Blockchain Emerges As A Disruptive Technology For Sierra Leone Elections 2018

The most populous district in West African country Sierra Leone conducted the first ever presidential elections backed by Switzerland-based startup Agora’s permissioned blockchain.

World’s first blockchain based election

The Sierra Leone elections on March 7, 2018, marked the world’s first blockchain-based presidential elections making a global history.

A country in West Africa, Sierra Leone latest elections comprised of the pick of 16 candidates as the president Ernest Bai Koroma left the office after serving the five-year term twice, which is the maximum number allowed constitutionally. The candidates included the former foreign minister Samura Kamara and former military head of state Julius Maada Bio who was the candidate of the main opposition party.

With neither candidates i.e. Kamara and Bio, able to acquire 55 percent votes which are required, the election commission (NEC) of Sierra Leone released the results that suggest a run-off between the two candidates.

Agora facilitates transparency via permissioned blockchain

Agora, the blockchain startup oversaw the results of the country’s presidential election. In the Western District of Sierra Leone which is the most populous area of the country, the votes cast were recorded by Agora manually. Agora is a Swiss foundation that offers digital voting solutions on a permissioned blockchain.

Unlike public blockchains, Permissioned blockchains allow only the authorized individuals to validate the transactions.

The process wasn’t any different for the voters in comparison to the previous elections as they had to be physically present at the center, show their IDs and then cast their votes on a paper ballot.

Transparency is the biggest concern in the election facet, especially in specific African countries. The idea was to ensure transparency through Agora as everyone can view the entries made but only authorized person can validate them.

The CEO of Agora, Leonard Gammar explained that the NEC of Sierra Leone was open about blockchain’s potential. Given the development challenges the country faces including electoral violence, poor network connectivity, and low literacy rate, he further stated:

“I also thought that if we can do it in Sierra Leone, we can do it everywhere else.”

Gammar’s future plans to deploy blockchain on a larger scale

Agora basically aims to utilize the blockchain solutions to automate the blockchain election voting process completely where the citizens would cast electronically through biometric data and personalized cryptographic keys while the votes will be validated by blockchain.

Gammar also emphasized that blockchain based voting can be a cheaper version of the traditional system that will reduce the electoral violence to a great extent. As Gammar hopes to pull this off on a larger scale in other parts of Africa, he believes they can find the solutions to the local problems:

“If phones are not available, you can go borrow. If you are blind, we can make your phone speak to you. If you don’t read, we can put up pictures. There is no big technical issue. Everything else requires being imaginative.”

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