The Scottish Government Digital Economy action plan describes a goal of:
“Trial electronic voting solutions to increase democratic participation.”
The potential for this trend goes far beyond simply digitizing existing voting methods, and offers a path to an entire transformation of democracy itself.
Blockchain-enabled Liquid Democracy
A key technology that could underpin digital voting is the Blockchain, what has been called ‘Block the Vote‘.
The Market Mogul provides an overview of the role it could play in enabling this capability including the challenges, with Venture Beat describing how it could help tackle voter fraud, with the next major leap being defined as ‘Liquid Democracy‘.
Considerable technical research has been conducted to explore this scenario, such as this analysis from Plymouth University, this paper from Bitcoin specialist Weusecoins, as well as Tufts University, and the EU has also researched the possibility.
What is especially exciting about the trend is that the scope extends much further than just facilitating the digitization of the voting method, other experts have defined how this keystone would lead to a broader evolution of democracy itself.
With passions for the Scottish Independence vote still running high, and the dramatic scenes in Catalonia demonstrating just how vulnerable the paper-based ballot voting system is, these advances offer the tools to enable 21st century democracy through the use of blockchain technology for online voting, empowering the citizens directly with their own means of expressing political will.
How To Build a Democracy on the Blockchain
But that’s only the tip of the iceberg, it’s the full potential for massive social and political change that will provide the fuel for the equally large Scottish appetite for pioneering progressive disruption.
This is a vision quickly becoming entirely realizable as blockchain technologies and thought leadership charges ahead. In his Forbes article Alex describes Blockchain Democracy as Government Of The People, By The People, For The People, and how the blockchain provides all the essential foundations, such as integrity and transparency of all democratic and government transactions.
Everyone has the right to recognition everywhere as a person before the law. In other words, the right to an identity that has inherent value that can be hashed onto the blockchain at birth. We can aggregate other aspects of identity—diplomas, passport, driver’s license, social security card, voter ID—that currently exist in multiple databases into a single ledger and receive integrated services without multiple check-ins. We would own all our data and could decide how to deploy it. Our votes would have value.
This Blockchainhub presentation The Future of Democracy asks the questions that begin to probe the nature of this profound transformation, proposing in the future we won’t be citizens of nation states but of blockchains, with their underlying constitutions being defined through blockchain consensus protocols.
The CitizenLab describes how it could transform the face of democracy, and ethereum.org offers a guide for How to Build a Democracy on the Blockchain. This FastCompany article describes the background that led to the Democracy.Earth initiative.
Scotland is renowned for their highly engaged, informed public participation in politics, and this would translate naturally into a populace also willing to more directly express, and action, their views via Liquid Democracy.
The Economic Benefits of a fully Digital Nation
The potential economic benefit for Scotland is even greater again when you consider the fact that voting is just one of numerous applications that the Blockchain can be used to improve. Currency trading like Bitcoin is another and other use cases include land registries, welfare payments, taxes, law enforcement and many more, such that it has the potential to save the UK Government over £ 8 BILLION.
So we can think of deploying this technology in a form such that it operates as a public utility, like power and water. As Business for Scotland writes, this can be described as a ‘Common Blockchain Platform’, this public utility that enables everything from secure digital voting through our own digital currencies and these many public sector benefits.
The Scottish Common Blockchain would also enable secure online voting and encourage democratic participation amongst the young. Just as postal voting helps old folks vote, secure instant mobile voting will encourage younger generations to have their voice heard. If young people aged 16-25 voted as often as those over 50 then everything would change.
So the opportunity for Scotland is simply one of implementation; the technological leaps have been made and the best practice blueprints documented and shared. We have talked the talk of becoming a world leading digital nation, now we need to walk the walk.
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