Marking what could be a world first, the government of Sierra Leone (in partnership with Swiss-backed voting company Agora) has pivoted to blockchain technology in a bid to tally its presidential elections.
Sierra Leone’s latest presidential election is the fourth since its bloody civil war in 2002, and has seen some sixteen candidates stand for election – complicating the necessity that any single candidate would need to capture a required 55% of the vote.
Agora reportedly leveraged a permissioned blockchain in a bid to oversee the results of the country’s national election in real-time, and relayed data to individuals who were entrusted to verify the nation’s democratic process.
In a press statement, Agora’s Chief Operations Officer – Jaron Lukasiewicz – revealed the process at play; describing that the company assisted in the process of manually counting votes and then logging them on a blockchain.
“Voters complete their votes on paper ballots and then our team with impartial observers register them on the blockchain,” Lukasiewicz said.
Agora’s stack of blockchain services – which the company names a ‘skipchain‘ is designed to reach consensus through a process wherein a node only reads part of a blockchain.
At the lowest level of the stack, “write-permissioned” nodes are operated by Agora, Red Cross, École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, and the University of Freiburg, as well as ‘read-only’ nodes which let observers monitor data.
Lukasiewicz quipped that the use of blockchain technology powered a transparent voting process to the relief of both Sierra Leonean citizens and election authorities, saying that “a country like Sierra Leone can ultimately minimize a lot of the fall-out of a highly contentious election by using software like this.”
Agora CEO Leonardo Gammar revealed that his company is in conversations with other nations in Africa and Europe to determine the applicability of blockchain-powered voting tallies.
Despite some controversy surrounding physical skirmishes that broke out between impassioned voters at polls and party headquarters, Gammar quipped that “It has been incredible to play a role in helping Sierra Leone’s citizens exercise their democratic rights, and to help their country maintain a transparent democracy… I strongly believe that this election is the beginning of a much larger blockchain voting movement.”
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