Using Blockchain to Capture Public Opinion
Blockchain is an emerging technology that can build trust and consensus from a group of untrusted entities, and the result is verifiable, immutable, which in effect more trustworthy.
With the low cost, tamperproof, verifiable nature, using blockchain in voting and public opinion has long been discussed and is one of the major potential use case in civic technology sector.
Improving transparency by blockchain
One of the use case is to improve transparency. Blockchain is in general operates as a mesh network, every “nodes” in the network stores the complete copy of data and verify the new incoming transaction by preconfigured “consensus algorithms”. Hence, any misbehavior or fraudulent activities conducted by a node will be detected by other nodes and is rejected by the network.
The decentralized nature of blockchain eliminates the need of central authority to collect and govern the data. This is an useful nature in situation which we need to improve the trustworthiness of the data collection and governess process.
At 7 of Mar 2018, a Swiss foundation Agora has exercised a partial deployment to 280 polling stations of Sierra Leone presidential elections, using immutable blockchain ledger.
In that election, Agora acts as international observer, recorded Sierra Leone West District results on its custom-built blockchain, ensuring that election data was third-party verifiable and protected against any possibility of tampering. The results revealed a very close figure to the official announcement, strengthening the authenticity to official election results.
Improving data quality
Blockchain is s special kind of database that make new approach to collect data possible. System designer can setup a “permissioned network” which researchers and respondents are authenticated, or to build a “permission-less network” which the database (a.k.a. the “ledger”) are stored in open network, and participants of the network are free to join with total anonymity, or somewhere in between.
Various IT startups are exploring the possibility to implement mechanism regarded as “decentralized identity”, a system which participants have the autonomy to control what personal data to be revealed to specific data collector, and provide data just enough to exercise a pre-defined “smart contract”. For example, using blockchain researchers are possible to launch a survey on a blockchain, which respondents of the survey are participants of a blockchain who have conducted certain KYC (Know-Your-Customer) process to organization(s) who earns “token” by providing KYC service to the blockchain. With that arrangement, researchers will be able to ensure the respondents to the survey, (which in essence is a smart contract between researchers and individual participants) is complying to certain criteria, in a very low cost and high trustworthiness.
Use blockchain to possibly improve cost-effectiveness to conduct survey
Token in blockchain is often regarded as “programmable money”. If tokenized decentralized identity platform go mainstream, in addition to spend money on traditional labour and materials to conduct a survey, researchers can also launch a global scale opinion polling online, and provide “value incentive” (e.g. token or any other cryptocurrencies) to reward specifically targeted respondent group, to potentially reduce cost and increase the response rate.