When was the last time you paid by cheque? Faxed your CV to an employer? Developed your holiday pictures?
The internet has essentially killed off these processes, but one paper-based system is surprisingly resilient: voting.
Most voting systems are conducted in very traditional ways, which a pioneering startup thinks is – frankly – ridiculous. “It’s slow, expensive, and inconvenient for all parties,” explains Roman Alyoshkin, product owner at Polys.
So how can voting be brought into the modern age, without sacrificing security or trust in the system? Polys has built a system on the blockchain to do just that, and they think it’ll change the very way that government works.
How e-voting can change the world
E-voting can change “the way that society interacts,” Alyoshkin believes. “You can establish the process of direct democracy or gather feedback much more frequently on smaller questions to engage voters,” he adds.
Switzerland conducts regular referendums, ensuring that citizens feel included by their governments. Cities, in particular, could be more participatory, he notes.
But this doesn’t just need to apply to nation states. Higher education is a fertile ground for reform, Alyoshkin explains. Some university elections, such as in India, have turnouts from students of around 30,000 people – an enormous job for volunteers to tally when appointing university councils.
But is it secure?
Many people have concerns about e-voting for security risks. But, according to Alyoshkin, it’s more secure than paper-based mechanisms.
The key is that blockchain – the distributed system where records are impossible to change once entered. “Once it’s on the blockchain it cannot be modified or tampered with so you can be sure your voice is counted,” he says.
“Once it’s on the blockchain it cannot be modified or tampered with so you can be sure your voice is counted.”
It’s also more transparent, he notes, because people can review the source code and see how the system works. You can even verify your vote to see that it is counted and stored in the blockchain, Alyoshkin adds.
Perhaps the key selling point is convenience, however. Governments don’t have to have the complex and costly process of paper voting, with local centres and manual counting systems. “This would save lots of money that would be possible to spend on public services instead,” Alyoshkin argues.
Second, it is faster and more convenient for citizens. “You can cast your vote on the go from a mobile device or through the web,” he says.
When photos became digitised, we didn’t predict Instagram. But every technology has wide-ranging improvements that we can’t even dream of. For e-voting, the first step is efficiency, but it could result in more “liquid” government that consults citizens far more frequently, Alyoshkin believes.
Has voting finally had its Kodak moment?
If you are interested to understand how you can achieve engagement through secure online voting, please click here.