How blockchain can help democracies become Smart Nations

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    Written by Joydeep Mondal, Global Entrepreneur Programme, Department of International Trade, UK Government

    We are living in a digital space, a new dimension where everything has been disrupted; a dimension that has given birth to digital nations. However, the quest to build a smart nation is incomplete if our governing system is like a pocket calculator in the age where our smartphones use more computation than NASA.

    The foundations of every smart nation rest on the founding principle of transparency and accountability of our governing system. Existing models for collaborative decision making once served our growing democracies well, yet today they are increasingly slow, expensive, and ineffective. Public trust in their outcomes is eroding and results in voter apathy. Campaign promises are regularly broken, and major decisions are taken without consultation or transparency. Our society is huddling into the future, but our democratic processes are stuck in the past, failing to advance at the same pace.

    The quality of the existing governing model has been debated from time to time by the government, governance bodies across the United Kingdom. GovTech catalyst Challenges were put across to the innovators around the globe to find solutions in relation to the following problems:

    • How might we build a smart census? (Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency)
    • How might we use emerging technologies to support decision making by social workers? (Cabinet Office)
    • How might we support operational decision making through the use of new digital technologies? (Cabinet Office, Bristol City Council, the Greater Manchester combined authority and Devon council)
    • How might we enable people to make more informed decisions about their health and care? (Department of Health and Social Care)
    • How might we use technology to better engage and support children from receiving government services? (Cafcass)
    • How might we increase youth involvement in government decision making? (Department for digital, culture, media and sports)

    We need smart nations to be transparent and trusted, allowing deliberation and inclusion, removing barriers rather than stacking them up. Technical, legislative and budgetary obstacles have prevented us from achieving this thus far, but they do not have to hinder us. Thanks to distributed ledger technology (DLT) we can create systems that directly engage and empower constituencies, employing mechanisms enabling them to vote smartly and efficiently, giving them confidence that their voices will be heard, and allowing them to see, first hand, the results of their voting activities.

    Smart nation strives to use blockchain technology to provide the unprecedented trust with their decision-making platform in the form of a secure digital ballot box that cannot be hacked, results cannot be altered and voter identities are protected.

    This concept is set to be a global disrupt in the international governing model through revolutionising the voting system. Democracy is much more than our electorates, our representative models, or our boards and management teams. Democracy is the opportunity to participate in the decision-making processes which relate to the shared matters which affect us. Democracy is about reaching a meaningful consensus on how to best use our shared resources. Distributed ledger technology, otherwise known as blockchain, to deliver a digital ballot box that cannot be hacked. Sharing all of the technological benefits that makes Bitcoin possible – being verifiable transactions of value without a bank – we could use blockchain transactions as votes, while still maintaining the anonymity of the voter. The end result is a system that is quicker to orchestrate than traditional voting methods, more convenient for voters which reduces apathy, and far cheaper than centralised, physical voting processes.

    What’s next for e-voting? The future of e-voting isn’t merely improving centralised, physical methods of vote collection. The technology now exists to deliver the opportunity to vote conveniently, and securely, from modern technology we are all so used to in every other facet of our lives. Driverless cars now exist, yet our democratic processes and tools are a comparable horse and cart. The way we govern our societies is a relic; the way collectively makes decisions has not changed in centuries. It is time for our democratic processes to meet the expectations set by every other part of modern life and we together develop a new world, the next dimension exists in the form of a smart nation.

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