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Moscow to Use Blockchain Tech in ‘Active Citizen’ Project

Last Updated March 4, 2021 4:50 PM
Samburaj Das
Last Updated March 4, 2021 4:50 PM

Government officials in Moscow are willing to explore and implement the potential and uses of blockchain technology in various applications including the Active Citizen project. The city government initiative is a technology-laden program aimed to make citizens of Moscow more inclusive in affecting government decisions.

The Department of Information Technology of Moscow is ready to implement blockchain technology within its “Active Citizen” project, according to the department’s deputy director. Andrei Belozerov revealed his eagerness to use blockchain technology during a meeting with the Russian Presidential administration,

In quotes reported by prominent Russian news agency RNS , Belozerov stated:

Moscow is ready to be a platform to see the use of blockchain technology. We are offering the “Active Citizen” project, as a pilot project.  On the one hand, we want to pilot the technology and understand how it is able to function for such an application. On the other, we want to shake off the skepticism [of the Active Citizen project] on the part of the citizens.

Criticism Against the Project

The “Active Citizen” project is an initiative embarked upon by the new city government wherein citizens of Moscow gain access to the platform via a smartphone app and a website. The project sees citizens weigh in on issues and polls via questions related to the functioning of the city of Moscow and its regional government. Citizens have up to a fortnight to vote before results of the survey are sent over to the agency that put forth the question. At this point, the agency has a fortnight to decide on a decision upon how it would then fulfill the wishes of the majority.

While the idea is a novel one on paper, the Active Citizen project has garnered plenty of criticism for the kind of discussion it has fostered so far. One Moscow citizen, described it as follows in an email to the Guardian :

Another initiative of the new government team, a website and smartphone application called “Active citizen”, billed as letting user “directly influence government decisions”, asks users to choose names for new parks or the color of new stadium seats, ignoring such important problems as widening of toll parking zones, closure of hospitals, toll city entrance for private transport, and the need for special car lanes for state lawmakers.

Furthermore, the popular answer doesn’t always lead to the desired outcome. In 2014, one of the questions asked of the citizens was “What kind of sport and recreation is essential at parks?” To this, the most popular answer was “Segways”. As a result, parks allowed Segways to roll in but the move resulted in the number of injuries at Moscow parks increasing considerably.

A Fair Vote, via the Blockchain

Beyond those criticisms, Belozerov admitted that the project was also under scrutiny for allegedly modifying or tweaking the number of votes. As a result, he sees blockchain technology with locally trusted nodes as the answer to help quell skepticism of the project as a whole.

The idea is that any citizen vote in any form will be digitally signed to be put onto the blockchain, which would consist of a series of nodes that are located in trusted organizations.

Belozerov added that Sberbank, Russia’s largest bank, was keen on joining the project as one of the hubs running a node. Sberbank has notably expressed interest in joining the much-publicized R3-led global banking blockchain consortium in the past. In an enthusiastic nod to the technology, the Chairman of Sberbank has expressed his dismay in the frequently-proposed bitcoin ban bill.

Bolozerov concluded his pitch by revealing how a public ledger will bring transparency to the entire process.

Accordingly, any member of the [blockchain] has the means to check each vote while determining the results of the vote.

Featured image from Shutterstock.