The creation of a system with mathematically provable guarantees of the trustworthiness of data could have enormous potential for supporting democracy, improving government service delivery, fighting corruption, and demonstrating the integrity of elections and political processes. Such a system, of course, already exists: blockchain and distributed public ledger technologies. I'm proud to share this think piece Ben Gregori and I have created on the potential for blockchain in democracy, governance, and human rights. This has a been a multi-year collaboration NDI and the Digital Impact and Governance Initiative at New America, involving research and creative collaboration, brainstorming the potential benefits and arguing over the risks that come with emerging technologies which could impact foundational pillars of our democracy.
In this piece, Ben and I go through the potential and some of the interesting pilot projects where governments, civic groups, and the private sector have the potential to tap into the capabilities of distributed public ledgers to build better societies. Blockchain gets a lot of mockery in the democracy and rights space, some of which is justified by absurd applications of the technology, and the energy concerns are real. However, any technologist thinking about how to modernize political or governmental technology should consider the ways that blockchain could improve transparency, help civic groups with accountability efforts, and improve citizen trust in political processes.