels.

The open tender process is aimed at ensuring that all companies with the capability to deliver the system have an opportunity to participate in the process.

As a result, the agency is actively researching and contacting organisations that could be potential suppliers and is also open to direct approaches from potential suppliers during this engagement period.

An open RFI step is planned to achieve the objective of identifying other viable solutions and suppliers.

Among the ideas and capabilities the agency wants to discuss with potential suppliers is the authentication of voters using conventional methods as well as possibility of using other means such as biometric, the use of multi-factor authentication, cryptographic techniques and the potential use of cloud based infrastructure and dedicated infrastructure.

The request for information closes to responses on 29 September.

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