Can the Blockchain Tame Moscow’s Wild Politics?

Sarah Holder at CityLab: “…In 2014, Moscow Mayor Sergey Sobyanin launched Active Citizen, an e-voting platform designed to allow citizens to directly weigh in on non-political city decisions—things like setting speed limits, plotting bus routes, and naming subway stations. Since then, 2,800 polls have been administered via the app and almost 2 million users across this city of 11 million residents have participated.

Active Citizen bears a family resemblance to other app-based citizen portals that cities are attempting to deploy, like the popular SeeClickFix, which originated in New Haven and is now used by many cities nationwide, and MyLA311, in L.A. They’re all aimed at boosting citizen engagement and government accountability, marketed as tools to connect residents to municipal services and help deliver swift and tangible results. But in Russia, where widespread corruption and a tendency toward authoritarianism have long been features of governance, the stakes of building that trust are higher.

That’s why this month, Moscow officials announced they would be piloting a move of Active Citizen onto “the blockchain.” A blockchain is an online database of sorts: a digitized, decentralized, and typically completely public ledger of transactions and interactions. Often used to track secure financial transactions (it underpins the crypto-currency Bitcoin, for example), the system is hosted by multiple “nodes,” all of which have a copy of the database and the information contained therein.

Lately, blockchain has also become a buzzword meant to convey accountability and security: Its workings are complex enough that the general public generally can’t fully wrap their heads around it, but sexy enough to inspire confidence. Moscow officials are using Active Citizen, with its new blockchain-assured transparency, as proof that the city is indeed heeding the will of the majority. “The city entrusts you to decide,” reads Active Citizen’s motto….(More)”.