The old adage warns us not to witness the production of two things in life: sausage and laws. I prefer bacon myself, but when it comes to the laws that govern our lives, citizens of all nations have an inherent interest in their creation and implementation – regardless of how much they might actually lay eyes upon. Unfortunately, many people don’t enjoy the privilege of civic mechanisms or legal recourse that facilitate the proposal and legislative consideration of ideas conceived by the general public. In the case of Brazil, even when such a mechanism is provided for in the constitution, logistical challenges and government corruption doom the majority of these public petitions before they begin.
Enter the possibilities of blockchain technology, where the fundamentals of a distributed ledger are being harnessed to overcome these hurdles of the past. Brazilians have a constitutional right to have their public petitions heard by Congress if they are endorsed by at least 1% of the electorate. In a diverse nation of 207 million with nearly 150 million voters and variable internet access, gathering and verifying the required signatures has been a monumental task. The results of successful petitions are even more discouraging, yielding the passage of only four laws. Without a modern method for verification, the petitioners rely upon individual legislators to adopt proposals as their own, a risky venture for both parties in a nation with a declining democratic environment. According to The Economist’s Intelligence Unit, Brazil’s democracy index score has fallen since 2014:
One of the primary computing platforms thriving in the current blockchain technology renaissance is Ethereum. Released in 2015, the Ethereum platform is open source, public and blockchain-based with high “smart contract” functionality that utilizes a global infrastructure network to thwart third party interference. Simply put, the Ethereum protocol presents itself as an ideal solution for Brazil’s need to record, preserve and independently verify data (signatures). Two innovative Brazilians recognized this potential and strengthened their collaboration and resolve during the Ethereum Foundation’s annual developers conference in Mexico last November.
Everton Fraga (left, Ethereum software engineer) and Ricardo Fernandes Paixao (right, Professor and Congressional economic advisor) view the use of blockchain technology as a way to finally implement the public petition provision within their nation’s constitution. A government-backed mobile application could transform the signature-gathering process from pickup trucks with crates of physical paper into a digital on-ramp into the Ethereum blockchain. Daily hashing could then attach batches of signatures to encrypted transactions with, perhaps most importantly, one-way capability for verification. At that point, the record of signatures has been permanently recorded on the distributed ledger without the need for third party verification.
The political landscape in Brazil is highly volatile amidst recent scandals that have entangled dozens of top government and business leaders. Leading up to national elections in October, many leaders are trying to establish a forward-looking agenda while considering all kinds of proposals for reform and beneficial progress, including this petition process enhancement. For now, Fraga, Paixao, and the countless Brazilians they represent must eagerly await their government’s decision and the potential impact of Ethereum blockchain technology on the democratic nature of their country.
About the author: Ryan LaMonica is a management consultant and blockchain enthusiast with a background in engineering, energy, marketing and risk management. The views reflected in this article are his own and do not reflect those of his employer. He currently resides outside of Atlanta, Georgia where he and his wife manage the energy and risk of their four amazing children.
- The Economist:
- Bill Purcell Photography via Flikr:
(header image: http://www.blockchaintechnologies.com)