The media widely reported that the recent Sierra Leone elections took place using blockchain technology. Some even went on to say that Sierra Leone elections were the first to use a blockchain, while noting that no other country had done this in the past.
Agora, a Swiss blockchain tech company, claimed that the recent Sierra Leone elections used blockchain for tallying and auditing the election results. However, now it seems there was no reality in those claims.
NEC’s Denial of Use of Blockchain Technology in Sierra Leone Elections
The country’s National Election Commission denied that blockchain technology had any role to play in the Sierra Leone elections. The denial claim, through the NEC’s twitter account, by the Chair Mohamed Conteh stated:
“The NEC has not used, and is not using blockchain technology in any part of the electoral process.”
Even the official handbook of the NEC suggests that Sierra Leone elections were conducted by following the manual polling & counting procedures. The handbook contains details about the procedures for processing votes.
Here is a link to the official handbook for conducting Sierra Leone elections.
This book contains the details about the voting process. Also, you can see the manual counting process and clear guidelines for conducting elections, with instructions for returning and presiding officers. RRF1, or the Presidential Elections, specifically deals with this type of election exercise.
Use of In-House Database for Tallying Results & False Agora Claim
The National Election Commission uses its in-house database for tallying election results. The database was originally developed for conducting Sierra Leone elections back in 2012. However, it got an upgrade in 2018. The database runs on MS SQL and C++. Moreover, the elections software is not open source, and there is no involvement of blockchain technology in it.
The media picked up the news from Agora’s blog two days after Sierra Leone’s presidential elections. The news still remains there claiming Swiss-based Agora powered the world’s first ever elections in Sierra Leone, using blockchain technology.
Agora was quick to make huge claims about its digital voting platform being used during Sierra Leone’s presidential elections in March 2018. The blog post also added that an immutable ledger had been used to document all the records.
The Truth Behind Agora’s Involvement in Sierra Leone Elections
Agora did have “international observer” access to just 250 polling stations out of a total of 11,200. This only counts for 2 percent of all the polling stations used for the Sierra Leone presidential elections. Thus, the company did count the votes for these 2 percent polling stations independently. However, it seems this involvement of Agora in Sierra Leone elections was minor and would not have been able to significantly affect the overall results.
The company may still argue that they did use blockchain technology for counting votes. Notably, Agora did issue a clarification statement stating the different facts about its involvement with the 2018 presidential elections in Sierra Leone. Despite media reports that Agora covered 250 polling stations, the statement claims that it covered 280 polling stations during this election exercise.