U.S. Ambassador to Georgia Kelly C. Degnan joined CEC Chairperson Tamar Zhvania in a ribbon-cutting ceremony to open a new USAID-supported cybersecurity server center. Georgia’s continued democratic development depends on greater resilience to malign influence, including cyberattacks. Ambassador Degnan highlighted the U.S. Government’s strong partnership with Georgia to protect the upcoming Parliamentary elections from external influence. The new server center was equipped in partnership with the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES), an implementing partner of USAID’s Elections and Political Processes program.
Ambassador Kelly Degnan’s Remarks to Media at the opening of Central Election Commission’s (CEC) Cybersecurity Server Center (August 17)
Q-n about opening of the Cybersecurity Server Center
Ambassador Kelly Degnan: Gamarjoba, I am very pleased to be here with chairwoman Zhvania for the opening of this Cybersecurity Server Center at the Central Election Commission. This is a very important development and quite impressive to see the small, but powerful room that is going to help protect Georgia’s election process with the latest state of the art technology. This is just the latest in the longstanding cooperation between the U.S. Embassy, USAID and the Central Election Commission. This is a part of a process that has been underway to help the CEC adapt to new challenges like cyberthreats and even the pandemic. We will certainly continue that close cooperation with the CEC to ensure that Georgians can go to the ballot box in October with confidence in their CEC and electoral process. This new server center puts the CEC in a better position to safeguard against some of the of the kinds of technological threats and attacks that we have seen elsewhere, and we are very proud to be part of helping the CEC in its job to make these elections in October free, fair and transparent.
Q-n about pre-election environment, the Ambassador’s expectations for the elections, the government’s claims about possible provocations from the opposition, the opposition’s responsibility, along with the government, for free and fair elections
Ambassador Kelly Degnan: Thank you for the questions. It is an election; there is going to be a lot of political rhetoric, on all sides. I think what is clear is that the voters deserve information about the issues that are important to Georgian voters. That is one reason why these elections are important, because they give voters an opportunity to elect their own representative to parliament, to bring more parties into the parliament that are going to be able to represent the variety of interests and priorities that Georgians have. I think the majoritarian seats are familiar and important, but proportional lists are also very important, because that is how new parties, additional parties, are going to enter the parliament and make it more representative in the long run.
Q-n about Russia’s possible meddling in the elections, possible cyber attacks similar to the “worm” virus, possibility to make elections safe from such attacks
Ambassador Kelly Degnan: Thank you. That is a very important question that, I think, all of us who are holding elections this year are facing. I think the example of the server that was open today is one example of how Georgia is making itself stronger against those kinds of potential attacks from anyone. And, in addition to that, the U.S. Embassy has a lot of programs to help the Georgian public discern better the difference between fake news and factual news. Media have a responsibility to fact-check their reporting and not report rumors and speculation, but report confirmed facts, with their sources cited. I think it is a combined effort by the Central Election Commission, which has done a good job of trying to get ahead of the curve, media and, of course, the public being very discerning and careful about the way it reads and interprets the news that is reported.