Are Countries Finally Outgrowing Their Fear of Blockchain?
Earlier in the week, Swisscom and Swiss Post, the Switzerland government-controlled telecommunications and postal services providers, respectively, announced the launch of a 100 per cent Swiss infrastructure for blockchain networks. The aim of the initiative is to provide end-to-end blockchain related services for the Swiss citizens and enterprises, ranging from advisory, development, project management, infrastructure, to blockchain-as-a-service (BaaS). The service even includes an academy for teaching blockchain. A wholesome package to promote blockchain adoption in the country.
Switzerland is not the first country to offer a national blockchain program. Australia, Malta, Cyprus, the United Arab Emirates, Ireland, Russia, Brazil, China and India, to name a few, have announced a slew of programs.
Some countries, like India, have taken a dichotomous approach to cryptocurrency and blockchain. The Central Bank of India (RBI) is still “evaluating” the legality of cryptocurrencies, like bitcoin, while mulling over its own version, the Laxmi coin. On the contrary, the incumbent central government, headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and various tech-savvy state governments like Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka, have latched on to the blockchain bandwagon.
Fear no more
Blockchain is now appearing in nation’s strategies, lawmakers’ lingo and in the agenda of think-tank sessions. Governments seem to have embarked on the process of appearing out of the fear psychosis of cryptocurrencies. Nations separating the cryptocurrency and the blockchain agenda is a progressive sign of maturity—a welcome sign for the country’s citizens and the business alike.
While setting up a national blockchain framework, nations would do best to keep the interests of the critical four sectors in mind.
Government to Citizen (G2C)
G2C is a sector ripe for disruption. Citizens, by and large, have lost trust in the services rendered by the governments. In countries where corruption and inefficiencies rule the roost, and transparency is relegated to political talks and mission statements, blockchain has the potential to restore faith in the government machinery.
By building an immutable layer of transparency and accountability and making citizens the watchdogs for the delivery of government services, blockchain can herald a new era in effectively implementing national programs.
Many initiatives in the G2C sector are in progress. Some of them are:
- Land records and ownership
- Subsidies and benefits distribution
- Various civic and public works departments services
- Voting& national identity
Government to Business (G2B)
Business and government have a love-hate relationship. One cannot sustain without the support of the other. Unscrupulous political funding, permits, and taxation have often led to the demise of both. The increasing cry for transparency, in backdoor lobbying, does them no good either. Many legitimate businesses (and even governments) suffer because of politicking in business transactions.
While the need for an honest and transparent government may remain a utopian dream, small steps in improving the fundamental machinery might go a long way in boosting the economic prospects for the nation.
In the quest to remain competitive and relevant, governments and business are exploring blockchain for a variety of applications:
- Streamlining and simplifying business registrations
- Tax and dues collection
- Procurement and supply chain
- Intellectual property and copyrights protection
Business to Consumer (B2C)
Consumers are a concerned lot. The recent spate of security breaches to their data, inferior quality of service, and personal details being gleamed without consent has left them looking for viable alternatives. Blockchain is an opportunity for business to win back the trust of the individuals. Beyond cryptocurrencies, business can leverage blockchain technology, to offer a variety of novel and secure services to the consumers. Some of them are:
- Logistics tracking &security of supply chain
- Food safety
- Utility services
Business to Business (B2B)
Businesses depend on each other to build products and fulfill the demands of a service. What starts off as a platonic relation, takes little time to turn into squabbles and, in the extreme cases, ends up in the courtroom battles. Breach of trust, non-adherence to commitments and lack of “one view of truth” are the usual culprits leading to disputes. By using blockchain technology for cross-business transactions, businesses do have a lot to benefit. Active blockchain projects in the B2B space are cropping up regularly, to help with:
- Data sharing and real-time visibility
- Business supply chain & smart contracts
- Transaction and revenue settlements
2019 will be a landmark year for the blockchain ecosystem suppliers and users. The initial results from the pilots and trials will start to flow. One hopes that the technological shortcomings of the blockchain technology, like scalability and performance, are addressed. Let 2019 also be the year when nations and business outgrow their fear of blockchain and start to explore.