31 August 2022

Interview with Silvia Caparros, CEO of Scytl, specialist in online voting.

Democracy Technologies: How was  Scytl founded? 

Silvia Caparros: The company was founded in 2001 by two PhD candidates at the University of Barcelona who were the first to publish papers on electronic voting in Europe.  

Following the debates about the electoral machines which were being used in Florida for the US elections in 2000, they were inspired to set up the company of which I am now the CEO. 

DT: What is your mission? 

Caparros: Our mission and our vision is to power democracy, and we really believe in the cutting-edge technology available to do so. We would like to see online voting, not only as a way of improving and expanding democracy, but also as a far-reaching means to help any country and any organisation, from small to very large projects. We want to provide our customers with secure and outstanding solutions and services that really help them to improve and digitalise their processes.

DT: Could you describe the kind of services or solutions you offer? What are the most common use cases?

Caparros: Our core product, “InVote” is based on internet voting. This is how we started, and this is where we are really strong. We claim to have the most secure solution in the world which  has been used by the most advanced democracies in the world. 

So, InVote (Internet Voting) is our main solution which we offer in three varieties: InVote Now, InVote Pro and InVote Go. The difference between them is the market where they are used and how we address the security demands for the specific service for our customers, both in the private market and in the public market. We also have a bigger portfolio of solutions and products which covers different stages of the electoral process: the pre-election, the election itself, which is the voting process, and the post-election. And then we have specific solutions for the private market, such as „Meeting Manager“, which is a perfect tool for assemblies. We also have a participation platform to address municipalities. 

DT: What exactly does your participation platform for municipalities do?

Caparros: It is an engagement platform for fostering and promoting the relationship between governments and citizens. They can be used for participatory budgets, surveys, for voting, or for civil society initiatives. It is not just for governments, it can also be used in the private sector. 

DT: Could you give us an example, some best practises in your work that you are particularly proud of? 

Caparros: In terms of internet voting, we are proud of being the most secure solution worldwide. We’ve been providing our services and technology to, for instance, the Swiss Kanton Neuchatel, which was the first government that trusted our technology, but also to different ministries in France. We implemented the first internet voting project in Norway, and also provided what we call “electoral management services and solutions“ in some countries in Latin America and Africa.

Another of our important projects involve helping the European Parliament to disseminate results after the European elections every five years. So, we cannot choose just one, because each of them has been a milestone for our company and our history – not only a milestone from the point of view of elections, but also from the point of view of technology. 

DT: What is the scope of your projects? 

Caparros: We have provided services and technologies to more than 30 countries in over 300 projects around the world. 

Right now, we are already in the fourth generation of our internet voting solution, and it has been used by France, Switzerland, Australia, Canadian municipalities, and many other organisations and private institutions. 

DT: Do you provide your services – voting services, electoral services, and participatory services – all over Europe or just in specific countries? 

Caparros: In terms of internet voting, I would say that France, Switzerland, Australia, and Canada are the most advanced countries in the public arena, in public projects. But apart from internet voting, you can provide other types of digital election solutions basically everywhere in the world.

DT: What is the bandwidth of your services? Do you just provide the technology, or are consulting, educational services and project management also included? 

Caparros: We like to say that we are electoral experts. This is how we see ourselves. We are not just technology providers. Of course, we started with the technology, but I would say that we are an electoral company, that’s our expertise. We provide both the technology and the services, including project management. The training, integration, and infrastructure depend on the specific project. 

DT: What kind of cities or countries can come to you as potential customers? 

Caparros: For services like voter education or worker training, election night reporting or participation platforms, you don’t need to be a big country, city, or state. They are affordable for most municipalities. Of course, big election management systems are for government-level use. When we talk about an internet voting project or about a public market, then of course you need a bigger stage, government, ministries, but also municipalities with a big population. 

DT: If a mayor or a minister would like to start a project with online voting or online citizens’ participation, what tips would you share? 

Caparros: The first thing you have to think about is: how adaptable or how customisable is the solution to the legislation and to the security levels? Most jurisdictions already have standards for security requirements as well as GDPR requirements. So, the first thing they have to know is whether the solution is or can be made compliant to that.

Then you should check if the solution complies with the Council of Europe’s recommendations about secrecy, anonymity, integrity and auditability. It is important to get  technological advice because you have to prove that the system providing you the services for the election is really compliant, secure, transparent, trustworthy, and can be audited.  

DT: How do you think the industry is going to develop in the years to come? 

Caparros: I think that the market is going to grow, not only because of technologies but also because the pandemic has changed the paradigm. Companies and organizations that were never  thinking about doing anything digital are now embracing digital elections and digital transformation. The systems need to become more transparent, secure, and auditable, and this is something that technology provides. The evolution of democracy is really linked to technology.