The world’s first blockchain-powered elections just happened in Sierra Leone

Yomi Kazeem in Quartz: “On Mar. 7, elections in Sierra Leone marked a global landmark: the world’s first ever blockchain-powered presidential elections….

In Sierra Leone’s Western District, the most populous in the country, votes cast were manually recorded by Agora, a Swiss foundation offering digital voting solutions, using a permissioned blockchain. The idea was simple: just like blockchain technology helps ensure transparency with crytpocurrency transactions using public ledgers, by recording each vote on blockchain, Agora ensured transparency with votes cast in the district. While entries on permissioned blockchains can be viewed by everyone, entries can only be validated by authorized persons.

A lack of transparency has plagued many elections around the world, but particularly in some African countries where large sections of the electorate are often suspicions incumbent parties or ethnic loyalties have been responsible for the manipulation of the results in favor of one candidate or another. These suspicions remain even when there is little evidence of manipulation. A more transparent system could help restore trust.

Leonardo Gammar, CEO of Agora, says Sierra Leone’s NEC was “open minded” about the potential of blockchain in its elections after talks began late last year. “I also thought that if we can do it in Sierra Leone, we can do it everywhere else,” he says. That thinking is rooted in Sierra Leone’s developmental challenges which make electoral transparency difficult: poor network connectivity, low literacy levels and frequent electoral violence.

The big picture for Agora is to deploy solutions to automate the entire electoral process with citizens voting electronically using biometric data and personalized cryptographic keys and the votes in turn validated by blockchain. Gammar hopes Agora can replicate its work in other African elections on a larger scale but admits that doing so will require understanding the differing challenges each country faces.

Gammar says blockchain-powered electronic voting will be cheaper for African countries by cutting out the printing cost of paper-based elections but perhaps, more importantly, vastly reduce electoral violence…(More)”.