Russia Is Leading the Charge for Blockchain Democracy

Even as Russia stands accused of meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, its national capital is taking a leadership role in making democracy more transparent.

Using an existing program called Active Citizen, the city of Moscow has been allowing residents to cast votes for measures ranging from the name of their new metro train to the color of the seats in a new sports arena. But in an effort to soothe people’s concerns over whether to trust the city in its vote counting, it’s added a private version of the ethereumblockchain to that project’s architecture.

“Of course, sometimes we hear that not all the votes are trusted,” said Andrey Belozerov, the strategy and innovations advisor to the city’s CIO. “So, we decided to use a blockchain for the Active Citizen project, as a platform of electronic trust.”

The ethereum-based platform, which allows anyone to audit the open-source results, has been downloaded by more than 100 node operators since its December launch.

In this way, the city hopes to gain the trust of the citizens of Moscow, but bigger than that, win the trust of state governments around the world.

While a so-called “blockchain cold war” in which nations use the technology to undermine one another’s financial influence is worrying to some, Belozerov hopes blockchain tests like Active Citizen could result in an increased sense of trust between nations.

In an interview with CoinDesk, Belozerov said:

“The idea is to put all the votes to the blockchain to make it open so everybody can connect to our blockchain network, and to check the voting process, and so-on and so-forth.”

Adoption and scale

Originally launched in 2014 as a way for Moscow’s elected officials to give its citizens a say in the make-up of their city, the Active Citizen program has registered 2 million users.

In total, 3,450 polls have been conducted using the centralized Oracle database that the platform was built on initially, and as of last week, 92 million votes had been cast, with only the most recent fraction of those also logged on the new blockchain platform.

One such vote logged on the ethereum platform was a measure that allowed citizens to vote whether they’d opt-in to be temporarily relocated while the building they live in now was demolished and replaced by a newer, nicer building.

And while Belozerov said there is “huge interest from the market,” he acknowledges that there are still hurdles to work out.

For one, aligning with concerns in the public blockchain space, Belozerov wonders how well the blockchain platform will scale.

So far, the platform has only ever reached a peak transaction volume of about 1,000 transactions per minute. But if the Active Citizen project attracted more of the Moscow’s 12 million citizens, it remains unclear whether the blockchain be able to handle the volume.

According to Belozerov, increased adoption of the platform will make the perfect stress-test…

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