Could Sierra Leone have organised the First Blockchain based Election?

Blockchain in Sierra Leone

Recently, Blockchain has continuously sparked some form of conversation. It has mainly been associated with Bitcoin, however, Blockchain goes beyond Bitcoin. Blockchain is, quite simply, a digital, decentralized ledger that keeps a record of all transactions that take place across a peer-to-peer network. Since blockchain is digital and decentralised, it is assumed to be safer. The decentralised ledger has however not been implemented in an election since in inception.

Citizens of Sierra Leone went to the polls on March 7 but this time something was different: the country recorded votes at 70% of the polling to the blockchain using a technology that is the first of its kind in actual practice.

Leonardo Gammar

The tech, created by Leonardo Gammar of Agora, anonymously stored votes in an immutable ledger, thereby offering instant access to the election results. Leonardo was impressed that a government was employing the use of blockchain technology in their election and had this to say, “Anonymized votes/ballots are being recorded on Agora’s blockchain, which will be publicly available for any interested party to review, count and validate. This is the first time a government election is using blockchain technology.” Leonardo further explained that the use of this technology as a means to record ballots and results by Sierra Leone increases the chance of legitimate elections and reduces fall-out from opposition parties.

Why is this interesting? While this is little more than a proof of concept – it is not a complete voting record but instead captured a seemingly acceptable plurality of votes – it’s fascinating to see the technology be implemented in Sierra Leone, a country of about 7.4 million people. The goal ultimately is to reduce voting costs by cutting out paper ballots as well as reducing corruption in the voting process.

Although one election in a country does not qualify as a movement, Leonardo and his team plan on expanding the reach of their product to other African countries and the rest of the world. It will be notable to have this particular technology implemented in Nigeria’s 2019 election to help ensure a safer and more secure election.

As for the election, it is still unclear who won and there will be a run-off election on March 27. While the election was held on 7th March with the technology, results were not declared till 13th March. This leaves much to be desired as the reason for using blockchain was to lower inconsistencies around counting and declaring winners.

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