Is Web3 the answer for fair elections? Interview with Vocdoni following the partnership with Barcelona


You don’t need me to tell you that the subject of trust and faith in elections has taken up a lot of air time over the past two years. US hearings on the capital bombings have brought this into the limelight again, but when you consider the developing world, the subject is an almost constant threat to democracy in some regions.

I therefore find the innovation taking place around the Web3 infrastructure and voting interesting. Vocdoni is one such project operating in this space, aiming to create governance solutions based on decentralized technology.

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Last week, he announced the successful election of 30 representatives to the governing body of footballing giant FC Barcelona. So, yeah, we’re seeing an intriguing mix of sports, voting, and Web3 here. Voters vote using ‘blind signatures‘, before receiving a proof of vote code. This process ensures that every vote is counted while maintaining voter anonymity.

Of course, Barcelona have been a source of controversy over the past few years, as the previous regime sent them into suffocating debt and spiraling financial difficulties. This eventually led to the previously unimaginable scenario of superstar Lionel Messi being offloaded, to free up space on the wage bill, and a ban on signing new players (although, oddly enough, that has now ended).

So, I was very curious about many aspects of this story. To get answers, I interviewed Ferran Reyes, co-founder of Vocdoni.

Invezz (IZ): Can you please summarize what exactly Vocdoni is, for those who don’t know him?

Ferran Reyes (FR): Vocdoni is a Web3 project whose mission is to develop decentralized governance solutions, with a focus on creating anonymous, censorship-resistant and scalable digital voting solutions.

The Vocdoni Open Voting Pile is flexible and easily integrated by third parties, allowing almost all types of voting possible. Additionally, Vocdoni provides a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) voting platform that enables the creation of new voting models, tailored to the specific needs of the respective organization using the protocol.

Vocdoni has served the governance needs of private organizations and public institutions, facilitating the voting of hundreds of thousands of citizens via Decentralized Autonomous Organization (DAO) token-based voting, Annual General Meetings (AGMs), elections business and public referendums.

To date, Vocdoni is the most advanced digital voting protocol based on decentralized technologies, offering solutions at a fraction of the cost compared to centralized counterparts.

IZ: Barcelona have had serious debt and financial management problems in recent seasons, knocking them out of the upper echelons of Europe’s top flight, cutting their wage bill and saying goodbye to global superstar Lionel Messi. Were there fears that being associated with the incompetent financial management they practiced would be detrimental to Vocdoni’s brand?

FR : Football Club Barcelona (FCB) is much more than a club: it is one of the few clubs on the planet that allows its association of supporters to be part of a global community. Democratic and meaningful inclusion is important, and as one of Catalonia’s most important institutions, its decision to use decentralized voting technology serves as a powerful example to the rest of the world.

Vocdoni’s advanced democratic governance solutions allow the club to connect more closely with its most valuable asset: its global community. Hopefully this will encourage other organizations, public and private, to follow suit.

IZ: Barcelona have declared their intention to create their own cryptocurrency. Do you think this could work, or is it just a marketing stunt?

FR : Many leading sports entities are currently experimenting with blockchain technology. I believe it is natural to try new technologies and represents our innate human curiosity. Decentralized technology, in particular, can streamline many processes, such as facilitating payments, generating incentives, and funding initiatives.

The usefulness of these solutions goes far beyond sports and can be applied to any micro-economy organization or initiative, such as music festivals or charities. Importantly, decentralized solutions can help break down barriers and focus resources that would otherwise be distributed.

IZ: There has been a lot of talk about NFTs and football clubs over the last year or so, but that has faded recently as the bear market has started and liquidity has been sucked out of the market. Do you think the chatter and NFT proposals in football will return?

FR : Non-fungible tokens (NFTs) have had an intense speculative boom, but now is the time to put their usefulness first. Applying NFTs to ticketing, fan loyalty, or club membership makes the most sense for the sports use case. There are many other ways football clubs and their communities can benefit, and by combining them with decentralized voting technologies, fans around the world can join clubs that transcend national borders using Web3 technology.

IZ: Do you think digital voting could help quell much of the controversy around election fairness, an example of which we’ve even seen dominate the media in the United States? Would the developing world have the infrastructure to implement this properly?

FR : The Vocdoni Open Voting Stack can ensure that a vote has been cast fairly and without manipulation. Secure and affordable digital voting makes it easier for citizens to participate in corporate, municipal and regional governance beyond national elections. If implemented on a larger scale, it would have a positive impact on the democratic quality of a nation and could alleviate voter apathy.

In terms of technical aspects, Vocdoni’s code is open-source and the vote recount takes place in a public ballot box using decentralized technology so that any person and organization in the world can audit the vote in real time. Dubbed “universally verifiable” within Vocdoni’s ranks, it represents a paradigm shift in digital voting, which has traditionally been dominated by centralized protocols that require blind trust. By using cryptographic mechanisms such as zkSnarks and blind signaturesall of this can be achieved, while preserving the anonymity of voters.

In addition, there are other beneficial uses in politics, such as improving accessibility to boost participation, developing global digital identification methods, and enabling citizens to verify that the census is accurate. However, these use cases would require a lot of socio-political momentum. Global law and policy should adapt to a digitized and decentralized voting paradigm with a legislative framework that could facilitate a secure and distributed identity authentication system. This would allow for an instant recount of ballots and would comply with global identity standards.

IZ: How much harder is it to partner with organizations now than it would have been this time last year, when investment and demand in space were at all-time highs?

FR : Whether the market is bullish or bearish has nothing to do with the decentralization of digital voting: its power lies in its usefulness. As blockchain is leveraged by Vocdoni to provide the necessary attributes of security and traceability in digital governance, the Open Voting Stack is not subject to market fluctuations.

The demand for Vocdoni’s voting solutions is increasing due to various factors, including the improvement of the Vocdoni voting protocol, the need for governance in Web3, external social changes such as the hyper-digitalization of society and the increase in remote work on a global scale.

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