Blockchain and Bitcoin are often misunderstood as synonyms of each other, however, this is not true. Bitcoin is a use case of blockchain, which is the technology that facilitates moving coins from one individual to another. Blockchain has the potential to address a number of complex problems related to data integrity, consistency, double-entry, transparency, etc. In the case of bitcoin, it addresses the money transfer problem by providing: a distributed open ledger obviating the requirement of a third party to facilitate the transaction and miners to validate and update the transaction in the ledger. Blockchain, being a decentralized architecture have features discussed below
- Autonomy, which obviates the need for an intermediary or a third party institution
- Trust, which stems from the fact that documents are encrypted on the shared ledger
- Backup, documents are duplicated many a time and all the nodes have a copy of the logged data
- Accuracy, as it avoids the errors arising out of manual work
- Speed, which ensures the transactions to happen instantly
With the help of the above features, blockchain opens a plethora of doors of possibilities. It can be leveraged to streamline many use cases in different industries like financial services, advertising, forecasts, and governance.
There are several challenges in the governance paradigm that can be addressed by a blockchain-enabled government. What blockchain ensures with respect to the governance challenges is transparency, enhanced data security, data integrity, streamlined communication, and reporting. Some of the use cases that will be discussed below are manipulation of records, government departments working in silos, online identity, blockchain-enabled government procurement, and online voting.
For any democracy, conducting fair elections is crucial. We hear a lot in the recent times of booth capture, manipulation of votes, EVM tampering, etc. The current voting infrastructure does not guarantee a fair election. Voter turnout is another issue. There may be scenarios that the voter is not present in his or her constituency or feel voting does not count amidst the widespread unfairness of the current system. Online voting system backed by blockchain will make it more convenient as well as reduce the risk of manipulation and hacking activities. Blockchain voting will consist of following necessary steps:
- Remote voting booth: A voter has to download a remote voting booth in the form of an app on his or her preferred device (mobile, laptop, etc.)
- Information submission: The voter submits his or her information which is verified by the organization to check the eligibility of the voter. The information of the voter is then securely added to the voter blockchain.
- Ballot Issuance: Then, the ballot is issued to the voter to cast the vote. Blockchain ensures that vote is not cast twice as the polling station consults the voter blockchain to ensure that the voter has not voted previously.
- Transaction: The vote becomes a transaction and put on the blockchain network. After the vote is cast, it can not be changed due to the immutable property of blockchain.
The system will ensure transparency as the voter can check whether his or her vote has been cast and counted. Further, anyone can audit the number of votes in the blockchain to confirm the accuracy of the results. Results can be published instantly after the elections and free of any human error in counting. Therefore, blockchain ensures a fair, cheaper, faster, devoid of any human error, avoiding manipulation and intervention in the online voting process.
Procurement in government agencies can also be made efficient and transparent using blockchain. In today’s world, sealed-bid auctions are often used to gather competing offers from different bidders. The current system of bidding is vulnerable to corruption and fraud. Usually, a third party or trusted software is used to tackle the corruption challenges, but it does not do away with the possibility of recipients leaking the bids to other bidders. Blockchain can address this issue. The private copies of bids by various organizations can be placed and put on a blockchain network in hashed form. Blockchain due to its immutable property will restrict the organizations to change the bids further. The recipients can view the documents by obtaining the key from the bidders and publish the results accordingly. Moreover, the public copy of the winning bid can be put on the ledger network for bidders to verify the authenticity of the results. This implementation will bring transparency to the process and do away with fraud and corruption.
One of the major problems that the government face is different departments of the government working in silos. As a result of which, it leads to a multiplicity of processes across different departments. Moreover, different departments of the government, run on different databases, and are backed by different technology pieces. Such multiple systems lack data integrity and consistency, that is, the same data can be different across different departments. Also, there is a good amount of time spent on cross-referencing from one department to the other. If the various departments of the government use blockchain, the data of individuals can be put on the blockchain from various departments which can easily be accessed and at the same time, ensuring data integrity and consistency.
Blockchain can also do away with manipulation, forging or destroying records which are major concerns in contemporary times. Blockchain provides a log of data that cannot be manipulated. For example, let us suppose that we have a log of data for a city and since the data is decentralized, it exists at each node. Therefore, it is next to impossible for a hacker to temper data at every node. Also, if someone changes the log, it is notified in real-time.
There are many implementations running as pilots in the governance paradigms for online voting and in other spheres. A blockchain-enabled government will not only do away with corruption but also stem the confidence of the citizens with the government.
To a more fair world, Blockchain!