The global relevance of blockchain is already apparent, with both governments and organizations acknowledging its potential across countless applications. While several nations have been naysayers of crypto adoption, the support for its underlying technology is universal. Though extensively used in the corporate sectors, particularly BFSI and supply chains, mass adoption of blockchain and its implementation has been a challenge for governments around the world.
Worldwide Blockchain Adoption
A simple look at statistic reports is all that’s needed to believe in the global significance of blockchain technology. Gartner surveys reflected the fact that 6 out of 10 CTOs are planning on blockchain integration into their existing infrastructure. Meanwhile, Deloitte reports that 86% of senior company executives believe in blockchain’s mainstream reliance, of which 83% acknowledge the compelling business-case possibilities of blockchain adoption. Global blockchain expenditure will reach US$ 1163.83 billion within 2029 from the current US$7.18 billion in 2022, demonstrating a CAGR of 56.3%.
Are Governments Integrating Blockchain in the Existing System?
The public sector all over the world is widely regarded as a complex system owing to a lack of decentralization. Blockchain can improve the existing infrastructure, optimizing its productivity and overall service delivery to the general public. Governments use blockchain to streamline collaboration and operations increasing accountability and transparency. This improves relationships between the government and the public sector.
An IBM survey report comprising 200 government leaders across 16 nations revealed they are already well-aware of the merits, and looking towards areas of integration. 90% of government-owned organizations have blockchain incorporation plans in their pipeline, with a predominance of ideas toward regulatory compliance, finance management, and more. Blockchain-powered smart contracts are expected to disrupt contract management in the upcoming years, with other notable use cases being the land registry and in some cases, counting election votes. Yes, blockchain adoption is still moving at a faster pace on rate than the future forecast. But, several other benefactors can benefit as well.
Blockchain Use Cases in the Public Sector
Blockchain increases the transparency of processes and facilitates cooperation. Time-stamped blockchain data can be shared anonymously as well, removing privacy concerns. Commercial uses of blockchain may not be visible in day-to-day life, but they exist nonetheless.
While governments around the world are looking forward to implementing blockchain, regions like the Asia Pacific and West Europe have been at the forefront. India, announced a detailed blockchain report the last year, describing the government’s plans to construct a National Blockchain Framework encompassing multiple sectors of government administration and record documentation. The landmark effort is aimed at reducing intermediaries and offering effective digital service delivery for its citizens. Other regions, including Africa, the North and Latin Americas, and Australia are also catching up.
There are countless areas and applications of blockchain in the public sector. Some of the notable ones include:
a) Management of Digital Identity
Blockchain is an ideal solution for digital identity concerns. Its inbuilt features include decentralization, cryptographic security, immutability, and more. The features eliminate problems such as inaccessibility, fraud, and data storage vulnerability. Information stored in a blockchain database is secure and offers ID owners to generate and access these digital profiles themselves.
Blockchain technology is also effective in DID registries. As explained above, blockchain’s immutability and permanent nature remove concerns such as stolen identity and information hacking. Blockchain helps in elevating trust and transparency between the government and its citizens.
b) Ownership and Transfer Registry
Retrieving documents of land transactions and proof of ownership is a harrowing task for government officials and administrators. Blockchain stands as the perfect technology for permanently storing records of asset transactions- be it land, property, or vehicles across a public ledger.
Already existing examples of blockchain integration in land registry departments include the nation of Georgia. The country had been a pioneer in developing a land registry tool that tracked ownership and estate transactions within its borders. The information is also accessible to its citizens, greeting and reducing the chances of corruption.
c) Self-Executing Smart Contracts
Ethereum brought forward a revolution with the potential application of blockchain-powered smart contracts. Smart contracts feature pre-written conditions and automatically execute themselves upon the fulfillment of these conditions. If we consider their usage, it is easy to figure out that they are capable of eliminating intermediaries from the process, while improving contract drafts and their execution. Regarding accessibility, the contracts are publicly visible and tamper-proof within the blockchain network.
Land registries in Sweden make use of blockchain-based smart contracts for transferring land titles. Elimination of intermediaries and subsequent notarization has decreased the overall transaction time by over 90%. Certain industries also incorporate blockchain consortiums featuring smart contracts to further enhance product or material flow across national borders.
d) Social Benefits Programs
Governments around the world offer a multitude of social benefits to their citizens. The benefits may include unemployment wage, pension for senior citizens, medical expense coverage, and more. However, these social benefits can be easily misused by people with fraudulent intent, as well as cyber attackers. Blockchain reinforces the record databases with unmatched network security and privacy features. The anonymous IDs and employee data are stored in the database with encrypted hashkeys that protect data.
The Netherlands has incorporated a blockchain program to distribute pensions among its senior citizens. The blockchain infrastructure also is intuitive, easy to use, and has much lower operational costs.
e) Document Validation
Ruling governments all over the world look toward centralized cloud-centric solutions for citizen document validation. Blockchain can be an effective substitute with better security features. The ground-breaking technology is a viable solution for storing citizen documents using hash values. This enables governments with access to attested time-stamped documents in the digital format, anytime.
The MIT developed Blockcerts. It is an open standard that allows building apps for issuing academic certificates or other documents through the blockchain. The application has been used by the government of Malta to build a system that allows its Ministry for Education and Employment to deploy blockchain verification for academic credentials.
The document authentication features are also in consideration for prototype developments that help banks, financial institutions, and law enforcement. Blockchain-based biometric authentication is gaining attention within BFSI and other corporate sectors. HashCash Consultants has been involved in building prototypes that assist enforcement agencies to combat drug peddling and child trafficking.
f) Protecting Patent Claims
The attachment of time stamps across each blockchain transaction allows individuals or firms to file patent applications without having to endure the lengthy process of submission. Sure the actual patent verification process is time-consuming. However, the associated time stamp helps in fast-tracking patent-related disputes. This helps the parties avoid costly patent litigation disputes.
A firm can utilize the blockchain to time-stamp its documents prior to patent application. If rival companies try to file a similar application, it would not be difficult to prove which party had the initial idea. The documents are also stamped with a transaction hash, providing further protection through encryption.
g) Blockchain Voting Consensus
Electronic voting machines are still in use across multiple nations all over the world. They have been proven to be vulnerable, and leave no trace in case of a hack. Software glitches are also not uncommon, and hence the performance of these devices can be easily dubbed as inadequate. Blockchain will inevitably play a crucial role in the voting mechanisms.
Blockchain ensures that citizens can opt for their candidates and cast votes through a mechanism that is built on the principle of upholding secure transactions. The technology will also offer a chance for the voters to validate their votes. The distributed ledger mechanism of blockchain preserves digital IDs and eliminates hacking or fraud concerns while empowering citizens with the power to vote in true anonymity.
What’s Deterring Blockchain from Mass Government Adoption?
While there is no doubt that blockchain is a game-changer, a lot of governments are still hesitant in mass-scale adoption. First and foremost, blockchain is a new technology, and the risk of applying any new-age innovation without considering the risks may be great. Since the area of application will be large i.e. national scale, the associated setup cost for implementing blockchain across the entire infrastructure is also likely to be high. There is also the question of whether blockchain is the best solution. Though applicable across multiple domains, blockchain is not a universal solution for all problems.
However, it is important to note that blockchain is one of the key pillars in the upcoming digital revolution. The technology has already proven its efficacy across multiple nations, with the US, Russia, China, and NATO also making extensive use of blockchain in their military defense technologies. The time is ripe to make a leap of faith towards progress in the future.
Nations like Dubai, Estonia, and the US have integrated blockchain across a number of government administration and registration systems across security, health, legislative, judiciary, and even VISA applications. The Gibraltar Financial Services Commission(GSFC) in the nation of Gibraltar officiated a licensing system allowing blockchain conduits to store and transfer cryptocurrencies. The country also approved a blockchain exchange as part of the national stock exchange’s framework subsidiary.
What can Governments do to incorporate Blockchain?
The further evolution of blockchain continues to demonstrate the tremendous potential of the technology, powering new-age innovations such as Web 3.0 and the metaverse.
Policymakers willing to implement blockchain should be well versed with its potential, conducting due research wherever necessary. Governments hesitating or planning to use this disruptive technology can take a step-wise approach to prioritize their requirements.
The steps may include:
a) Pinpoint the Problem that requires a Solution
The first step in any decision-making process lies in identifying the problem. Add enough details to assign it as a business case. Highlight key performance indicators(KPIs), incentives of the participating enterprises, viability and compatibility of blockchain, and last but not least, the required amount of investment. The entire process should guarantee that blockchain is the simplest and best course of action.
b) Develop PoC for Blockchain Infrastructure
The blockchain infrastructure should be built keeping the most prominent use cases in mind. Examples may include the authentication and time-stamping of documents, or P2P transaction completion with minimal trust requirements. The possible merits include quantitative KPIs(reduction in costs, incentives earned) as well as qualitative KPIs(ease in doing business, transparency), depending upon the requirements.
c) Balance the Merits and Compare with Other Solutions
Once the advantages of blockchain integration are apparent, it is necessary to scale the current use-case scenarios. Afterward, the application of the technology in higher complex use cases with higher entities and data sets should also be considered. It is upon the government to develop the required governance for successfully achieving all the benefits of blockchain throughout the entire organization.
A proper approach to implementing blockchain technology featuring correct problem identification, and scalability concerns will help governments unleash the full potential of mass blockchain adoption. This will lead to improved trust and transparency with their citizens, as blockchain eliminates intermediaries and corruption.