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SA government uses startup Horizon State’s democratic blockchain in fisheries council election

Stephanie Palmer-Derrien /

The South Australian government has contracted blockchain-for-democracy startup Horizon State to run the public election for the inaugural Minister’s Recreational Fishing Advisory Council.

Members of the public will elect five people to the new council, using South Australia’s YourSAy platform, and votes will be registered through Horizon State.

Speaking to StartupSmart, Horizon State co-founder and chief executive Nimo Naamani says the state government is the startup’s largest customer to date, in terms of the number of voters, which is “possibly in the tens of thousands”.

The vote will use the preferential method, and will be counted using proportional representation.

“It’s a complex vote, so we have developed some stuff specifically for their requirements,” he adds.

There are 42 candidates competing for five positions on the Minister’s Recreational Fishing Advisory Council. An additional four positions are already filled by representatives of key fishing organisations in South Australia.

The state government has pledged that the council will include at least one woman (although there are only two woman candidates) as well as at least one inland fisher and one person representing the tackle industry.

Voting is open until March 18.

Although previously a political party in New Zealand used Horizon State to elect its leader, this is the first time the general public will be able to vote using the technology.

And Naamani hopes it will lead to bigger and better things.

“It definitely validates our product and our goals,” he says.

“Looking forward, it provides us with a great reference customer, because you don’t get a lot of government entities around the world using blockchain for voting.”

The South Australian government is exploring use cases of blockchain in the government space and elsewhere, with its International Blockchain Summit running in Adelaide from March 18-20.

At the conference, 10 entrepreneurs will present blockchain-related innovations, with the winners taking home a share of $100,000 to kick start work on their proposal.

Democratic voting on the blockchain makes sense because of the technology’s inherent transparency, accountability and immutability, Naamani says.

“When a vote is cast, and the vote is there, people can audit and tally the votes themselves,” he adds.

“They don’t need to trust the person or the organisation running the vote to do that”.

Once a vote is cast it can’t be changed, and so “the vote result can’t be tampered with”, he explains.

However, blockchain-for-voting is unlikely to be rolled out in time for the federals.

There’s a global debate around electronic parliamentary voting, and using blockchain or not, Naamani says.

And there are a lot of good use cases for the technology that make a lot of sense, “but not necessarily national elections”, he adds.

“The field and the solutions have to mature and be tested in other scenarios first, which is basically what we’re doing,” he explains.

“I wouldn’t right now go and propose that a government or state government use any of the blockchain election systems. We definitely need to do some testing and verification first.”

However, it’s early days yet.

“If all goes well and if some of the underlying sec and tech issues are addressed and resolved to everybody’s content, then yes, definitely it’s a good use case,” Naamani says.

“Imagine voting for your government … and then the results are there on the blockchain you can look, and see that your vote is counted the way you cast it,” he adds.

“You don’t have to trust anyone.”

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Stephanie Palmer-Derrien

Stephanie Palmer-Derrien is the editor at StartupSmart. You can contact her at [email protected].

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