Can Blockchain help secure elections

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past couple of years, you might have heard that elections – and specifically the rigging of elections – comes up in the news time and time again. Whether it is voter fraud, foreign powers meddling or simply a break down in the current system, the way we vote has been under attack and something needs to change.

Enter Blockchain. Online voting has often been touted as a way forward to make voting easier and to increase participation. How much easier would it be to vote on your phone rather than have to make tour way down to the polling booth? But online voting has often been accused of lacking the security needed for free and fair elections. But with all of this news of Russia interfering in elections around the world and ballot fraud in the US, is it really any more of a risk than the current system?

As Bloomberg has reported recently, Blockchain may be the future of voting technology. It will be used to store and secure digital votes with its distributed ledger meaning that the system will not be open to manipulation. Also, it would mean that people would be able to see how the count was progressing in real time, leading to more open and honest elections. So, not only could Blockchain tackle voter fraud, it could also severely limit the scope and possibility for interference from outside bodies.

In fact, some computer scientists have already piloted the system, investing a $150,000 grant from Tusk/Montgomery Philanthropies Inc., a venture capital fund set up to try and solve the riddle of technology and voting. Their aim is to increase voter participation in the voting system and have identified Blockchain as a key way of making this happen.

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In many ways, the younger generation thinks of it as strange that you can’t vote on a phone. So much else of what they do is carried out using this device so voting can seem rather archaic to them. If these new trials prove to be a success then it may not be too long until they do just that.

In the two trials carried out in Harrison and Monongalia in the US, votes were stored in 16 different locations, including the cloud. They also used various providers so that no one influence was able to be pushed. A hacker would have then had to break into all 16 locations in order to change the voting numbers. Multiply these locations by thousands and you begin to see why Blockchain could be the answer.

Sceptics say that this won’t be the answer and that there will be some way around the Blockchain technology. However, at a time when hackers and foreign governments seem to be finding easy ways to do this, a move towards a more secure system seems like a must. More investors and more trials are needed to fully test the technology in this realm but once this happens it could change democracy forever.

The biggest thing in Blockchain since Bitcoin?

Blockchain is evolving every day, with hundreds of new projects and investments for potential investors. Of course, Bitcoin is to date the most famous of its uses and the reason it was created in the first instance. It was the need for greater online transparency and accountability that led to the introduction of the distributed ledger. But until now, these two ideals have rarely been used in tandem.

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When conducting their annual audits, companies have needed to communicate with stakeholders and staff to get a snapshot of how the company is performing. But now, thanks to Blockchain technology, real-time reporting means carrying out audits don’t have to be painful.

A new project, called Auditchain is following in the footsteps of Bitcoin creator Satoshi Nakamoto and represents a culmination of everything that was exciting about the original Bitcoin project. The technology will be used as if an army of external auditors are validating every transaction the company makes. It will then be presented in the form of audit analytics. The accuracy of accounting and reporting compliance is checked and any investors looking to gain access to accurate information can purchase a subscription to financial statements, with more detailed analysis available for an additional cost.

This means investors and stakeholders would be able to understand exactly how the business is operating in real time. It would also mean the ability for committing fraud would be reduced to almost zero. Businesses would no longer be able to mislead potential investors. And, what’s more, this kind of technology could be used at a governmental level. We would all be able to know what is spent by departments, including how our tax money is being used. This could be a truly watershed moment for how our world works.

With every piece of financial information recorded and integrated with other facts about the company, the Blockchain would be providing valuable information about updated balance sheets, cash flow, income and more. And what about the benefit to the companies, you may ask? Well, all of this would be significantly cheaper than carrying out a traditional audit. Real-time accounting could make the whole process cost neutral.

This kind of de-centralised auditing feels like the kind of thing that Blockchain was created for. The world of business accounting is potentially going to change forever, and once it does, who knows what might be next. Imagine living in a world where the government’s accounts could be held up to scrutiny, where anyone could access what they are spending our money on, all in real time.

The distributed ledger is updated automatically every time it changes and it is protected from hacking and other cybersecurity threats. Is true unlocking of the potential of Blockchain?  What started out as a platform to run cryptocurrencies could be about to change the way that business and governments go about tracking their money. Watch this space to find out more about Blockchain is changing the world around us every day.

The truth about blockchain technology

In this modern computer age, contracts, transactions and their associated records underpin the way the world works. These are the building blocks of our economy, our political systems and the way the legal world operates. These are the things that keep our society running the way it is supposed to, they preserve our identity and they keep track of all the events that happen on a daily basis.

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These digital transactions maintain governments, manage social interaction and determine the way governments communicate with their citizens. But there is a bit of a problem. The speed at which transactions are made is now far outstripping the way they can be safely stored and recorded. The way in which we administrate these communications is too slow, potentially exposing them to risk. And that’s where Blockchain comes in.

Blockchain is an open and distributed ledger that records transactions between two parties efficiently in a transparent and permanent way. It is the technology at the heart of the virtual currency boom but its potential spreads much further than this.

The ledger created by blockchain lets us think about a world where contracts are stored safely in digital code, stored in shared databases where they can be identified and validated. This means that the classic intermediaries, such as brokers, lawyers and bankers may not be needed. Organisations and individuals may be able to use algorithms to quickly and freely transact with each other in a way that removes dispute and insecurity. In short, blockchain technology could change the way the world works.

However, this revolution in the way we operate does need to be carefully managed. If blockchain is to change the way we do business, and how economies operate, then we need to think carefully about what will follow. Blockchain allows for greater security through its open ledger system but what are the new potential security risks? In order for blockchain to reach its potential many old systems will have to be swept away, and this needs to be managed carefully.

The time when blockchain leads governments and business may be some years away. That’s because it is what is known as a foundational technology. This means it has the potential to create new foundations for our current systems rather than being a disruptional technology, which is when it shows a new streamlined and better way of doing what currently exists.

gray ipod classic
The rise of MP3s led to the decline of CDs

Foundational technology generally needs things to reach a tipping point when a majority of the organisations or major players decide that a change is necessary, such as when MP3s replaced CDs. But as blockchain gathers momentum, this moment in time is looking ever more likely.

There’s little doubt that blockchain will come to dominate the way things are done in the future. The big questions that remain are when this might happen and how the change will be managed. So maybe it’s better to be part of the process sooner rather than later?

Blockchain developers in hot demand?

Blockchain has moved into the spotlight as one of as the hottest job skill in the freelance market. The sector has grown more than 6,000% since this time last year and it could become the new ‘cloud’ in the coming years.

startup-photos.jpgDevelopers with Blockchain skills are fast becoming the hottest property in the marketplace according to a recent report by Upwork. They have shown that postings for Blockchain skills have grown exponentially in recent months, with only those with skills in robotics in more demand.

The Upwork report says: ‘Blockchain appears to be the next uncharted, highly talked about technology similar to what the “cloud” was back in the mid-2000’s. Its growth exceeded 2,000% for three quarters in a row on, and in Q1 it experienced more than 6,000% year-over-year growth, making it the fastest-growing skill out of more than 5,000 skills on the site.’

More than half of managers said that access to Blockchain skills is their biggest challenge when hiring and around 59% are already using flexible talent. Over the last 12 months on the site there were 5,743 postings for full-time openings requiring Blockchain skills, a growth of 320% on last year.

This is because the initial hype around the technology is now being taken very seriously by many employers as they realise the potential of the distributed ledger that Blockchain uses.

The Upwork report said: ‘Major companies such as Samsung and IBM are already leveraging it in innovative ways, while Salesforce is planning on unveiling a Blockchain offering for its customers during Dreamforce in September.’

pexels-photo-1037914.jpegCryptocurrency developers, who rely on Blockchain skills, were also in high demand in the freelance marketplace – up to the third most wanted in the list of desirable abilities. And people with Blockchain skills can earn as much as $250 an hour according to some listings. In fact, the median income for a Blockchain developer in the US is around $140,000 a year. This is compared to general software developers who only earn around $105,000. This is mostly concentrated in high tech areas, but it also means there is plenty of scope for work in the freelance market.

CEO of Upwork, Stephane Kasriel, said: ‘As skills become more specialized, companies either need to invest in re-skilling to prepare workers for the jobs of tomorrow or leverage freelance professionals who are nearly twice as likely as traditional employees to proactively take re-skilling upon themselves.’

As businesses still try to figure out how they can best utilise the potential of Blockchain, and start to take the technology seriously, demand is far outstripping supply. It is very likely that this trend will continue in the coming years until the infrastructure is in place to provide adequate training on the job. Until then, those with Blockchain skills, just like the cryptocurrencies they run, are in very high demand. If you’re looking to learn new skills or just an area of fintech in which to invest, now could be the time to make your move.

What is Blockchain, in simple English?

Over the last 12 or so months, the cryptocurrency Bitcoin has been causing a massive stir. With values going through the roof (and back down), people have been making fortunes as the banking world is turned on its head. But perhaps the real story behind Bitcoin is the technology that underpins it: Blockchain.

global networkAt first glance, Blockchain might not look too different to other things on the internet that you are familiar with – Wikipedia or Google docs, for example. Many people write entries of information and a community of users control how this information is recorded, used and updated. No one single user controls the information and it is not the product of a single publisher.

However, looking closer, there are several key differences that make Blockchain stand out. While both run on distributed networks, Wikipedia is built into the World Wide Web using a client-server network. A user with the right permissions is able to edit entries on a centralised server. This centralised server is controlled by the owners who manage the database and protect against cyber threats.

The digital backbone that underpins Blockchain is fundamentally different. Information held on Blockchain exists as a shared system that is continually updated across all nodes. That means that rather than being a centralised database stored in one place that allows access to users, Blockchain is not stored in a single location. Records are therefore kept truly public and easily verifiable. And there is no centralised version to corrupt through hacking, but information stored simultaneously on millions of computers.

In this sense, it is a public ledger. Just as the internet made it possible to freely distribute data online, Blockchain does the same thing for money. The system makes it possible to transfer money across the world by bypassing middlemen such as banks and governments.

By storing information that is not controlled by any single entity and has no single point of failure, Blockchain is transparent and incorruptible.

Attracted by these qualities and the idea of removing the middleman, tech companies are starting to adopt the technology for various other uses than transferring money. Businesses can streamline internal operations, reduce expenses and cut out mistakes. Electronic ledgers are much cheaper to maintain than traditional accounts and they also reduce processing delays.

These opportunities for decentralising and providing flexible and secure operations could be the future of the way companies create products for consumers. As trust in the system grows, more and more of us will be using Blockchain technology. As cybersecurity risks grow and become more serious, the idea of an online ledger system that cannot be corrupted is one that is really gaining traction.

While all the big news at the moment is about Bitcoin, which may or may not be a financial bubble ready to burst, the technology that has grown up to support it could be around for many more years to come.