Governments around the globe can gain immensely from implementing emerging innovative technologies like IoT, AI, Big Data and Blockchain. These technologies will ensure better interactions and transactions with citizens and other countries. At this point of time, the most invaluable emerging technology for governments is Blockchain. This technology can reduce bureaucracy, increase administrative process efficiencies and build up trust in public record keeping. The most important innovation that blockchain introduces is a distributed append-only ledger on which messages can be immutably recorded. It erases a need to maintain centralized intermediaries, which has possibly large political and economic significance.
Use cases for Blockchain by governments
Blockchain technology is expected to facilitate numerous government services and functions. For example, storing citizen records, running state registries, support to electronic voting, preventing tax fraud and reallocating public money.
Using Blockchain for securing and sharing important data and records
The verification of records and sharing of data of various kinds is among the most promising use cases for Blockchain in governments.
Identity: Governments need to clearly identify their citizens and stakeholders to provide services to them, the same applies for organizations, assets, machines and autonomous agents. With blockchain’s decentralized technology, people and organizations can have verifiable identities that are secure and private, yet capable of providing sufficient information online when required without a third party’s involvement.
E-Voting: Using smartphones or personal computers, citizens could easily and securely vote from any location thereby creating a more participatory democracy. With citizens’ verified data on a Blockchain, it is possible to design e-voting systems that are much more transparent and trustworthy at the same time maintaining confidentiality. Ballots could be automatically counted while ensuring no votes were cast more than once and the validity of the count could be proven without revealing the identity of those who voted.
Title/ asset registrations: In countries like Africa and India Blockchain projects have been implemented for land registries because corrupt local officials would steal land by falsifying paper-based documents. Selling a house can generally be a slow and laborious process involving coordination and verification between many different entities like government agencies, lawyers and banks. Blockchain technology ensures title transfers and land registration are a streamlined process. The same process can also be used to secure information about almost any kind of registration – automobiles, businesses, firearms, etc.
Healthcare: In most cases today, medical records are kept separately in doctor’s offices and hospital databases – they are shared manually, not always in a secure way. Also, it often becomes complicated when multiple inputs are required for a patient from various institutes and people. Blockchains are ideal for such scenarios by providing an audit for inputs from various parties and ensuring data is unalterable once it is recorded.
Blockchain can also make anonymised patient data available for open research and make it easier for citizens to have control over their medical reports. In this case, the Blockchain is used to store proof that data is genuine or store a record of who has permission to access what data.
Educational certification: Important personal data like educational certificates tend to be kept in siloed databases by the universities or schools that issue them. Accessing this information to prove credentials can be a painstaking task. Degrees can also be relatively easily falsified. Blockchain based systems can help by facilitating individuals to take control of their verified records and allow access to employers or others when required.
Using Blockchain for monitoring and regulating markets
Protecting consumers is one of the key tasks of a government, to do so they need to ensure markets remain viable and laws are adhered to. Regulators need data to track what is going on in markets. Most governments rely on companies to share the legally required information. In some cases, inspections are carried out or other means are used to gather the information they require. For self-reported data, governments are dependent on the reporting entity for the information to be accurate and there is a considerable time lag in receiving the information. In fast moving industries and markets this lag means information is often obsolete by the time it is received by the regulator. Inspections and audits can be expensive and in many cases do not provide a realistic picture. Also, reporting can be time-consuming and expensive for companies- sometimes costly investments need to be made for compliance teams and infrastructure.
Taking into consideration the above factors, a shared ledger can simplify data collection by making information available for regulators, companies and other stakeholders. Blockchain would ensure the information is verifiable. Secure and trustworthy audit trails would also be useful for investigations and litigation.
In manufacturing supply chains, automated sensors can send data directly to the Blockchain thereby facilitating real-time monitoring of products during their lifecycle. In addition, smart contracts can be used for automated pay-outs thereby insuring suppliers and manufacturers are paid on time.
From a regulatory perspective, important use cases include know-your-customer (KYC) and anti-money laundering. Blockchain based shared customer and business registries could greatly reduce KYC/ AML compliance costs by permitting all entities involved to share relevant information in a secure way. Individuals and businesses will gain from this too by facilitating a single onboarding experience.
From keeping record of births and deaths to creating smart cities, Blockchain has manifold potential benefits for countries around the world. Ensuring transparency and verifiable data for citizens and governments will lead to a superior democratic set up where corruption will be eradicated.
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