Bitcoin Hype Aside, Blockchain For The ‘Public Good’ Comes To The Rescue

Story by: Roger Aitken


Most of the hype concerning blockchain revolves around its applications in finance and business. The cryptocurrency market and Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs) still dominate discussions about the technology and billions of dollars continue to flow into the space, but the focus has mainly been directed towards blockchain’s use as a money-making technology.

People tend to gloss over the possible applications for the public good from deploying blockchain or distributed ledger technology (DLT). And, to quote George Washington, the first President of the United States (U.S.) and one of the nation’s Founding Fathers: “I have no other view than to promote the public good, and am unambitious of honors not founded in the approbation of my Country.”

Now this could be viewed as quite unfortunate when considering that the security, transparency and immutability that blockchain technology provides makes it a prime tool for such efforts. While Bitcoin was conceived in reaction to the financial crisis of the late noughties (2000s) and slated to be a digital currency free from the influence of financial institutions, not many today are familiar with these roots.

So, it should be seen positively that a number of projects are pursuing this “for-the-people” viewpoint and offering mechanisms to promote fairness and equality. To this end a number of initiatives in the space have sprung and appear now to be gaining some traction. And, it all starts by offering an amazing product or service to gain traction.

Pioneering blockchain-based platform Horizon State, for example, recently announced several partnerships where its voting mechanisms will be put to use in an effort to encourage public engagement. And, decentralized social media platform Sapien secured $11 million from its ICO, which is allowing it to pursue its goal of providing equitable means for content creators to publish content.

Elsewhere, projects like Substratum, a U.S.-based software development firm that has architected, developed and deployed software solutions for Fortune 100 companies such as Apple, Disney Facebook and HP amongst others, and the Decentralized Identity Foundation (DIF), which is building an open source decentralized identity ecosystem for people, organizations, apps and devices, aim to provide decentralization to network infrastructures and digital identity, respectively.

So, with this in mind here are three areas where these projects are helping address modern societal problems and promote the public good.

1. Consensus Building

Despite the growth of democracy worldwide, the mechanisms used to facilitate the democratic process are far from perfect. For example, it is only lately that governments have adopted electronic voting to facilitate elections.

In electronic voting, often called “e-voting”, voters use an electronic device to make and record their ballot choices. Voting choices are recorded on the machine itself or the machine generates a token on which the choices are recorded.

Electronic voting gained popularity in Estonia back in 2001 with the “e-minded” coalition government. The country became the first in the world to hold legally binding general elections over the Internet with their pilot project for the municipal elections in 2005 and in 2014 became the first state to provide e-residency. Further, the Estonian parliamentary election in 2007 also used Internet voting – another world first.

Even the likes of U.S. President Donald Trump – prior to his Presidential election victory – applied for and was granted Estonian e-residency Trump’s interest in the e-residency was said to be sparked following a successful covert operation by the Estonian secret service ESSAD.

Trump was quoted in early 2016 by Estonian World, an online English-language media channel about the country, saying he liked the e-residency as he “likes big ideas”. He added: “I don’t like losers. If you’re going to be thinking, you may as well think big. It is not ripping us off like China or Japan or Mexico.”

Many countries and localities though still rely on manual paper-based methods, which are vulnerable to manipulation. However, even with the adoption of electronic methods, problems can still arise where software or hardware errors can lead to disastrous results and undermine the integrity of the process.

Horizon State, for example, promotes the use of blockchain for consensus-building. The venture’s platform enables organizations to vote on matters securely through digital ballot boxes. Votes are recorded on the Ethereum blockchain ensuring permanence and immutability. Voter identity is also kept anonymous and confidential to prevent potential coercion.

After holding a successful ICO last year, Horizon State is now focused on securing more partners that will use its platform. The platform recently made waves in Indonesia where it has formed partnerships including with economist Dr. Marzuki Usman and socio-religious group Nahdlatul Ulama.

The platform is also slated to be used in social reform and citizen involvement efforts. It will be used to empower citizens to securely vote on certain campaigns or policies. And, with the underprivileged in developing countries often disenfranchised in the decision-making processes, this gives them the opportunity to be more involved in their civic duties.

Oren Alazraki, CEO of Horizon State with some twenty years of executive experience within the IT sector, commenting late this March said: “We are already seeing a rapid surge of interest in our platform by organizations for engaging members in meaningful dialogue to improve organizational performance through improved decision-making and accountability.”

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