Blockchain in Government and Public Services.
It has been well documented that public services and management are long due for an overhaul. The systems used in many public service areas today are outdated, make work slow and frustrating for both public servants and citizens. With the advent of blockchain, however, we could be looking at something that disrupts the entire public service sector. Since 2008, blockchain technology has been leaving its prints on all sectors possible, from finance to healthcare to government services. Although understandably, governments are still reluctant to fully adopt blockchain, if done so, the public service sector could see an overhaul which has long been awaited, for the better. Blockchain has the capability to revolutionize government services. More efficiency, more security and a re-established sense of trust could see the public services sector flourish better than it has ever done. In this article, we will discuss the various blockchain government use cases. Before we go on and find out how blockchain can help us in achieving the aforementioned, let us throw a bit of light on the problems that surround public services.
The problems with the public services sector
Several critical public sector functions are under real threat now. In this day and age of technology, perpetrators are coming up with newer and more advanced ways to try and disrupt the public services sector, all for their own benefit. For instance, securing data is a huge issue that troubles all sectors of the public services scene. Hackers are afforded easy access into data warehouses, owing to the new and advanced technology that they can use to break into government and other federal systems. An entity that handles a large amount of data, such as a government organization with millions of terabytes of data on citizens, is at huge risk of a cyber-attack if not protected adequately.
Emanating from the security problem is another issue of identity theft. People with malicious intent impersonate the victim in order to gain access to his/her bank accounts, personal details, financial history and other sensitive personal data. This can then further be used to threaten the victim for ransom, harm his/her personal life, or even for government or corporate espionage. All situations considered, identity theft can have serious implications on the lives of people, and this is one problem that the public services sector should look to get rid of as soon as possible.
Data management is one more problem which the public sector faces on a regular basis. The sheer amount of data in various forms, be it paper or digitized, becomes difficult to handle, especially for densely populated countries like India and China. Many of the government records are still stored on paper, which means citizens have to appear in person to testify or get their records changed/updated. Even for advanced governments and economies, this process can turn out to be a bit of a hassle both physically and economically. On top of the government organizations, individual agencies build their own data warehouses, with silos upon silos of data about citizens being stored on their servers. Hence, the amount of data being stored is certain to cause a problem while managing it.
How can blockchain help to improve government services?
Blockchain, the distributed ledger technology that aims to simultaneously put everything and nothing in one place, can be a real ground-breaking concept if applied correctly to the public services sector. The technology has the potential to solve each and every problem of the public sector, to a high degree, if not completely. Let’s discuss some more of the blockchain government use cases.
The blockchain has always been known for its security and almost-invincibility. Since its discovery in 2008 as the underlying technology for the first ever digital currency – Bitcoin, the one thing that has always given it an edge over other centralized technologies is the heightened security and privacy. The decentralized nature of the tech makes it almost impossible to hack into any blockchain-based network since the hackers or perpetrators would have to execute a 51% attack on the network to take it down. Since the nodes are independent, taking down one or a few of them will not disrupt the functioning of the network as a unit. This is the sort of immutability that makes even the discussion of blockchain in government and public services legitimate. Although blockchain is not a hundred percent hack-proof, it definitely represents a serious upgrade over the systems currently in use.
The issues with data management can also be satisfactorily solved by blockchain. Once the data is organized into blocks and put on the chain, it is verified by the nodes on the network using extensive consensus mechanisms and algorithms. The authenticity of the data is never in doubt. Since the data is never stored in a single place, as in the data warehouses of organizations, the management of the large size of data is never a problem. Automation and shared governance protocols are what make data management so much easier on the blockchain. Health, finance and personal records of all citizens can be managed using the blockchain, and governments can certainly put this technology to good use to improve its public sector dealings. For making the data management facilities safer and more secure, the premise of blockchain in government and public services must be explored as extensively as possible.
Some typical use cases in the public services sector.
The blockchain has a wide variety of applications when it comes to the public sector. It seems that if all is done right, the aforementioned problems with the public services sector can be resolved with the help of this breakthrough tech. without further ado, let us discuss a few potential use cases of blockchain in government and public services.
Data management is probably one of the best blockchain government use cases around. The nation of Estonia recently introduced a blockchain-based tech called Keyless Signature Infrastructure, which is specially built to safeguard all public sector data. Using hash functions, the technology represents large amounts of data as smaller numeric values, which can be used to identify the records but not reconstruct the contents of the files themselves. These hash values are then stored on the blockchain, across a wide array of computers on the network. Not only just the data management use case, but the concept of hashing is much more useful in making the case for Blockchain in government and public services. This is how Estonia utilized blockchain to manage the millions of terabytes of data about its citizens, their healthcare, finances, personal information etc. the country is even planning to make KSI available to all private-sector companies and government agencies in the country. Managing data and digital assets, as it can be seen, has never been easier. Data storage and security are far more efficient when the blockchain is utilized, which in turn reinstates the people’s trust in public sector dealings.
Voting is another area which has been affected by frauds and scams in the past few years. Accusations of tampering with electronic voting machines have been ripe in countries such as India in the near past, and the public’s faith in democracy and voting is surely disappearing due to such fraudulent activities. Voting is another blockchain government use case that anyone who’s interested to know the influence of blockchain in government and public services should keep a close eye on.
The blockchain, however, promises to usher in a new era of fairness in voting. The transparency of the technology can help prevent election fraud, if experts are to be believed. For instance, Voatz, a blockchain startup based in Boston, is looking to incorporate blockchain into the voting process, for storing secure records and identity verification of voters. Their technologies have already been successfully tested on over 70000 voters, and the results are promising. Data storage and verification could be a breeze if blockchain is introduced into the mix, and voting is sure to become an activity that people can trust again. Anonymous vote casting, individual ballot processes for voters, and ballot information verifiable only by the voter can be implemented using the blockchain and make the voting process safe and secure. It would be interesting to see how voting is influenced with blockchain government use cases.
Banking the unbanked is one of the main goals that every developing economy must look to achieve. A lot of experiments by government around the world around financial inclusion have shown great results. Not only this, Making basic financial services available to every citizen of the country, be it urban or rural, is one thing that can certainly help quicken the pace of development. Blockchain has the potential to be one of the frontrunners in helping achieve financial inclusion, due to the array of advantages it possesses over traditional banking systems. Transparency and security is always a priority in banking and finance. With blockchain, an unparalleled security level can be achieved, as discussed before. Due to the nature of the blockchain that allows peer-to-peer transactions over the internet in real time, it can potentially reduce international transaction and fund transfer costs, make payments more convenient and make it more accessible for a host of people. This is exactly what makes the case for blockchain in government and public services application. Also, blockchain can help different banks and institutions connect with each other to share relevant data, such as identification information about account holders. For instance, if a person has an account in a bank A, and wants to open one in bank B, the bank B can then just contact bank A and gain access to the person’s information stored on the blockchain. This eliminates needless lengthy procedures and paperwork, making the process easier for all parties involved.
Paperless is the way to go these days. With the world’s emphasis now on saving the environment, the blockchain can step in and eliminate the need for messy, paper documentation from all public service sectors. All kinds of documentation can now be implemented digitally, and what better than storing those records on the blockchain? DNV GL, in partnership with Deloitte EMEA blockchain lab has created a digitized blockchain based solution for the quality assurance and risk management operations. Also, in academics, storing and sharing academic credentials via the blockchain is already being tested out. Certificate and documentation recording system by the University of Malta and the blockchain based mobile app by the University of Melbourne clearly demonstrate how blockchain can be used to streamline all documentation processes in every sector of the economy. Maintaining asset registers and other documents can, hence, also be implemented with blockchain, which then reduces the chances of fraud and scams due to the blockchain’s transparency. All real estate contracts, academic documents, and registers are surely on their way to being digitized and blockchained.
Here’s an overview of eperiments being carried out around the world using blockchain in government and public services:
A blockchain-based healthcare solution for the masses can unlock the true potential of interoperability within the network. Current intermediaries can be eliminated with the use of this technology, and it presents numerous other opportunities that can be realized in the field of healthcare. There are a lot of other qualities which make the use of blockchain in government and public services even more desirable for the public servants as well as governments across the world. Access to electronic health information, identity verifications, longitudinal patient records, supply chain management- all of these healthcare elements can be implemented effectively and securely using the blockchain. Preventing frauds, clinical trials, drug supply management, and cycle management can all be potentially revolutionized. Over the last few years, the blockchain has taken the healthcare sector by storm, and the only way to go is up.
The concept of identity management is pretty much an amalgamation of all the aforementioned ideas. Personal information of people is required in all sectors discussed earlier, including healthcare and financial inclusion. What makes blockchain a better alternative to traditional data management services is the ease of access, security and trust that it puts into the data and the network. When the identity of an individual is at stake, nothing can be left to chance. The problem of identity theft is at an all-time high, with hackers impersonating individuals to withdraw personal information, finances or other services in the name of another individual.
If implemented correctly, the blockchain could act as a viable identity management mechanism. The worry and tension of identity hacks and thefts would be greatly reduced, due to the secure nature of the blockchain. Also, access to personal data would be highly secure with encryption technologies such as SHA256. Unauthorized access to data can be almost eliminated with the use of the blockchain. Since the personal data of individuals will be stored on a single network, multiple entities can use the data, thus leading to reduction and savings in resource usage to compile the same data over and over again.
The chaining process
While so far the impact of blockchain has been majorly restricted to the fintech sector, we could see it quickly making advances into the public sector dealings. There is great scope for blockchain to be implemented in government services that require cross-platform data sharing and coordination.
Implementing blockchain into the public services sector can be viewed as a step-by-step process. To begin with, a team or a community chosen by the government, consisting of blockchain experts and enthusiasts could be appointed to brainstorm and develop a goal for the process. This can be done by thorough planning and research into the country’s economy, governance and other factors, which can then be amalgamated to formulate a clear plan as to how to implement the blockchain perfectly.
Engaging with experts and officials from other countries is also a very viable option. Countries like Estonia have already implemented blockchain into some of their public sector dealings, and their experience could make things better for governments looking to step into the same world. Furthermore, once the plan has been laid out, relevant knowledge and skills should be imparted to all public servants and other personnel actively involved in the public services sector. This will help in ease of blockchain adoption all over the sector.
Once all is said and done, the government could step in itself, hiring public sector leaders and politicians to brainstorm on how the blockchain could be used to make normal lives better. Agreed, behind the scenes, the potential of blockchain is unmatched, but solving common problems is a major aspect of what public services do. These leaders should also look into active blockchain projects and draw meaningful inspirations from them.
Implications for implementing blockchain in government and public services.
The implementation of blockchain in government and public services does not come without its fair share of implications and challenges to the system. The biggest risk, it seems, is the relative immaturity of the technology. Blockchain remains a relatively new tech, and the concerns regarding its resilience and robustness are perhaps justified. It can only be viewed as a trusted tech after intense and methodical testing and experiments.
Furthermore, transaction speeds and scalability pose a real issue. Permissioned blockchains, which have higher throughput, have global scalability issues, and they are more centralized and less transparent.
The question of governance and regulation always comes up when the matter of blockchain is discussed. The absence of a centralized governing body concerns patrons about the overall working of the system as a whole. Experts may also argue that every efficient system that has ever existed in the history of mankind has had some sort of order and governance ruling over it. Without regulations, the blockchain matter could spiral out of hand. Will it? Let us wait and watch.
Work with Sodio!
Our team has been working to explore the possibilities of blockchain in government and public services. We have also been consulting on a number of government projects in different countries. Have a project in mind? Or need any regarding the implementation of blockchain government use cases? Let us know!