While President Ernest Bai Koroma leaves office after serving two five-year terms, the maximum allowed by the constitution, the Sierra Leoneans have had to choose from 16 candidates, including Samura Kamara, former Foreign Minister, and Julius Maada Bio, former military head of state and candidate of the main opposition party.
Notably, in the westernmost district of Sierra Leone, the most populous in the country, the votes were recorded manually by Agora, a Swiss foundation offering digital voting solutions, using an authorized blockchain.
The idea was simple: in the same way that blockchain technology made it possible to ensure transparency with currency transactions by using public registers, by recording each blockchain vote, Agora ensured transparency with the votes cast in the district.
While entries on authorized blockchains can be viewed by anyone, entries can only be validated by authorized individuals.
This innovation comes in a context where the lack of transparency has tainted many elections around the world, but particularly in Africa. In Sierra Leone too, electoral transparency is always difficult. Poor network connectivity, low levels of literacy, and frequent electoral violence are common challenges facing elections.
“I think if we could do it in Sierra Leone, we can do it anywhere else,” said Leonardo Gammar, CEO of Agora. According to it, blockchain-powered e-voting will be cheaper for African countries because it reduces the cost of printing paper-based newsletters and, perhaps more importantly, significantly reduces electoral violence.
The big challenge for Agora is to deploy solutions to automate the entire electoral process with electronic voting using biometric data and personalized cryptographic keys and votes validated in turn by blockchain.
Currently, political opponents in the Democratic Republic of Congo are opposed to the use of electronic voting machines because they believe that these can be hacked and that the results can be manipulated. Unlike the technology of the blockchain.
The blockchain method primarily used by those engaging in cryptocurrency transactions is a decentralized mechanism where all the information is stored in blocks which form public ledgers. These public ledgers can be viewed by the registered users.
In the case of Sierra Leone elections, the system built by Agora allows the voters who are registered within the system to see these public ledgers but only authorized people can make any changes, thus reducing the chances of fraud since the information is available to all blockchain users enrolled in the system.
The agency which enabled the elections with blockchain, Agora, a Swiss foundation offers digital voting solutions and uses a permitted blockchain. Agora monitored the manual votes cast in the western district, the most populous, of the country, using the technology.
Leonardo Gammar, CEO of Agora, said Sierra Leone’s NEC was “open-minded” about the potential of blockchain in its elections after talks began late last year.