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Blockchain will simplify many administrative services. A boon for developing countries.
When talking about the blockchain revolution, we immediately think of the economic sectors that could be disrupted by this new technology. But the impetus could come from the public sector, where there are a growing number of innovations. “Governments could move faster than businesses,” says Vincent Pignon, CEO of WeCan.fund.
In Ghana, for example, the NGO Bitland is working with public authorities to record the country’s land register on blockchain. “Seen from here, this type of application can seem trivial, but many countries do not have a reliable land register, which creates many problems,” explains Grégoire Revenu. Often buyers do not know if the land really belongs to those who are selling it, which restricts investments. Not counting the fact that an unreliable government can change the register as it likes, or even lose it.
This issue is not merely theoretical. Following the earthquake that ravaged Haiti in 2010, all of the country’s registers were destroyed. While several associations were doing their best to rebuild the country, a major obstacle arose: it was impossible to identify the legitimate owners of thousands of plots, which led to conflicts. Today, close to 10 years after the catastrophe, many reconstruction projects have come to a standstill due to ownership problems.
“In this context, blockchain represents a preferred, solution” says Revenu. “It constitutes an unforgeable general ledger, in which all transactions can be permanently recorded and consulted by everyone.” In addition to Ghana, Honduras and India are notably working on creating virtual land registers.
But the applications do not end there. As blockchains can be used as a bulwark against fraud and corruption, several countries are currently testing this technology for voting processes. In March 2018, during the last presidential elections in Sierra Leone, the Agora blockchain was tested in some polling stations.
The canton of Geneva has linked its trade register to a blockchain
In Switzerland, the start-up Procivis is also working on an e-voting platform using blockchain and, more generally, digital identity technology. “Looking at the level of digitalisation of the Estonian public services, I was deeply impressed,” says Daniel Gasteiger, co-founder and CEO of Procivis. “Blockchain can contribute hugely in this area, but this will take time, as voting and digital identity are extremely sensitive subjects for democracies.”
Pending this, projects are multiplying on a local scale. Since 2018, the town of Zug has experimented with electronic voting based on blockchain technology. And in Geneva, the canton has linked its trade register to a blockchain. The decentralised listing is now accessible and can be used by anyone, at any time. Moreover, its data may not be altered. Once entered, it cannot be erased or modified. Ultimately, the objective of the canton of Geneva is to extend blockchain to other administrative services, notably taxation.