Vocdoni | Aragon Labs End of Year Retrospective 2021
A look back at a fantastic year for Aragon Labs and the Vocdoni team.
Vocdoni, Charlie McCombie
Vocdoni (verb) [Esperanto] / vɒk'dəʊniː / - to give voice / to vote.
Vocdoni: Blockchain voting for traditional organizations | Aragon Labs: Research & development.
As we begin a new year, let us look back on what the Vocdoni | Aragon Labs team has achieved; it has certainly been an eventful 12 months! 2021 was Vocdoni’s first year as part of the Aragon ecosystem, while the Aragon Labs team grew by 20 members, including the acquisition of Vocdoni’s team of 12. We launched Aragon Voice – a decentralized proposal and voting platform for token-based organizations; and Vocdoni.app – our device-agnostic app for accessible decision-making; implemented anonymous and weighted voting for the first time; brought the voting API (VaaS) successfully to market; sponsored and attended several conferences to demonstrate to the community; and received some excellent media coverage.
Q1 – Team Growth, 14Fruits, & Rebranding
At the beginning of the year, the Aragon Association, acquired dVote Labs, the company behind the Vocdoni protocol – an open-source technology stack that enables traditional organizations to conduct private, universally verifiable voting at scale using decentralized technologies. This joint venture between Aragon and Vocdoni has the shared goal of expanding blockchain voting internationally. With the acquisition of the Vocdoni team, Aragon Labs (R&D) welcomed founders, Xavi & Pau, and COO Joan; developers, Jordi M., Abel, Jordi P., Emmanouil, Oscar, Nate & Daniel; Communications Lead Ferran, and Project Manager Roger.
The following month saw the incredibly successful 14Fruits campaign come to fruition (hehe). Vocdoni organized the first ever blockchain voting experiment parallel to (Catalan) parliamentary elections – an electoral opinion poll using blind signatures for anonymization, and digital certificates for authentication (the first time we had publicly implemented these). The vote was conducted on our Vocdoni digital voting protocol, built on the xDai ETH sidechain, and Vochain – our custom blockchain for vote counting, based on Tendermint Core. The voting process was auditable via the Vochain Block Explorer (explorer.vote), and the results of the process were accessible via the Vocdoni Ballot Protocol, introduced to the existing Aragon-Vocdoni tech stack this year.
More than 2,000 Catalans participated in the vote, with nearly 1,500 pre-registering. A further ~1 million citizens already have digital IDs, and would thus be eligible to express their opinion via digital voting in the future. The campaign proved to be highly effective PR, reaching an aggregated audience of 23 million people, increasing brand awareness and boosting our reputation, particularly through media appearances on news programs and more long-form content on platforms like CCMA TV3, the primary television channel of the Catalan public broadcaster.
Vocdoni also went through a significant rebranding that brought its design and style more in line with Aragon and the Web3 space:
Q2 – Aragon Voice, Vocdoni.app & Omnium Cultural
Throughout the second quarter, the Vocdoni | Aragon Labs team grew to include Marta (Account Manager), Alex (Full Stack Developer), Marc (Full Stack Developer), Jordi A. (Technical Product Manager), Adrià (Security Engineer), and Arnau (Blockchain Developer). Old and new team members were integral to Aragon’s release of Aragon Voice and Vocdoni.app later in the quarter. We would especially like to thank Adrià and Arnau, who inaugurated our research and development of applied zero-knowledge technology, leading to a number of breakthroughs throughout the year in anonymous voting via zk-SNARKs.
In May, Aragon Voice – the first gasless, trustless and universally verifiable voting tool for token-based organizations – was released, successfully implementing ETH Storage Proofs off-chain, and proving that Vochain could also be used for token-based voting. Voice is set to be re-evaluated in Q1 2022.
In June, we launched Vocdoni.app – the first open-source, universally verifiable voting tool for humanity. Accessible via multiple devices and easy-to-use owing to its simple user-centric interface, the platform has seen constant growth in the number of organizations interacting with the app over the last six months. More than 220 organizations are actively engaging in vote processes.
For the second year in a row, the Òmnium Cultural association - one of the largest organizations in Catalonia, with more than 185,000 members - trusted Vocdoni for their annual general meeting (AGM) votes and board elections. Working with the same organization in back-to-back years allowed our team to iterate and improve on the product while significantly reducing the cost of the process. Vocdoni is now the least expensive online voting platform on the market, especially at scale. We look forward to holding their fourth AGM with us in January 2022, with an expected 4,000 voters.
Q3&4 – Conferences, Weighted & Anonymous Voting, & VaaS
Vocdoni sponsored and attended the first ever BxCat 2021: Blockchain for Catalonia fair in the beautiful, ancient northeastern city of Girona on September 17th. Organized by the Blockchain Centre of Catalonia (CBCat) – itself an initiative of the Barcelona Chamber of Commerce and the Catalan government – the event brought together more than 20 exhibitors and 50 speakers to showcase the potential of blockchain and decentralized technology, as well as connect companies in the space with established industry, citizens, and administrations of all sizes. The fair was a big success, having sold all 250 tickets five days before opening. Roger Baig delivered a very well-received talk and garnered some fantastic mainstream TV media attention at our booth.
The swiftly changing public perception of blockchain technology was evident at the fair, demonstrated by the City Council Vice-President’s assertion that the “Council of Girona is especially committed to the adoption of new technologies and to guaranteeing equal opportunities to access them, so that no one is excluded [in Catalan].” This kind of statement (albeit from a politician) is reassuringly aligned with the overall goals of Web3 and parallels the Aragon Manifesto and vision of Vocdoni to build decentralized tools that empower individuals and communities to be digitally self-sovereign and transparent.
As the Catalan government Director General of Innovation and the Digital Economy, Daniel Marco, highlighted, BxCat will continue to provide the ideal opportunity for participants in the rapidly expanding Catalan blockchain ecosystem to meet, learn, collaborate, market new products, and generate innovative ideas for the Blockchain Strategy of Catalonia. We look forward to attending the second BxCat on May 4-5th 2022.
After the addition of Anthony (Senior Business Development Manager & Team Lead) and Marco (Senior Product Designer) in late August, the Vocdoni | Aragon Labs team was joined by Evan (Senior Product Manager), Charlie (Content Writer), and Andrew (Senior Golang Backend & Software Engineer) in the final quarter.
On November 11-12th, Vocdoni sponsored and participated in the Democracy 4 All (D4A) conference in Barcelona, focused on strengthening democratic values around the world via technological advancements.
Being in the heart of Catalonia, where the limits of centralized democracy were tested in 2017 when Spanish police confronted independence referendum voters and jailed Catalan leaders, D4A was a great opportunity to debate the future of technopolitics, digital democracy and blockchain voting. Anthony, Jordi A., Marta, Roger & Daniel were in attendance, representing us at our booth and during the ~35 panels, speeches, roundtable discussions, and workshops over the two days.
It was a great experience to speak to so many people at our booth about the potential of Vocdoni and blockchain technology to bring about global liquid democracy and help alleviate human rights abuses, as well as showcase our Vocdoni e-voting solution.
Anthony and Marta ran a Vocdoni.app e-voting demonstration at the conference, where attendees were able to take part in a survey by scanning individual QR codes on handouts available from the Vocdoni booth. This was many people’s first (and, hopefully, not last) time participating in a voting process using blockchain technology. At the end of the conference the message was clear: the technology exists, is continually improving, and will realize its enormous impact if people, organizations, and public institutions prioritize the effort and speed to implement these technologies for the greater benefit of the world.
Here are some of the insights offered by team members Daniel and Roger during the liquid democracy roundtable and blockchain-based voting panel:
“Liquid democracy means bringing democracy back to the people, so they can decide or delegate to those they trust. This is a major shift from delegating to strangers (career politicians) with big adverts but who are too far removed from us to be held accountable.
A lack of participation currently is not an excuse. If we give people the means to participate meaningfully, they will use them more than the current system in which participation is impractical and of little impact.” – Daniel Ospina, former Head of Governance at the Aragon Association.
“We are on the cusp of blockchain technology and digital voting offering more democratic guarantees than certain models of traditional voting.
The importance of decentralization for security and verifiability cannot be understated, hence Vocdoni continues to progress in using blockchain technology to offer the most secure digital voting platform in the world." – Roger Baig (Project Manager), during the final ‘Free and fair elections - is blockchain a long missing component?’ panel.
Anthony also made a virtual appearance at Blockchain Expo 2021, addressing 6,000 people about the history of democracy and the benefits of Vocdoni’s decentralized democracy over traditional centralized governance.
Following the release of our Ethereum Layer-2 governance models technical overview in August, we introduced our deterministic off-chain anonymous voting protocol based on Vochain (docs), using zk-SNARKs for census proofs, in October. Our proposal achieved the last property required for a fully featured e-voting system: receipt-freeness, along with scalability, via zk-Rollups for vote aggregation and mixing, our first iteration of this technology. By December, we had achieved the major milestone of implementing anonymous voting successfully in the Vocdoni app. This feature will be publicly available on Vocdoni.app and the VaaS API in the first quarter of 2022.
In the final quarter, we also debuted our cutting-edge proof-of-concept (PoC) for deterministic off-chain governance with binding on-chain results, using zk-SNARKs and zk-Rollups, enabling scalable, permissionless, universally verifiable, and trustless voting inexpensively. We hope this new research path will resolve the existing need for voting with on-chain execution in the Ethereum ecosystem, and look forward to implementing on-chain anonymous voting in the future.
December similarly witnessed the release of weighted voting on Aragon Voice, Vocdoni.app, and the Voting-as-a-Service (VaaS) API, allowing organizations to quickly and easily assign voters a proportional weight based on each individual’s determined influence. Its effectiveness was promptly demonstrated in its successful use in an in-person voting process organized by the Professional Association of Industrial Engineers of Catalonia (COEIC).
2021 came to an end with the appearance of Ferran in the documentary ‘Última Milla’ (Last Thousand) on the Canal 33 program on TV3, which covered the inequality of access to telecommunications in Catalonia. Ferran also spoke on La Brùixola (The Compass) news program on Onda Cero - Spain’s third largest radio station - in late September.
The priority of the Vocdoni | Aragon Labs team for the beginning of this year is more real-world integrations of our Voting-as-a-Service API, having validated and increased market interest for an interoperable voting solution, following the first vote via the API in the fourth quarter. Some of the first customer use-case integrations of the API in both traditional and blockchain businesses will commence towards the end of January.
Congratulations and thank you to all the members of the Vocdoni | Aragon Labs team for such an outstanding year, and to the community and ambassadors for supporting us! Special thanks to Luca, Ramón, Sam, Adri, Martín, and Ben from Aragon for all the help, mentorship, and contributions. ❤️🙏
Aragon is building the future of decentralized governance for Web3 communities & organizations. Deploy a DAO on Aragon Client or Aragon Govern, manage your community on Aragon Voice, resolve disputes in Aragon Court and run enterprise-level votes on Vocdoni, all within our open-source stack. See the latest at aragon.org, subscribe to our monthly newsletter, join the conversation on Discord, or follow us on Twitter.
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