Blockchain technology has emerged as a significant transformative force in India in multiple aspects of governance, more particularly in private sector operations. However, its adoption in government leaves much to be desired.
Though its potential has been recognised in reducing operational costs and compliance charges as well as in improving efficiency worldwide, the failure of governments in India to usher in its adoption both at the central and state level is inexplicable.
It has remained largely in the private sector space until now. Here I list some of the most significant possible use cases of blockchain technology for India.
Storing Health Data
Blockchain holds the power to completely transform the healthcare system by carefully consolidating the health data of a person together by storing the data separately in different distributed ledger like databases for security purposes.
The person can share this information as and when the need arises. This will help in providing freedom of movement within the healthcare system as a patient moves from one hospital to another without undergoing on-boarding procedures.
Meanwhile, medical professionals can also access the medical history of the patient immediately, thus saving time and making the whole process more economical as well as efficient. Fraudulent access to such data is also almost impossible. This is achievable by creating Electronic Health Records (EHRs).
Furthermore, introduction of digital prescriptions can save people from the burden of visiting the doctor every time the prescription expires.
Securing Land Registration
It has been established that by using blockchain technology, the government can remove intermediaries and connect directly with citizens.
Land registration and land titling is an area that requires a plethora of document verifications, along with transparent records of a number of transactions. There are often complaints of fraudulent transactions in this space where criminals allegedly use fake identities for verification purposes which often takes a long time.
This entire operation can also be upscaled to include a wallet service with nodes that store public and private keys.
These keys can create a unique signature or multiple signatures to initiate a transaction in the system thereby removing the need for a third-party verification.
In a land registry process, this would ensure a reduced need for officers in land offices to do title or deed searches (to certify non-encumbrance) or land registrars to verify document contents and update the registry.
The cryptographic protocols embedded in this distributed system can secure the network as well as the transactions and ensure data privacy.
Additionally, transactions executed in this system are done via smart contracts that allow automatic transferring of title or record rights to another party without the need for someone to physically verify, approve and record the rights in the registry.
A working example of this can be found in the Georgian government, where technology has been seamlessly incorporated into the existing software for land titling by making changes only in the backend.
Consequently, any input made by the citizens can be executed by blockchain by further executing a specific smart contract to carry out the necessary action.
This has helped in expediting the system, since the operation can be carried out by the citizens themselves without visiting the office. The part of the software which was being used by the citizens has been left untouched. Additionally, a strong and clean audit trail provides transparency.
A major concern that citizens across the globe share is that of corruption. Most of the corruption takes place during public procurement and bidding of government orders.
The primary reason for this is that the process is often kept under wraps and manual book-keeping of these records are manipulated easily. This creates an urgency to replace the existing system with a process which is more transparent and is immune to manipulation.
This is possible by incorporating a blockchain-based platform which bridges the gap between vendors and the government and also provides for enhanced accountability by concurrent oversight over operations.
A similar set up was adopted by the Colombian Inspector General’s Office and the Inter-American Development Bank, wherein they created a public, permission-less Ethereum- based block chain procurement system.
The system enabled vendors and tenders to conduct the vendor bidding, while also allowing third parties such as journalists and citizens to monitor and flag risky activities in real time.
The software included several automated features such as minimum bidding and automatic “red flags” to alert the Colombian Inspector General’s Office regarding a potentially corrupt activity.
This instance is a practical example of how technology can increase accountability, create a system of checks and balances and strengthen the fabric of democracy.
A Glimpse Into the Future
Blockchain technology holds the potential of revolutionising interactions between government, businesses and citizenry in a manner that was unimaginable before. Though often clubbed with technologies such as Internet of Things (IoT) or artificial intelligence (AI), this technology is unique in its construct.
Unlike the other technologies that have the potential of delivering entirely new services to its users, blockchain has the capacity of revamping currently existing processes and unlocking new sources of value (economy), efficiency and transparency.
Blockchain solutions enable reductions in complexity and cost of transactions while also ensuring improvement in transparency and fraud controls.
The features of blockchain make it preferable in processes requiring auditability, security and decentralised access. While alternative solutions such as centralised databases with distributed API or distributed database may also solve specific issues in processes at a lower cost, blockchain has the potential of solving these challenges more seamlessly, quickly and transparently.
(Dr Amar Patnaik is a Member of Parliament, Rajya Sabha from Odisha; a former CAG bureaucrat, an academic with a PhD in management and an advocate now. This is an opinion piece and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses, nor is responsible for them.)