Citizens demand secure and transparent government record keeping. They very rarely receive this from bureaucrats and government officials.
Blockchain offers secure, permanent, and transparent record-keeping and transactions. It offers both public and private access, and with varying rights to entry as required. As a result, many governments worldwide are embracing the technology and have begun to use it in a wide variety of applications.
Here are three of the most promising:
Government-enabled identity management already exists: almost all public services in Estonia are digitized and are accessed using secure digital identities. Estonia’s KSI blockchain powers ID cards that serve as travel documents, health insurance cards, digital signatures, and voting cards. They allow citizens to vote, access medical records and prescriptions, and serve as identification for paying taxes and accessing financial services.
Major decentralized digital identity platforms include Civic and KABN.network. They offer decentralized identity verification. Solutions such as KABN.network, which uses binary (pass/fail) data markers, allow applications to verify identity and grant appropriate access to government services in real time without needing to reverify against existing government-issued identification. Companies like KABN.network are streamlining the ability for third parties to validate their users against a bank-grade attestation using anonymous markers on the blockchain.
In 2016, Sweden began testing a blockchain-based land registry system. The system uses smart contracts that automate transactions, allowing buyers and sellers to complete a transaction using digital signatures that are automatically verified. The transactions are recorded on a private blockchain; access to records is available to the government and banks.
In the U.K., the Digital Street research project is the first stage in digitizing and automating real estate transactions, with the goal of using DLT to make transactions simpler, cheaper, and faster. The project includes prototypes including an AI-powered chat that provides information to homebuyers, an application to streamline the process of getting a mortgage, and a service that uses smart contracts to simplify the process of completing real estate transactions.
Decentralized land registration offers many benefits. Costs associated with intermediaries would be reduced, and speed would increase. Reliable and tamper-proof records of property ownership would also remove the need for land title insurance, which costs landowners in the U.S. nearly $800 million annually.
Given the many problems evident with paper-based voting systems, it’s not surprising that there’s considerable interest in moving them to the blockchain. In November 2017, the state of West Virginia launched a pilot project that allowed absentee voters in the military to cast their ballots using a blockchain-powered mobile app. The Swiss city of Zug launched a similar pilot project in June 2018, linked to a pilot digital identity project, and with the aim of testing the security and privacy of a blockchain voting system.
Blockchain voting promises to reduce costs associated with traditional voting systems. It will offer better security and more transparent oversight for the voting process, and will also reduce friction, ultimately ensuring that election results more closely reflect the will of the people who cast their ballots.
Advantages of blockchain
In all these use cases, and no doubt more that have yet to be developed, blockchain offers distinct advantages. DLT provides shared data that can be accessed by multiple parties. All interactions with this data are recorded permanently, and records cannot be modified or deleted. Transaction data therefore includes an auditable record of the digital identity of every person who accesses the data. As there is no need for a middleman, transactions are also cheaper and more straightforward, offering benefits for transferring records of ownership for both physical and digital assets. Smart contracts allow transactions to be completed automatically once specific conditions are met, and they have use cases including digital payments, insurance contracts, and market trading.
At present, one out of every six people worldwide don’t have access to a documented identity. As a result, they also lack fundamental political, economic, and social rights. Establishing identity provides benefits including education, healthcare, and access to financial services. By using blockchain to establish a system of digital identity that can be used worldwide, countless lives will be transformed.