by Eloisa Marchesoni
Using the blockchain technology for the development of new public administration digital services is a chance that both governments and public institutions are, of course, not wanting to miss out on. From protecting the integrity of citizenship data in government databases to demonstrating that your next second-hand car will not kill you, blockchain has the well-known potential to let people trust data like never before, even if they do not trust the government itself.
Let’s go through the most impressive applicative examples that can right now be observed around the world, starting from Estonia.
Estonia uses the “Keyless Signature Infrastructure” (KSI) system since 2012. It is a variant of the blockchain, which grows on a linear scale related to time, rather than the number of transactions. Estonia’s digital infrastructure began to develop with electronic tax registration in 2000, and it has since slowly been transformed into a system that manages the country’s population register, electronic ID cards, Internet voting and the medical records. In fact, Estonia has now implemented a program that allows anyone in the world to apply for ‘digital citizenship’ (eResidency) in the Baltic country. Having obtained a digital identity with an encrypted key for digital signature, whoever is equipped with it can digitally sign documents and payments without the need to send paper documents. An “e-resident” can also open a bank account and a company online in Estonia.
In the US state of Delaware, where a big pool of businesses is now intending to merge, Governor Jack Markell has announced the creation of two public blockchains in order to take care of such a maneuver. The first chain has been thought to publicize the State archives in the form of a distributed ledger, while the second chain will be there to allow all businesses of Delaware to trace capital transactions and to keep track of all stakeholders that are part of the blockchain.
The Singaporean government has now turned to blockchain, in order to prevent frauds like the one that was experienced just a while ago by Standard Chartered, which lost about USD 200 million due to a fiscal fraud carried out in the Chinese harbor of Qingdao, based on a very sophisticated method of automatic invoice duplication.
In Russia, blockchain technology is being tested for an application that would allow all the shareholders to have access to the securities deposit, while, in Georgia, the same kind of application is being implemented for the sharing of the national public ledger,
so as to show that the country is corruption-free.
Ghana is working to build a public property register that brings together 28 different communities to attract foreign investors.
Sweden wants to create a blockchain for real estate purchase deals, to manage online the documental process once the contract is closed. This should be a platform open to banks, government agencies, intermediaries, buyers and sellers, enabling all the interested parties to follow the progress of practices and sign online documents in real time.
In South Korea, the government is pushing the banking sector for new projects based on blockchain.
The United Kingdom is examining the use of blockchain to manage scholarships, a complex process at constant risk of fraud. A blockchain, which is accessible to all, seems like the right tool to overcome the risk of potential abuse.
In conclusion, the best uses of blockchain technology from a governmental perspective are:
1. Licensing, transactions, proofs of delivery, of processes and of specific events.
Have they actually taken place? Have they been successful? Does this person have the license or permission to perform a given activity?
2. Asset movements
In particular, the transfer of money between individuals and entities.
Verification of property registers on every kind of property. Blockchain is a suitable tool to account for the chain of custody of physical assets.
Governments and municipalities should create blockchains for the issuance and management of citizens’ digital identities, opening up to secure online voting services. Digital identity could, in such a way, really become very similar to a passport or identity card.
So, can you still not see the future as being dominated by this technology and the governance principles that it carries along? If not, just wait and see.