Radical Blockchain Experiments in Decentralized Governance
When people think of blockchain technology they often reference DAO’s, Daaps, and other commercial applications that cut out middleman between users and services in areas like media, ridesharing, payment processing, and many other tangible products. But what about cutting out the middleman of governments? Does blockchain possess the ability to remove the bureaucratic intermediaries of states, countries, and other ruling regimes in the world?
On November 20, 2016, eGaaS (electronic government as a service), signed an agreement with the Liberland Freedom Republic – a sovereign state located between Croatia and Serbia on the west bank of the Danube River. Founded by its self-proclaimed president Vít Jedlička, a 31-year old politician from the Czech Republic, this micronation lies on a 7 kilometer strip of land on what was once considered disputed territory between Croatia and Serbia. After being designated an unclaimed no-man’s land, Jedlička formed the state on April 13, 2015 with the intention of creating an autonomous nation with minimal authority and government.
With its state motto of “to live and let live”, and a constitution modeled on that of the United States, Liberland “is open to anyone with a respect for private ownership who is tolerant of other people and their beliefs regardless of race, ethnicity, orientation or religion. Criminals, communists, Nazis and extremists, are discouraged from applying”, said Jedlička
EGaaS is a blockchain platform that aims to facilitate the organization of Liberland’s economic, state, and social activities through smart contracts and smart laws. Smart laws use algorithms to describe the rules and conditions regulating the execution of state laws. The credibility of smart laws is confirmed by the digital signatures of representatives in legislative bodies. The technology behind eGaas can be used to create payment systems, stock exchanges, insurance and credit organizations, and accounting and management systems in all fields, from commerce to medicine.
Liberland also plans to utilize Bitcoin (BTC) and other cryptocurrency such as Ether (ETH) in order to facilitate the underlying infrastructure of their experiment in decentralized government. The micronation seeks to eliminate the traditional need for multiple intermediaries, regulatory authorities, and document circulation, making it potentially the freest country in the world.
In 2002, the Estonian government issued its citizens smart ID cards containing NFC computer chips. The chip on the card carries embedded files which, using 2048-bit public key encryption, enable it to be used as definitive proof of ID in an electronic environment.
Here are some examples of how the ID Card is regularly used in Estonia:
- As a national ID card for legal travel within the EU for Estonian citizens
- As the national health insurance card
- As proof of identification when logging into bank accounts from a home computer
- As a pre-paid public transport ticket in Tallinn and Tartu
- For digital signatures
- For i-voting
- For accessing government databases to check one’s medical records, file taxes, etc.
- For picking up e-Prescriptions
In total the ID cards grant Estonian citizens access to over 1,000 government services. 94 percent of the 1.3 million population owns a smart ID card, 80 percent are connected to the internet, and wifi is spread all over the country reaching into the forests. With all these technological advances, it’s no wonder why Estonia has been coined e-Estonia, the country of the future.
In August of 2016, the data security startup Guardtime announced a partnership with the Estonian eHealth Foundation to secure over one million healthcare records. Using Keyless Signature Infrastructure (KSI), a blockchain-based system, Guardtime provides real-time visibility into patient records along with added security measures.
Guardtime aims to protect patient records with an "independent forensic-quality audit trail". The company claims this will make it impossible to alter the information, illicitly or otherwise, without it being noticed, by use of the KSI. Every time a modification is made on a health record, the system creates a new digital signature timestamping the alteration and eliminating the need for trusted authorities to issue data governance. By reducing threats of malware and hacks, the adoption of blockchain technology in the country has made Estonia one of, if not the most, technologically advanced nation in the world.
Bitnation, the world’s first virtual nation, proclaims a mission to rid the world of geographical apartheids by offering e-citizens better and cheaper government services, accessed from anywhere in the world, regardless of official citizenship.
Their public mission statement on their website explains:
Nation State Governments have failed to keep up with the technologies that are transforming our lives. The Internet has radically interconnected our world and Blockchain technology – a cryptographically secured public ledger that is distributed amongst all of its users – allows us to choose to govern ourselves for the way we want to live now: peer-to-peer, more locally and globally.
After switching from Bitcoin to the Ethereum blockchain in early 2016, Bitnation’s founder Susanne Tartowski Tempelhof, redesigned the holacracy to utilize smart contracts better suited for their needs and technical applications. Instead of voting like in a democratic system of government, a holacractic government seeks agreement between consenting individuals represented by tokens. Access to governmental services would be dramatically cheaper in this model, and would eventually outcompete traditional governments, according to Tempelhof.
Bitnation is a Decentralized Borderless Voluntary Nation (DBVN) with its own constitution and currency that is revolutionizing the definition of a sovereign state. Tempelhof states, Bitnation is currency agnostic and will accept bitcoin, Ether, and other alt coins, along with its own token to be used for the sharing of profits between citizens. With its already deployed projects such as Bitcoin debit cards for refugees, and a world citizenship ID card, Bitnation is on the forefront of decentralized governance
A BRAVE NEW WORLD
With so much decentralization crossing over from the digital space into the physical world, a new paradigm of governance is revealing itself to the masses. Ethereum blockchain allows for organizations to break down borders and redefine our notions of nationality, citizenship, and government’s role in our daily lives. For the dreamers of the world with visions of utopias, blockchain legitimizes their hopes through technology that for now, serves the people as opposed to centralized systems of authority. Whatever political ideology one subscribes to, one thing that can’t be ignored is blockchain’s ability to radically disrupt and reinvent ideas of governance.