Sierra Leone Gov’t Says No Blockchain Officially Used In Elections After Misleading Media Hype

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Sierra Leone gov’t’s denial of Blockchain in latest elections leads to an official response from the company that ran their Blockchain election test there

After a slew of headlines that the March 7 Sierra Leone presidential election were the world’s first Blockchain-based election due to support by voting tech company Agora, the Sierra Leone government has officially denied any use of Blockchain to tally election results by the National Electoral Commission (NEC).

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— National Electoral Commission of Sierra Leone (@NECsalone) March 19, 2018

In response to allegations of purposefully misleading the public about their role in the election, Agora also released an official statement on Medium on March 19. The statement explained their legitimate role in the elections as an international observer, underlining their previous statements that they never claimed to be counting official election results in their trial Blockchain election test.

According to the Medium post, Agora was accredited by the NEC to cover 280 polling locations in the West District of Sierra Leone, and that a “partial deployment of [their]technology was used in the election.”

The process of recording the votes of the Sierra Leone citizens went as followed: voters placed their paper ballots into boxes, which were then emptied in front of election observers for counting out loud, while Agora “manually recorded each ballot onto our Blockchain using a digital device.” Agora played no role once the ballot boxes were taken to the NEC regional tallying center, their post reads.

Discrepancies in the NEC results and Agora’s results, as noted by French news outlet RFI, were attributed to a different system of considering which votes to be invalid, writes Agora’s Medium post.

Agora also details what they describe as a “targeted campaign” against the company by an organization called Sierra Leone Open Election Data Platform (SLOEDP). According to Agora, SLOEDP reached out to journalists and wrote blog posts “attacking our involvement in the election,” perhaps due to the overlapping nature of the two organization’s technologies.

Morris Marah, the founder of the Sensi Tech Hub in Freetown, the capital of Sierra Leone, told local news outlet RFI that “what concerns me is the hype that followed what they did:”

“What these guys [Agora] are saying is great. But they haven’t really tested it because they basically took a paper card of the results and put it on their system. That’s what everybody else is doing, that’s not new.”

Agora ended their Medium post with an invitation to work with SLOEDP moving forward:

“Sensational headlines have become a “norm” of the internet, and we agree that both companies and media outlets have a responsibility to cover events accurately. This was Agora’s first major media event, and we are creating internal policies to further support this goal in the future. We invite SLOEDP to join Agora in creating a positive and honest dialogue that leads to the establishment of digitally verifiable elections in Sierra Leone.”

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Author: Molly Jane Zuckerman

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