CBSE Uses Blockchain To Go Paperless, But Will Other Govt Arms Follow Suit?
The Quint spoke to experts to understand how implementation of Blockchain for data storage can benefit India.
The Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) has come up with an innovative and permanent solution to ensure that the results and academic documents of Class 10 and 12 students are stored in a secure and tamper-proof manner.
According to CBSE officials, Blockchain technology will ensure that the academic documents can be accessed online by various educational institutes for verification.
It is worth noting that Blockchain and its applicability came to the fore only after Bitcoin (a cryptocurrency based on the tech) gained traction.
While the Centre has been sceptical about cryptocurrency and its legality, it seems to now be embracing its parent architecture – Blockchain technology.
The Quint spoke to Douglas Horn, Chief Architect at Telos, Hitesh Malviya, founder of itsblockchain.com, and Professor Soumya Choudhury, Associate Professor of Fintech at Jagdish Sheth School of Management, to understand how implementation of Blockchain can benefit India.
How Will Implementation of Blockchain Benefit CBSE?
Forging of degrees and academic certifications is a major problem in our education system, which will eventually be solved after the successful implementation of Blockchain technology for storing student records.
Hitesh Malviya, founder of itsblockchain.com, told The Quint that students can freely access their records at any given point in time through a trusted network. Blockchain promises greater trust in the education system, that has been lacking for a long time.
Douglas Horn, chief architect of Telos, one of the most active, high-capacity Blockchain networks, noted that with university credits and degrees recorded on Blockchain for easy verification, employers will no longer risk hiring candidates with fraudulent credentials and job-seekers who have diligently worked to earn degrees or certifications will no longer have to compete against candidates that have padded their resumes with unearned qualifications.
Blockchain As Anti-Corruption Tool
US Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis coined the metaphor, “Sunlight is the best disinfectant” to describe how transparency and publicity can battle corruption.
Horn told The Quint that Blockchain has the power to allow anyone to verify when certain actions took place. In a system where government bids are recorded on Blockchain, for example, it’s no longer possible to sneak in a bid after the process closes or hide competing bids, for example.
Government contracts would be on a transparent platform and no longer under a patronage system.
Horn believes that when supply chains are recorded on Blockchain with an immutable provenance for valuable components, it will no longer be possible to substitute inferior grade or unethically sourced replacements without leaving an easy to follow paper trail (or digital footprints) of precisely who sold what to whom and when.
Corruption is facilitated by complex supply or responsibility chains where no one can be quite sure of exactly when goods go missing, a bid was lost, or a critical process was ignored. Blockchain tech allows anyone to focus 'sunshine' on a process to root out corruption.
Meanwhile, Soumya Choudhury, Associate Professor of Fintech at Jagdish Sheth School of Management, asserted that the Blockchain database is tamper-proof so it cannot be modified or manipulated.
Explaining how Blockchain works, Chaudhary told The Quint that it follows a Merkle Root principle where any change of a single digit somewhere will cause the Blockchain to delink and has to be linked again through voting – consensus using Proof of Work.
"Hence, unlike a central database or paper-based records which can be tampered with by someone who has admin access or malicious intent, this is not possible in a distributed ledger system where all records have to be simultaneously changed," he added.
Why Blockchain is a Necessary Safeguard Against Data Breaches
Data is stored in a decentralised, and distributed manner in a blockchain network, and only authorised nodes can get access to important data from the network.
It is impossible to hack data from a Blockchain network due to its security architecture which uses cryptography algorithms to store data in hash formats, which is a not human readable format, and these cryptographic hashes take ages to crack.
Professor Chaudhary points out that there has been no data breach on Blockchain-based networks to date as it requires the hacker to obtain the private key of the node/participant.
It is worth noting that recent data breaches where customer data was compromised – such as Equifax, JP Morgan, Yahoo, Sony, Capital One, etc – all happened on their centralised data warehouse (data centres) and not on Blockchain distributed databases.
"Large data breaches can only occur when a single party has centralised access and control of the databases. Every hack you read about has occurred in such a system where lax security unlocks access to everything. In systems with decentralised control, poor security would never leak more than the information of the user at fault."Douglas Horn, Telos Chief Architect
Secure Future Through Blockchain: How Can India Use It?
Blockchain provides tamper-proof data storage and management that would help the Indian government to store data safely on a blockchain network without being worried about any possible data leak by any insider or an intruder outside the organisation.
Shedding light on the applicability of the tech, Horn told The Quint that Blockchain use cases can range from privacy-protecting proof of identity, to unforgeable records for vehicle or business licenses to university degree verification. Challenges around record retention, verification and dissemination are directly solved by Blockchain technology.
Recent innovations such as Universal Pass, CBSE marksheets being stored on a blockchain-based ledger and Digi-Yatra, a Blockchain-based solution for travel onboarding, are being employed by NITI Aayog and a few startups.
It is worth noting that the journey of big data in India has been long, but its influence is increasing rapidly.
India is one of the fastest-growing countries with large datasets, be it the Aadhaar system database or the aim to give every Indian a unique Health ID.
Analysts often raise concerns over the security of the Aadhaar database, given its sheer scale. Ayushman Bharat Digital Mission faces the same issues.
While Aadhaar database in stored in a secure and encrypted server, the implementation of Blockchain-based data records can add a more impervious layer of security that can offer 100 percent data retention.
Interestingly, there have been around 30 FIRs that have been filed by the UIDAI since the introduction of the Aadhaar Act 2016, over possible data breaches.
IT Grids, a company hired by the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) for developing its Seva Mitra app, has been found to have allegedly stored the data of 7.82 crore Indians from Andhra Pradesh and Telangana.
Professor Chaudhary asserted that if all data records would be digitised on decentralised ledger technology (blockchain distributed databases) and once these records (eg, land or property title, car registrations, driving licenses, etc) are digitised, they can no longer be tampered with.
"Subsequent transactions on ownership changes would be using Blockchain and would be tamper-proof (immutable) and secure with cryptographic hashing," he added.
However, the currency based on the technology, which is globally used as virtual currency or cryptocurrency, is yet to get regulatory approval in India.
It is also worth noting that India currently has no legislation to regulate cryptocurrency, despite not having outlawed it outright. However, a recent report by Reuters stated that India will propose a law banning cryptocurrencies, fining anyone trading in the country or even holding such digital assets.
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