Hold Up: What Actually Happened in Sierra Leone’s “Blockchain” Election?

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On March 7, Sierra Leone held the first presidential election using blockchain, the distributed ledger technology poised to transform our world.

At least, that’s what we were told.

That’s according to Agora, the Swiss-based blockchain startup that claimed to have facilitated the blockchain-based election.

“Sierra Leone’s 2018 presidential elections, which took place on March 7th, represents the first time in history that blockchain technology has been used in a national government election,” wrote Agora in a press release distributed on March 8. Media outlets — including TechCrunch, Quartz, and yes, Futurism  covered it accordingly.

But Sierra Leone’s election officials say that’s not what happened. The National Electoral Commission (NEC) is the “sole authority” on Sierra Leone’s public elections, and the group has gone out of its way to make it clear that it did not use blockchain in the March 7 election.

First, the NEC shared a quote from Chief Electoral Commissioner/Chairperson Mohamed Conteh via Twitter on March 18:

If that wasn’t enough, the NEC then posted this “Fast Fact” the next day:

So, what exactly happened here?

Agora obtained permission from the NEC to act as “an international observer” at 280 of roughly 11,200 polling stations. Sierra Leone election officials recorded the paper votes as they would in any other election. Then, Agora’s team recorded those same votes on its blockchain. Later, it published those results on its website.

Essentially, Agora’s involvement with the Sierra Leone election was a proof-of-concept experiment. Like: “See? We can record an election and get the same result as government officials.”

On March 20, Agora published its own official statement on Medium attempting to clear up the situation.

In it, the company first laid out the facts of its involvement with the election. Then, Agora addressed where the controversy seems to have begun: a Medium post published on March 16, two days before the NEC’s first tweeted that blockchain wasn’t involved in the country’s elections.

As Agora notes, the author of that post, Tamba Lamin, is the CTO of LAM-TECH, a tech consulting company that sponsors the Sierra Leone Open Election Data Platform (SLOEDP), a software platform designed for the collection and sharing of data about Sierra Leone elections (and apparently an Agora competitor).

In its official statement, Agora says, “Most of the media pushback we have received over the past week stems from…[SLOEDP].” The company even not-so-subtly suggests why that might be:

While we are unclear about the motivations of SLOEDP, their stated description as “an open source platform to facilitate free, fair, safe, secure and transparent elections” is directly competing or overlapping in nature with Agora’s technology. Furthermore, slides from a LAM-TECH public presentation on the electiondata.io website show clear conflicts of interest between our two organizations.

So, was this “controversy” surrounding Agora’s role in the Sierra Leone election simply one election-recording company looking for a chance to paint a competitor as a liar? Or was Agora overtly trying to make it seem like they were more involved than they were?

It might be a bit of both.

While most of Agora’s wording post-election leaves room for interpretation, a couple of lines sure make it seem like the company played some sort of official role beyond that of “observer”:

  • “The National Electoral Commission’s decision to work with Agora…” [March 8 press release]
  • “Sierra Leone is the first government to use blockchain in part of its election process…” [March 8 press release]
  • “[Agora is] engaged in Sierra Leone presidential elections…” [message from CEO Leonardo Gammar to Agora’s Telegram group on March 8]

Agora is now taking at least some responsibility for the misleading media coverage surrounded the Sierra Leone election. CEO Leonardo Gammar told Cointelegraph on March 29:

There was some miscommunication on our behalf, and I think we learned a lot because of it. We made a few mistakes when speaking to journalists, and when we sought to clear it up, it was all too late. We got very excited about the technology and the way in which it could help people  like a lot of companies do in the blockchain space — and I think we came on too strong for the NEC.

Gammar also said the company has hired someone to help them with its “PR game,” so that they present all future projects accurately.

If there’s one thing the blockchain space doesn’t need, it’s unwarranted hype overshadowing the technology’s true potential.

The post Hold Up: What Actually Happened in Sierra Leone’s “Blockchain” Election? appeared first on Futurism.

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Atlanta Works to Break Ransomware Hold

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Nearly a week after it became the target of one of the largest ransomware attacks to date, the City of Atlanta has made progress toward recovery, but it is still far from business as usual. Hackers encrypted many of the city government’s vital data and computer systems. The ransomware attack, which Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms characterized as “a hostage situation,” forced the city to shut down municipal courts and even prevented residents from paying bills online. The city has been unable to issue warrants.
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Facebook will hold an emergency meeting to let employees ask questions about Cambridge Analytica

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Facebook has scheduled an open meeting to all employees Tuesday to let them ask questions about the unfolding Cambridge Analytica data privacy scandal, according to an internal calendar invitation reviewed by The Verge. The meeting, which is scheduled for 10AM PT, will be led by Paul Grewal, the company’s deputy general counsel. Grewal is expected to explain the background of the case, which involves the user profiles of as many as 50 million people being used by Cambridge Analytica as part of its ad targeting efforts during the 2016 election. Grewal is also expected to take questions via a polling feature found on the meeting’s internal event page.

Facebook did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

While Facebook executives…

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Kids are struggling to hold pens, but is handwriting still fit for a digital age?

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Back in 2011, a video of a one-year-old baby girl attempting to swipe on a glossy magazine like it was an iPad went viral. Depending on your viewpoint, the spectacle was either adorable or completely frightening. For many, it highlighted how digital natives were beginning to consume media in an entirely new way. Fast-forward a few years, and once again traditionalists have provided another stark warning. Sally Payne, a head pediatric occupational therapist, recently told the Guardian newspaper that children were arriving at school without the fundamental movement skills needed to grip a pencil and move it. As our children…

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Apple will hold March 27 event with education focus

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Apple announced today that it is holding an event on March 27 that will focus on “creative new ideas for teachers and students.” The event is likely to include the debut of an updated iPad, as well as new software initiatives. A calligraphy-styled invitation for the event is titled “Let’s take a field trip.” Unlike mos…Read More
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Crooks Kidnap Man and Hold Him Ransom for iPhone and $300

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Two men have been arrested after allegedly kidnapping a man and then asking him to hand over his iPhone in return for freedom, according to the Coloradoan. Fort Collins police took action after 39-year old Daniel Cordova and 22-year-old Michael Carrillo approached an innocent man and woman on March 1st. Law enforcement officials claim that the crooks […]
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Ireland picks Bank of New York Mellon to hold Apple’s $18.6B tax payment in escrow

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The Irish government has reportedly selected Bank of New York Mellon to control an escrow fund holding up to $ 18.6 billion in back taxes collected from Apple, pending attempts to reverse a ruling by the European Commission.
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This 256GB microSD card can hold all your Nintendo Switch games for $100

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Don’t go without it.

Samsung’s 256GB microSD card has only been cheaper once before, and that was during a brief sale on Black Friday. Unless you have a time machine to go back and get that price, this is easily the best deal around on such a large capacity card. SanDisk’s similar option is currently $ 10 more.

The EVO Select is a Class 10 UHS 3 card, meaning it’s great for storing files, capturing photos, and will even record 4K video without an issue. It has read speeds of up to 100MB/s and write speeds of up to 90MB/s. You can add this card to your smartphone, like the Samsung Galaxy S9 or S9+, tablet, action camera, PC and more to gain a ton of extra portable storage.

If 256GB is simply too much space for you or you want to spend less, Samsung’s 128GB version of this card is down to just $ 40 right now.

See at Amazon

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Microgrids could hold key to hurricane recovery – and energy resilience

Microgrids are helping communities in Puerto Rico get back on their feet – but smart systems and ‘energy clouds’ might also contribute to greater resilience in the wake of future extreme weather episodes. Jessica Twentyman reports.

It is five months since Hurricane Maria struck Puerto Rico, yet around one-third of the US territory’s residents – some 900,000 people – are still living without electricity.

But for pupils at S.U. Matrullas, a school located in the remote town of Orocovis in the island’s Central Mountain Range, it’s lessons as normal. That’s thanks to the donation of two smart energy-storage systems from German residential battery company, Sonnen. These are paired with a 15 kilowatt rooftop solar system provided by local renewable energy specialist, Pura Energia.

Together, these pieces of equipment form a microgrid that will provide enough energy to keep the school open and supplied with clean, renewable energy – rather than it having to rely on a noisy and far less environmentally friendly gas-fuelled generator.

A microgrid is a small local energy grid with control capabilities, based on connected sensors and other IoT technologies that enable it to operate independently of traditional grids.

The school has been completely off the main supply grids since the hurricane struck in September 2017, and was not expecting to be reconnected for many months to come. Now, school officials reckon they won’t need to reconnect with the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA), even once the main power supply is restored to the area.

Microgrids post-hurricane recovery and energy resilience
The solar array from Pura Energia installed at S.U. Matrullas school in Puerto Rico as part of a microgrid.

Read more: Analysis: 2018 looks set to see a surge in microgrids

More than just recovery

S.U. Matrullus is the site of the ninth and tenth microgrid systems that Sonnen and Pura Energia have installed on the island since Hurricane Maria tore through Puerto Rico. Others have been installed at relief centres, food distribution centres, and community laundromats, supporting households in areas where water has been contaminated by the Leptospirosis bacteria.

According to Adam Gentner, Sonnen’s director of business development in Latin America, “These microgrids effectively form the blueprint for more than just recovery, but also for preparation for islands and regions around the world that are susceptible to natural disasters and power outages.”

This is an important point: microgrids have a potentially huge role to play, not just in recovery, but also in ongoing energy resilience. And, as seen at S.U. Matrullas, microgrids often incorporate renewable energy sources, and include battery storage, too.

As previously discussed on Internet of Business, microgrids are a huge IoT opportunity, as they’re comprised of equipment that requires sensors, connectivity, and analytics to perform at its best. The smart battery systems from Sonnen, for example, rely on a self-learning algorithm to decide when to charge and discharge the battery, based on data it processes on energy usage patterns, photovoltaic output, weather predictions, and grid tariff rates.

Read more: GE’s Maher Chebbo on the journey to a digitally transformed energy sector

Improving island life

There is a huge opportunity for microgrids and smart systems on the storm-ravaged islands of the Caribbean, which last year had to deal with Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria in swift succession. Most of these islands operate an energy infrastructure based on one large generator powered by imported fossil fuels, with power transported along above-ground cables. In other words, it’s unnecessarily dirty, costly – and vulnerable.

It follows that sustainable alternatives, such as wind and solar power, could do much to increase resiliency – although it’s worth noting that several solar farms on these islands did get trashed during these storms, so a future based on solar-plus-batteries may not be enough.

But a recent report on Puerto Rico’s energy future seems to agree that microgrids have a big role to play. Prepared by more than a dozen organisations, including the island’s power authority PREPA, it calls for a decade-long plan of improvement programmes that is likely to cost somewhere in the region of $ 17 billion.

In particular, it proposes a two-pronged approach to microgrid adoption. First, critical centres vital to post-storm recovery – such as hospital, police and fire stations, emergency shelters, air and sea ports, and water treatment plants – should operate in isolation as microgrids, using technologies such as combined heat and power systems, rooftop solar, battery storage, and smart energy management systems.

Second, remote communities should have their own microgrids that enable them to operate independently – and remain disconnected – from the larger grid.

Read more: Chirp and EDF Energy team up on power station connectivity project

A resilient and renewables-based future?

One of the contributors to the Puerto Rico report was Navigant Research, which specialises in energy market analysis. It follows microgrids closely, and last week released a report estimating that culmulative spending on microgrid-enabling technologies will reach almost $ 112 billion by 2026.

Navigant analyst Peter Asmus says, “Microgrids represent a key component of an emerging ‘energy cloud’ focused on resilience and renewable energy integration. Biomass, combined heat and power, diesel, fuel cells, hydroelectric, solar PV, and wind represent the lion’s share of potential revenue for microgrid implementation spending, and serve as the backbone of the microgrid value proposition: maximising the value of onsite power generation.”

Internet of Business says

For the 900,000 Puerto Ricans still living without power, resilience can’t come quick enough. The use of renewables, meanwhile, would mean greater self-reliance when it comes to energy generation, allowing them to use the island’s own resources to generate the power its people need.

Smart, connected, distributed energy networks are not just a stopgap solution while traditional infrastructures are being repaired; they can be a radical, better alternative to legacy systems.


Coming soon: Our Internet of Energy event will be taking place in Berlin, Germany on 6 & 7 March 2018. Attendees will hear how companies in this sector are harnessing the power of IoT to transform distributed energy resources. 

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Samsung will let people hold the Galaxy S9 in augmented reality — and of course it leaked early

By the time Samsung’s Unpacked event for the Galaxy S9 rolls around, there will be very little (if anything) left to the imagination. We know what it’ll look like, what the specs are, and even have a good idea of the release date. You’ll probably have to wait a couple weeks before you can feel the phone in your own hands, but according to XDA Developers, Samsung is going to let attendees at its Mobile World Congress presser visualize that part with the help of augmented reality.

A capable Reddit user tore down the Unpacked 2018 mobile app and discovered that hidden in the software (for now) is a feature that will let those at the event see the S9 in AR by tapping their phone against their event badge. From there, they can switch between…

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