In the context of ensuring the openness of data, services and solutions in the public sector, digital technology is developing a new generation of open, accountable, transparent and collaborative e-government services.
The UK government’s chief science adviser recently published a report that describes how blockchain-based technologies can provide new tools to reduce fraud, prevent errors, reduce operating costs, increase productivity, support regulatory compliance, and enhance accountability in many government services.
Potential areas of application include tax collection, identity management, distribution of benefits, use of local (or national) digital currencies, registration of property and land, and any kind of government documents.
The same technology also opens the door for non-state actors to provide public services, from notarial to global citizenship and identity. What blockchain will mean for the public sector remains to be seen.
How blockchain technology can support public services
Data used by government agencies is often fragmented and opaque to other entities, in particular citizens, enterprises, and supervisory bodies.
Blockchain technology allows you to create and verify records with greater speed, security and transparency.
The most direct application of blockchain technology in government is to keep records. It is expected that the combination of time-stamping with digital signatures in an accessible ledger will benefit all users by allowing them to conduct transactions and keep records (for example, in land cadastres, birth certificates and business licenses) with less dependence on lawyers, notaries, civil servants and other third parties.
The Estonian government is experimenting with the introduction of blockchain, which allows citizens to use their identity cards to write prescriptions for medicines, voting, banking, receive benefits, register their businesses, pay taxes and access about 3,000 other digital services.
This approach also allows government officials to encrypt documents, review and approve permits, contracts and applications, and forward information requests to other services.
This is an example of an allowed lock chain in which access is restricted to protect data and protect user privacy.
Similarly, the role of the state as a body that retains control over the system contrasts with the bottom-up structure of many initiatives promoted by the community to develop blockchain.
Nevertheless, as this system spreads to public notaries and patients, it remains one of the most advanced government initiatives using the blockchain.
Several countries, including Ghana, Kenya and Nigeria, have begun using the blockchain to maintain land registries. Their goal is to create a clear and reliable record of property rights in response to registration problems, corruption, and low public access to documents.
Sweden also conducts tests to include real estate transactions in the blockchain, in this case so that all parties (banks, government, brokers, buyers and sellers) can monitor the progress of the transaction at all its stages and guarantee the authenticity and transparency of the process, while ensuring significant time and cost savings.
The UK Department of Labor and Pensions has also tested blockchain technology for social benefits. Here, citizens use their phones to receive and spend benefits, and with their consent, their transactions are recorded in a distributed ledger.
The goal of this initiative is to help people manage their finances and create a more reliable and efficient social security system, preventing fraud and building trust between applicants and the government.
The UK government is also considering how blockchain technology can enable citizens to track the distribution and spending of funds from the government, donors or aid organizations in the form of grants, loans, and scholarships.