One of the most important and fundamental advances in this digital era is ‘Blockchain’. Even after being around for almost 10 years, the technology has been given due recognition only now. It is an overhyped technology beyond AI and Machine Learning. Many people interchange this word for ‘bitcoin’. But these two are different things, blockchain technology is not only about money, but also fundamentally deeper and deals with trust. The blockchain is operated through private and public keys and follows algorithms for tracking transactions paired together. The applications of the blockchain technology are beyond cryptocurrencies as it extends to various industries and the government. This technology can be leveraged by the government in many areas like increasing the level of transparency and accountability in operations of the government and most importantly securing the critical data from tampering.
In Independence Day speech our honorable Prime Minister introduced the world’s largest health scheme Ayushman Bharat. The healthcare system in India is underpenetrated. The government expenditure is only 1.25 percent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Low expenditure in the health sector is also backed by underperforming public healthcare ecosystem. The initiative of Ayushman Bharat- National Health Protection Mission is mainly for the underprivileged section of the Indian population. Nearly 55-60 million Indians are pushed to poverty due to medical costs. Half of the middle-class person’s household income is allocated to cover medical costs. Imagine 55-60 million Indians having the benefit of blockchain technology that will make things easier and effective. The NitiAyog, National Institution for Transforming India is working with Apollo Hospitals and a major information technology company, Oracle on applying the decentralized blockchain technology in pharmaceutical supply chain management to detect spurious drugs. During the Blockchain Congress, 2018, co-hosted by NitiAyog the organization announced that they were working on applying the technology in health records, land registry, and fertilizer subsidy distribution. In the health industry, the blockchain would be introduced for advance traceability of drugs from manufacturer to consumer and prevent citizens from using harmful drugs. In the case of land registry, the blockchain would be used in cooperation with the judiciary of the civil court.
Two days after the announcement of Ayushman Bharat, the director of Crisil Research, Rahul Prithiani told in an interview “We need adequate infrastructure to implement the scheme effectively.” He stated that 55% of the Indian households do not use government facilities because of its poor quality. Primarily due to the lack of authenticated data of the citizens. The health scheme. Ayushman Bharat is provided to the needy based on the census data taken in 2011 which is seven years old, hence, the economic status of many families would have changed by now. How to solve this issue? Not only for Ayushman Bharat but also for other government schemes like PM Ujjwala yojana, Pradhan Mantri Suraksha Bima Yojana etc., can be efficiently implemented by creating the Blockchain platforms. The Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) is one of the biggest steps by the Indian Government to eliminate the waste of the benefit distribution in the earlier days. But still, this system suffers from certain drawbacks.
Consider a situation where one person goes to bank A intending to get a loan and eventually defaults it. The same person goes to bank B to gets a loan and later lands up defaulting the loan again. This is because bank B lacks complete information about the person. What if there is a centralized database about the man where any bank can access it and gather the information about the person in a fraction of seconds and decides whether to give a loan or reject the plea. This is like, if you enter one person’s identification number (kind of social security number in the U.S) you will get the entire history of him. This is where Blockchain technology plays a crucial role. Even insurance companies of India are looking for creating a centralized database and are waiting for the approval of IRDAI (Insurance Regulatory Development Authority of India). How would it materialize if it is implemented in every sector instead of one specific sector? The growing surge of blockchain has found its place in banking, retail, energy, governance, healthcare, agriculture, education and supply chain management. Infosys Ltd set up the ‘India Trade Connect’, a blockchain based trade network in India in partnership with seven lending banks, Axis Bank, ICICI Bank, RBL Bank, IndusInd Bank, Yes Bank, South Indian Bank, and Kotak Mahindra Bank. The blockchain technology will be used to address the trade finance process requirements of banks, manage risks in trade, and supply chain financing operations. The Blockchain would make things automated and transparent especially in the processes of making payments, validation of ownership, and certification of documents in banking, IT, and other sectors as well. This one centralized database has to be maintained by our government.
The baby step of Aadhar card had been taken but the government systems operate at lower trust levels by the general public and only a system like a blockchain can be trusted. It has been reported recently about the account of Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) chairman which had been hacked. Blockchain technology will prevent such malpractices by hackers or others and ensure the data is protected. For example, if any data of a person is entered into the system, it cannot be altered or manipulated and remains as original.
One may question about the security breach in the bitcoins exchange which recently made headlines. If one does some research then it is revealed that the theft had happened at the margins i.e, when the bitcoin leaves the blockchain platform, also known as the‘vault’ and moves to exchange and that exchange platform is hacked not the blockchain platform. For the past nine years, nobody has been able to hack the blockchain platform and the prime reason is a decentralized network. Moreover, each and every block is interconnected, if someone wants to hack a particular block then he has to hack millions of interconnected systems simultaneously which is impossible to do in reality. That’s why the government has to utilize this technology in securing the data of the people. This will definitely reduce the time taken by the governments to implement various policies/ schemes. In many cases, either the state or the central government will have difficulties in accessing the information, which will be eliminated by this technology. It’s time for state and central governments to work together for the welfare of the people in a faster and effective manner.
Countries like the US, UK, Estonia etc. have started testing the efficiency of usage of the blockchain in government schemes. Even the government of Dubai has implemented the blockchain in property registration and it is expected to save around $3 billion a year on document operations and 77 million labour hours as well as, reduce government’s printing of documents by 389 million.
The Government of India has announced during this current budget session that it will explore the opportunities of blockchain technology. This small step for man is a giant leap for mankind. It’s the right step towards embracing technology in India. The sharing economy time has elapsed and the future lies in Access Economy. The technology now has changed the way industries and consumers evolve. The future will be ruled by the one who has the data that will make the one the king of the economy. In that case, telecom and internet companies will lead and change the future.
Also, we are having capable talent in the Information Technology field for more than two decades. There are young talented software engineers who have migrated to the US to work as onsite employees and are also contributing their knowledge in the fields of blockchain technology. They have played an important role in Silicon Valley by digitalizing global countries in respect of banking services, pensions services, insurance services, health, and manufacturing sectors. In this process, our economy benefited by an increase of forex reserves. In fact, it is the Indian programmers who made the story of Silicon Valley successful. Now their contributions are very much needed as the Government of India is more concerned about digitalizing the nation in a faster manner. There is a need for a focused approach in building the roadmap of making our country digital, as it will bring down the corruption, black money, and increase the better connectivity, wider reach, to link to subsidies offered by governments. Also, it will help in the performance assessment of various ministries in addressing public problems.
Finally, Blockchain technology will help the country to become Digital by centralizing the data at the same time using distributed ledgers to bring transparency in the governance. This will lead to increase the accountability of the public servants, politicians, teachers, bankers, doctors and hospitals etc. Transparency in the system will remove all unwanted and duplication cost at various departments, and ministries which will lead to improving the economic development. Hence blockchain technology is truly an Ayushmaan to make the country digital, innovative and lead to make in India.
This article was written by Prof. Chandrashekar Goud, Harsha Sheelam, and Kumaran and has been published by SCOPE, an apex body for Public Secor Enterprises.
Standing Conference of Public Enterprises (SCOPE) is an apex professional organization representing the Central Government Public Enterprises. It has also some State Enterprises, Banks and other Institutions as its Members. It is promoting excellence in organizations where public investment is involved, in order to enable them to be globally competitive. SCOPE came into existence on April 10, 1973 and was formally given recognition as an apex body of Central Public Sector Enterprises in November 1976 by a decision of the Union Cabinet.