Can Blockchain reinvent Government services?
Blockchain is still considered by public officials and Government as a strange novelty. The hope - for some who will have to grapple with this new disruptive technology - is that it will prove to just be hype and the best approach will be to ignore it. Just close your eyes and wait until it has all blown over.
But there must be a reason why so many countries are experimenting with applying Blockchain? Estonia, China, Dubai, Netherlands, UK, Belgium, Singapore, US and more have launched projects from birth to marriage to death and everything in between.
The reason for this experimentation is that if you think about what a government does, you’ll see instant synergies with blockchain. To deliver public services, governments must verify your identity and regulate various transactions. Blockchain does exactly that – it verifies identity and transactions. And because the ‘blocks’ in the chain are completely secure, it can be considered as a single point of truth.
For this reason, Blockchain can fulfil many different roles for our Governments. For example, for Tax-purposes not only from citizen income, but also companies, goods and customs. It could also be used for the distribution of social benefits ensuring accurate and fast payments to those who need it and helping to prevent fraudulent behavior.
To better understand how this could work, let’s have a look at a recent example with the UN, who are adopting blockchain techniques in refugee camps. Through Blockchain they are managing the registration of refugees – including country of origin, employment, education and family status – as well as using it to issue credits for food as well as financial support. This has negated the need for complicated bank accounts and cards. The results are promising, bringing huge improvements in speed, reliability and cost. Most importantly, it’s bettering the lives of those in a dreadful situation.
But we still need to see Blockchain operating at scale and we must experiment. Only by applying this new technology can we really find the vital questions or problems that will need to be solved. For example, when your child is born – as a father – you go to City Hall and proudly register the new name together with a statement of birth from the hospital, doctor or midwife. However, if a mother-to-be could register a pregnancy digitally in Blockchain, give access to the doctor and midwife for her medical records and to confirm in the chain that the child is born… where does the father enter the equation? How and by whom is he added to the chain? And how do we secure those data and access-rights?
Questions such as these are by no means insurmountable but they need to be flushed out and solved. Not all the answers are on the table yet, but that is precisely where the experimenting comes in and comes alive.
This technology could provide the answer for Governments who are working on becoming an e-state and changing their relationship with citizens. It can provide a digital identity which is becoming more and more necessary in our increasingly digital-by-default lives. Being clear on your digital ID and ensuring its security, is crucial for the role of Government. When we have solved that issue – and blockchain seems extremely promising for that purpose – one can truly redesign public services and remove all the unnecessary red-tape.