Smart democracies in Africa: legitimizing Kenyan elections through block-chain technology
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In numerous nations in sub-Saharan Africa, national elections are accompanied by allegations of – if not actual – malpractices, including electoral fraud, imprisonment of opposition candidates, and constitutional amendments to extend the limits of leaders’ terms in office beyond what the electorate seems to desire. Often, these serve to exacerbate ethnopolitical and other tensions and conflicts among multiple factions. Such blemishes on the voting process reduce the legitimacy of the government in the eyes of the populace. If these elections were watertight, and, more importantly, were seen to be watertight, the governments elected through them would gain a measure of legitimacy. Consequently, sub-Saharan African states could move closer to lasting peace. Since the emergence of the cryptocurrency Bitcoin, the spotlight has slowly shifted towards the vast potential of its underlying technology: the blockchain. Where elections are concerned, this ‘trustless’ system has the capability to solve four critical issues in the voting process: lack of transparency, lack of election system security, constitutional amendments to change presidential term limits and the cost burden of the election process. However, the blockchain is not without its challenges. A legal framework acknowledging it as a tamper-proof source of truth where votes are concerned will be necessary. Regulations will also have to be crafted to ensure the network’s independence, voter anonymity, and the equal say of every citizen. Other pertinent issues are the assignment of liability for errors, and of responsibility for updating the blockchain’s code.