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Russian Government Looking to Augment Legacy Voting Systems with Blockchain Technology

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Russian Government Looking to Augment Legacy Voting Systems with Blockchain Technology

While the Russian State is emerging as both hot and cold towards bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, it is actively exploring the capabilities of Blockchain technology. If all goes according to plan, Moscow will soon start using the distributed ledger technology for its voting and other internal operations.

Kremlin on the Blockchain?

Moscow is determined to eliminate all forms of voting malpractices within the city, and it believes that there is no better way to achieve this feat than by making use of the revolutionary blockchain technology.

The city of Moscow has been making use of a system known as Active Citizen in carrying out voting activities. In a bid  to erase all doubts the citizens might have concerning the counting of votes for replacing traffic lights, sponsoring city-wide renovations, or making upgrades to public transportation, city officials have added a private version of the Ethereum smart contracts to the voting platform.

Speaking about the idea behind this latest development, the Strategy and Innovations Advisor to Moscow’s CIO, Andrey Belozerov told the media:

“Of course, sometimes we hear that not all the votes are trusted. So we decided to use a Blockchain for the Active Citizen project, as a platform of electronic trust.”

The masses can now audit voting results on the new decentralized voting platform based on the Ethereum Blockchain. So far, the software has been downloaded by over a hundred node operators, since it went live in December. It should be noted that this does not apply to political elections in Moscow, nor in Russia. The theme being pushed is the idea of a “Smart City” that sponsors citizen focused demands through technological means. Active Citizen is simply another method for achieving these ends. 

The city of Moscow is confident that this transparent system will not only enable it to gain the trust of its residents but will also earn the trust of state governments, globally.

Usability 

Since its launch in 2014, the Active Citizen program has registered two million users. The platform which was initially developed using the centralized Oracle database system was created to let the masses have a say in the make-up of their city.

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A total of 3,450 polls were conducted using the legacy database management system, and as of the week of February 12, 2018, 92 million votes have been cast with only a fraction of the most recent ballots logged on the new blockchain.

For example, smart contracts were used in a poll to ascertain whether the citizens were okay with the idea of being relocated to a new temporal apartment while their houses were being demolished and rebuilt with modern architecture.

While there is massive interest in the project, its creators are still not sure about the scalability of the platform.

“In the end of the first quarter, we will determine if it works properly with our loads. Then we can switch off the previous model of Active Citizen and go natively to a Blockchain.”

The Need for Trust

The officials noticed that the international community is not as interested in the project as the residents of the state. As such, Russia went ahead and employed the services of accounting firm PwC, to independently audit the code. Belozerov declared that:

“The company studied the possibility of manipulating the outcome of polls by both internal employees and external attacks and found that there are no reasons for concern in the polls that have more than 300,000 votes.”

PwC also tried to hack the system by simulating an external cyber attack but was unable to gain access to or alter the content of the blockchain system.

Belozerov hinted that the government is in advanced stages of making plans to deploy the technology in all areas of the economy to enhance transparency and efficiency.

To back up his statement, the CIO referred to a recent blockchain test facilitated by the Ministry of Economic Development and the Federal Service for State Registration. The partnership sought to find out if the innovative technology could provide a faster and cost-efficient way for people to prove they are the real owners of their belongings in times of dispute.

Strong Resistance to Change

While the capability of blockchain is not in doubt, the official, however, hinted that the top government officials might not let this positive change come to pass. In his words:

“Of Course, the hardest question is to change their opinion or to change their minds with this approach. I see a very strong trend for moving of different countries and different companies to this technology.”

While the individuals behind the Russian initiative may have good intentions, it might take much more effort for the country to gain the trust of the international community. Despite this positive adoption news, the country has been plagued by more reports emerging that the nation may have interfered with the U.S Presidential election in 2016.

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