America is not a true democracy. But it could be with the help of technology

Nicole Softness at Quartz: “Many Americans aren’t aware they don’t live in a direct democracy. But with a little digital assistance, they could be….Once completely cut off from the global community, Estonia is now considered a world leader for its efforts to integrate technology with government administration. While standing in line for coffee, you could file your tax return, confirm sensitive personal medical information, and register a new company in just a few swipes, all on Estonia’s free wifi.

What makes this possible without the risk of fraud? Digital trust. Using a technology called blockchain, which verifies online communications and transactions at every step (and essentially eliminates the possibility of online fraud), Estonian leadership has moved the majority of citizenship processes online. Startups have now created new channels for democratic participation, like Rahvaalgatus, an online crowdsourcing platform that allows users to discuss and digitally vote on policy proposals submitted to the Estonian parliament.

Brazil has also utilized this trust quite valiantly. The country’s constitution, passed in 1988, legislated that signatures from 1% of a population could force the Brazilian leadership to recognize any signed document as an official draft bill and vote. Until recently, the notion of getting sufficient signatures on paper would have been laughable: that’s just over 2 million physical signatures. However, votes can now be cast online, which makes gathering digital signatures all the more easy. As a result, Brazilians now have more control over the legislature being brought before parliament.

 Blockchain technology creates an immutable record of signatures tied to the identities of voters. Again, blockchain technology is key here, as it creates an immutable record of signatures tied to the identities of voters. The government knows which voters are legitimate citizens, and citizens can be sure their votes remain accurate. When Brazilians are able to participate in this manner, their democracy shifts towards the sort of “direct” democracy that, until now, seemed logistically impossible in modern society.

Australian citizens have engaged in a slightly different experiment, dubbed “Government 2.0.” In March 2016, technology experts convened a new political party called Flux, which they describe as “democracy for the information age.” The party platform argues that bureaucracy stymies key government functions, which cannot process the requisite information required to govern.

If elected to government, members of Flux would vote on bills scheduled to appear before parliament based on the digital ballots of the supporters who voted them in. Voters could choose to participate in casting their vote for that bill themselves, or transfer their votes to trusted experts. Flux representatives in parliament would then cast their votes 100% based on the results of these member participants. (They are yet to win any seats in government, however.)

These solutions show us that bureaucratic boundaries no longer have to limit our access to a true democracy. The technology is here to make direct democracy the reality that the Greeks once imagined.

More so, increasing democratic participation will have positive ripple effects beyond participation in a direct democracy: Informed voting is the gateway to more active civic engagement and a more informed electorate, all of which raises the level of debate in a political environment desperately in need of participation….(More)”