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Brazil Looks to Ethereum to Solve its Popular Petition Problem

Last Updated March 4, 2021 5:03 PM
Colin Harper
Last Updated March 4, 2021 5:03 PM

You’ve likely heard (or read online) impassioned treatises from enthusiasts about cryptocurrency’s disruptive potential, about the revolutionary implications it has to uproot outdated financial systems.  When you look at the rate of crypto’s public adoption–not to mention the number of governments jumping the gun to establish their own national crytpocurrencies–crypto’s core supporters seem less like conspiratorial techies and more like visionaries with each passing day.

But as our ears ring with chatter about what cryptocurrency means for the future of finance, we may fall deaf to blockhain’s other promising calling: the future of data transfer and storage.

Thanks to the initiative of a designer turned programmer and a modest political advisor, Brazil may not be ignoring this call.  As reported by Quartz , the pair wants to take popular petitions, a common–and arguably–inefficient means to record public electoral support, and record them on Ethereum’s blockchain.

A New Age Solution to an Outdated Problem

In Brazil, popular petitions are a form of electoral initiative, allowing the public to present legislation or referendums to the Brazilian congress.  Any petition that garners signatures from 1% of Brazil’s voting population (approximately 1.45 million people) is presented to Congress.

Problem is, the system, from signing petitions, to transporting and verifying them, is outdated and inefficient. Even for those petitions that earn enough signatures, the Brazilian government, at times, fails to uphold their constitutional obligation to review them.

“In part this is due to the absence of a platform that can securely collect the signatures of one percent of voters,” Universidade de Brasília law professor Henrique Araújo Costa stated.  

For Ricardo Fernandes Paixão and Everton Fraga, the duo behind the initiative, this is where Ethereum’s Blockchain comes in.  Instead of circulating, signing, and verifying petitions by hand, the project heads want to run the entire process through Ethereum, storing signatures and records of these signatures on the protocol’s blockchain.  To Peixoto, a World Bank specialist who holds that there’s no sure way to authenticate signatures under the current system, “[this] is a workaround solution necessary due to the impossibility of verifying the authenticity of the signatures.”

How It Will Work

In order to achieve Paixão and Fraga’s vision, the Brazilian congress is developing a mobile app.  After registering with the app, citizens can sign or create their own petitions using Ethereum’s blockchain.

On a daily basis, individual signatures will be cryptographically hashed, and by day’s end, these hashes will be sent as a single transaction to the Ethereum network.  Hashing the signatures and sending them as a lump transaction reduces costs and network bloat, as sending each signature as a single transaction would likely be energy intensive and inefficient

Once a transaction is added to the blockchain, signatories can review their individual hashes on the blockchain.  “Anyone can audit the system,” Paixão, the congressional legislative adviser described. “Each day, you can prove from cryptographic proof that a certain signature is already there.”   

The project, which has been in development since 2017, is still awaiting congressional approval. If it were to succeed, the development “would be a celebration of democracy,” according to Fraga, the designer and developer spearheading the project with Paixão. “With this project, we are doing what the constitution says, but in practice, it hasn’t happened.”

If Brazil implements Ethereum into their electoral project, they will be the first government to use blockchain technology for public functions.  Meanwhile, Sweden has looked to blockchain  to solve problems in the private sector, such as land registry and title deeds.

Featured image from Shutterstock.