DRC Former Prime Minister and Presidential Candidate Supports Blockchain-Based Election

Photo by Avel Chuklanov on Unsplash

The presidential elections in the Democratic Republic of Congo will take place in two months. Samy Badibanga, former Prime Minister and presidential candidate, supports the idea of these elections taking place on the Blockchain.

Opposing candidates have been fiercely resistant to the arrival of Korean centralised, black box voting machines acquired by the CENI (Independent National Electoral Commission) which have recently been shipped to the Democratic Republic of Congo. Meanwhile, most opponent parties advocate for a return to paper voting. The progressive Mr. Badibanga has been keeping an eye on the latest developments of electoral technologies and has found that blockchain technology, if well implemented, can be a way to break the deadlock.

Background

An air of general mistrust looms over the DRC after several violent incidents, after the invalidation of six competitors, including Mr. Badibanga, later reintegrated by the Constitutional Court.

DR Congolese citizens are expected to vote on December 23, 2018, two years after the date originally scheduled by the Constitution of the elections. The election has been postponed from 2016 to 2018 due to an “incomplete electoral file” that has plunged the country into a serious internal crisis.

When government officials announced the arrival of Korean electronic voting machines in the DR Congolese territory, protests arose from various sides. Candidates, civil society and specialists all refused the implementation of these machines that resulted in the spending of millions of dollars. Having enrolled nearly 46 millions voters in around 12 months, the Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI) has acquired 106,000 e-voting machines. In fact, the CENI spent 1,500 dollars per machine, with each one comes the capacity for 660 ballots. All together, the total cost for these machines is 159 million dollars, without taking into account technical support, deployment of the Army, the Police, the training of staff in polling stations, and the cost of paying staff overtime for working on Sunday, December 23th, 2018. Elections in Congo have always been costly, with a population of over 90 million people, spread over 2.34 million square kilometres, which is almost four times the size of France.

Centralised e-voting systems have previously shown their limitations. Both easily hackable and true black box in nature, their operations remain a mystery to many citizens and experts alike. The examples of their many failings — especially during the past decade — are not without reason, which brought many candidates to wonder why DRC has opted for this choice in their 2018 presidential elections.

In the age of digitalisation, it is hard to believe that the only viable option at present is the paper ballot. It wasn’t until Mr. Badibanga examined the issue that alternative solutions were considered.

Mr. Badibanga, considers that elections in DRC should not be delayed anymore and that blockchain should be looked at as a potential solution to bring trust, credibility, transparency and consensus to the current deadlock.

How can Agora help?

Agora, a Swiss Blockchain company — whose goal is to enable citizens to vote in a transparent and secure manner by leveraging the benefits of decentralised and distributed systems — has developed a product which can be used on current voting machines and can significantly improve the security and transparency of their centralised architecture.

According to Agora’s Chief Executive Officer, Leonardo Gammar, the idea would be to “allow DR Congolese citizens to vote on Korean machines due to time constraints. Meanwhile, Agora would migrate all back-end infrastructure to the blockchain.”

This solution would not only make it possible to build a decentralised server network in the Democratic Republic of Congo but also in countries around the world. Agora calls upon international organisations who wish to host servers in charge of validating the digital ballots — downloaded on the blockchain, in real time — during any elections.

According to Mr. Badibanga, well-implemented blockchain solutions provide the degree of transparency necessary for an event of this magnitude, due to the fact that each transaction is downloaded and encrypted in real time. Voters, observers, and political parties will be able to ensure that digital ballots are accounted for and stored in a public, transparent and immutable register. Agora would then make this register available to the CENI. All consensus nodes will have access to the source code behind the software, ensuring that Agora does not intervene during the counting process. This also ensures the passage of the quality of the encryption, shuffling and decryption of the Congolese paper ballots.

Agora’s technical solution is functional and can be made available to the CENI and to all national and international players wishing to test the system, at their earliest convenience.

“From what I understand, a well-thought network architecture, backed by an immutable distributed ledger, is a solution that can offer consensus in times of crisis. A middle ground between paper and voting machines,​​” adds Mr. Badibanga, calling upon other candidates for the presidential election, the international community, as well as leaders of the CENI to take a closer look at this option.

In Summary

Current voting machines run on a very limited number of servers which directly points to a centralised infrastructure. This means that voters, as well as political parties and the international community, must trust the Korean supplier in its intentions and standards as well as its ability to protect the infrastructure from malicious attacks.

As for Badibanga’s option, the solution is auditable in real-time, on a publicly-accessible ledger. The solution is also distributed, meaning that the number of servers is multiplied to allow the network to be more robust. This makes the possibility of hacking and manipulation of the election infinitely more difficult. The solution is also decentralised, meaning that no single node or server is solely responsible for processing the ballots nor is any single node or server the target of cyber attacks. Instead, it is an entire network of servers and organisations that allow votes to be instantly registered across all servers in the network in a definitive, transparent and immutable manner. In order to falsify the votes, one must succeed in hacking the vast majority of servers in this network, at the same time.

For more information about the technical solutions provided by Agora, visit https://www.agora.vote​.