Procivis Think Tank Meeting – 21st September 2018: The potential of blockchain in campaign financing

As we shift from a paper-based society to an increasingly digital arrangement, technology is creating new possibilities to change the machinery of democracy. The consequences of introducing blockchain to the political system will be enormous, which is why this topic is polarising and worth carefully analysing.

The participants at the Procivis Think Tank meeting held Trust Square on Sept 21 consisted of computer scientists, engineers, cryptographers, political scientists, sociologists, economists, constitutional law experts and experts in public and private sector organisation systems, and finance.

Uwe Serdült, a professor at Ritsumeikan University, Japan, in the College of Information Science and Engineering, used the platform of the Procivis Think Tank and its diverse expert audience to unveil his idea of utilising blockchain technology to enhance transparency in campaign financing.

The CTO of Provicis, Giorgio Zinetti, provided a technical response to Prof. Serdült’s presentation. Based on an evaluation framework, it was deemed that campaign financing could be a feasible use case that would benefit from the use of a blockchain. However, he explained why a public, permissionless blockchain might not yet be ready for this challenge – a maximum of approximately 2 million transactions could be handled per day – too low a number for countries with larger electorates. Giorgio then outlined various technical options.

It was clear at the outset that the proposal was provocative, and attracted a diverse range of comment, both sceptical and constructive. Takeaways from the discussion included: technology can serve both as an equalising or a dividing force. Architecture will decide what prevails. Laws and regulations remain important as technology can only be effective if correctly employed.

Participants also received an update on a new blockchain project launched by Zeppelin University. The empirical study is looking at how a blockchain society might function and draws on expert workshops. One of these workshops is being scheduled at the Procivis Think Tank.

Finally, an overview was provided on the research pipeline, which includes the crowd-sourcing of legislation and participatory budgeting.

The Procivis Think Tank is grateful to each of the participants who took the time to attend the meeting and enriched the debate with diverse insights. The diversity of the audience was reflected in the multifaceted critiques to the proposal. We are encouraged to see the Procivis Think Tank emerging as a platform that attracts the pioneers of digital democracy to debate, discuss and create evidence-based research on novel ideas, which can hopefully reshape democracy for the better.