Sierra Leone Just Held the World’s First Blockchain-Powered Election

A Swiss startup manually recorded the votes on a permissioned blockchain, and verified election results.

3. 9. 18 by Kristin Houser
Getty Images
Image by Getty Images

On March 7, 2018, blockchain startup Agora oversaw the results of Sierra Leone’s presidential election, marking the first use of the technology in this capacity.

For voters, the process wasn’t any different than previous elections. They arrived at their polling center, showed election officials their IDs, and then cast their votes on a paper ballot for one of 16 candidates.

What happened next was unlike any other election, though. As Agora’s chief operating officer Jaron Lukasiewicz explained to Coindesk, the Swiss startup then manually recorded the votes on a permissioned blockchain.

Permissioned blockchains aren’t quite the same as public blockchains, like those supporting the cryptocurrencies bitcoin. While anyone can validate transactions on a public blockchain, only authorized persons can validate transactions on a permissioned blockchain.

Advertisement

In the case of the Sierra Leone election, the authorized parties included people from Agora, the Red Cross, École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), and the University of Freiburg.

However, like a public blockchain, anyone can view transactions recorded on a permissioned blockchain. That means that once the groups managing the blockchain verified the Sierra Leone votes, anyone — voters, candidates, or just interested third parties — could see the election results.

According to Agora, the company even produced their results two hours sooner than election officials.

Sierra Leone has a history of violence surrounding elections, with several incidents reported in the days prior to 2018’s presidential election. The nation’s government is also more corrupt than most, so the small West African country served as an appropriate testing ground for a technology designed to increase fairness in the election process.

Advertisement

“A country like Sierra Leone can ultimately minimize a lot of the fall-out of a highly contentious election by using software like this,” Lukasiewicz told Coindesk.

Agora’s use of blockchain for the Sierra Leone election isn’t the company’s ultimate vision for the technology. Eventually, the startup hopes to eliminate the use of paper ballots altogether, allowing voters to cast their votes via personal electronic devices. This will cut down on election costs, increase voter accessibility, and eliminate a potential avenue for corruption.

Still, Agora’s work in Sierra Leone marked an important milestone on the path to a more transparent and fair democracy built on blockchain technology.

Disclosure: Several members of the Futurism team, including the editors of this piece, are personal investors in a number of cryptocurrency markets. Their personal investment perspectives have no impact on editorial content.

Advertisement


As a Futurism reader, we invite you join the Singularity Global Community, our parent company’s forum to discuss futuristic science & technology with like-minded people from all over the world. It’s free to join, sign up now!

Share This Article

Keep up.
Subscribe to our daily newsletter to keep in touch with the subjects shaping our future.
I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its User Agreement and Privacy Policy

Advertisement

Copyright ©, Singularity Education Group All Rights Reserved. See our User Agreement, Privacy Policy and Cookie Statement. The material on this site may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, cached or otherwise used, except with prior written permission of Futurism. Fonts by Typekit and Monotype.