Smart Country Startup Award winner "Votebase" in interview
Using an app to decide who will be the new chancellor or how the state parliament should be set up - what is already common practice in other countries like Estonia is currently only a pipe dream in Germany. The start-up VoteBase from Bergisch Gladbach wants to change that as soon as possible. The team around co-founder Payman Supervizer has developed an election app that makes elections possible according to the highest security standards and is easy to use for voters. "VoteBase is the only solution in the world that fully complies with the requirements of the Federal Constitutional Court ruling of March 2009 on electronic voting procedures," Payman emphasises. (Here you can read the judgement again).
On the VoteBase website, the startup describes the app itself as follows: "The Election App is a high-security system. Designed to withstand even the most sophisticated cyber attacks, by state actors. Using state-of-the-art security technologies, including zero-knowledge proof protocols and blockchain technologies, we guarantee the absolute security and anonymity of every vote, without compromising the traceability and publicity of the electoral process."
Winner in the GovTech category
This innovation also convinced the jury of the Smart Country Startup Awards 2022. In the GovTech category, VoteBase beat the competition. For Payman, it was clear that his startup had to apply for the award: "No one can avoid Bitkom and the Smart Country Convention as soon as you look at the news or move more intensively in the public sector. In this context, there is also no way around the Smart Country Startup Award, which every year once again shows what impressive and innovative solutions are being developed in Germany."
For this reason, Payman also advises other start-ups to apply for the Smart Country Startup Award in the GovTech or Smart City categories: "It is essential to highlight innovations from Germany. The focus is on the social added value, with the opportunity to present these innovations. So, it's not just necessarily about winning, but above all about presenting solutions that move us forward together as a society during digitalisation. - Still, winning the award is something very special."
With the award, VoteBase also won, among other things, prize money of 5,000 euros, part of which the startup invested directly in new hardware for its employees. Another part was set aside for team-building measures, which are a top priority for VoteBase.
Next step - application in Germany
Winning the Smart Country Startup Award has made many politicians and administrations aware of VoteBase. For this reason, many talks are being held at different levels, all the way to the Bundestag. "The MPs in the electoral committee consider it extremely important to push such innovations," says Payman. In the municipalities, it is more about the concrete implementation - here, he says, people are always asking about the latest status and when the solution can be implemented. "They see it as a huge facilitator, especially in the context of elections and polls."
VoteBase hopes to realise the first pilot case with a federal state as soon as possible. "This does not necessarily have to be an official election; a nationwide poll would also be conceivable. In view of the current changes, however, we agree that it is essential to involve the population more actively and to implement such a solution promptly," says Payman.
Internationally, the start-up is already a step ahead. "Other states and countries are responding more openly and quickly to such safe and progressive solutions." More than 500,000 votes have already been securely and verifiably recorded via voting apps in 160 countries.
Clear rules for innovative implementation
In order for the innovative digitalisation of the administration and especially of elections to progress better and faster, Payman has a clear wish: "It is crucial that the legal framework is adapted in such a way that it is easier for municipalities and states to implement or test projects. In many countries, for example, there is the experimentation clause, but it is not applicable everywhere. At the same time, it is important to create clear guidelines for municipalities to make implementation easier or even possible in the first place. Often there is a lack of financial resources or the necessary expertise to digitise the administration." Payman therefore relies on clear guidelines from the highest level that reach down to the municipal level and enable implementation there.
Smart Country Startup Award goes into the next round
Innovative start-ups can still apply for the Smart Country Startup Award 2023 until 8 October. As SCCON's innovation prize, the Smart Country Startup Award honours young companies with outstanding solutions in the Smart City and GovTech categories. There is prize money of 5,000 euros and a free startup membership in Bitkom.
All information on the Startup Award is available here.