The first month of 2017 has been surprisingly fruitful for government-blockchain relationships, given the traditionally cautious approach to anything controversial by the public sector to. In less than a month, a series of actions have been taken by progressive international authorities, central banks and governmental organizations to bring DLT closer to the public rather than simply observing boiling with initiatives private sector.
The ultimate leader – Estonia
Let’s take a closer look at what exactly are some of the national authorities doing with DLT starting with an unconventional leader that doesn't receive enough credit – Estonia. It's been almost a year since Nasdaq and the Republic of Estonia have announced that Estonia’s e-Residency platform will be facilitating a blockchain-based e-voting service to allow shareholders of companies listed on Nasdaq’s Tallinn Stock Exchange, Estonia’s only regulated securities market, to vote in shareholder meetings. The program marks the second official blockchain project Nasdaq is executing on after successfully delivering the first private securities issuance between an investor and company via Nasdaq Linq, its blockchain-enabled platform.
A year later, in 2017, The Republic of Estonia takes another step towards blockchain hand in hand with Procivis, a Switzerland-based startup, which a few days ago announced that it is going to present its proof of concept for a blockchain-backed e-government platform at Microsoft public sector digitization practice day in Bern. Procivis is currently raising seed funding and will collaborate closely with Estonian e-government experts for designing its services.
Company founder Daniel Gasteiger said about the motivation to start Procivis, “Learning about the level of digitization of the public sector in Estonia left me deeply impressed, especially when looking at the state of digitization in Western Europe, including Switzerland. By bringing Estonia’s leading e-government experts on board and adding our blockchain experience, our aim is to create a platform that can serve as the future electronic backbone of democracies across the globe.”
Russia is warming up to blockchain for identification and exchange of assets
Meanwhile, Estonia’s neighbor – Russia – is warming up to DLT. The Association of Financial Innovation (AFI) in Russia has prepared a draft outlining the roadmap for improving the regulation of National Payment System, which, among other things, includes the implementation of blockchain technology for identification of clients. As shared by EconoTimes, “Along with expansion opportunities in the short term transactions under the simplified identification of clients, develop an approach and implement a single identifier (possibly using blockchain technology).”
The country took its time with FinTech, but now, I can't help but notice significant efforts by the country's authorities and central bank to explore opportunities with innovative technologies. Prior to the news on the roadmap for the NPS, the Bank of Russia announced that its representatives, along with financial market participants, have approved the decision to set up an Association for Financial Technologies Development (FinTech Association). “The Association’s key objectives will include the development and introduction of new technological solutions to ensure the development of the Russian financial market. It will also promote digitalization of the Russian economy,” said Olga Skorobogatova, Deputy Governor of the Bank of Russia.
Furthermore, in November 2015, Russia's central securities depository (CSD) started working with a tech startup to test the exchange and transfer of blockchain assets. According to Coindesk, the project is part of a broader FinTech initiative conducted in partnership between the Russian National Settlement Depository (NSD) and the National Research University Higher School of Economics. A total of 10 startups took part. NSD is working with a startup called iCoinSoft, which designs white label exchange software for cryptocurrencies. Sweden, Ghana and the Republic of Georgia are all for transparency in land ownership
Sweden took a keen interest in a nonfinancial application of DLT – a public-private effort in the country to record land titles on a blockchain is set to begin public testing this March, as reported by Coindesk. Revealed in June with support from a consulting firm Kairos Future and telephone service provider Telia, the project is moving ahead with the addition of two banks that specialize in mortgages, Landshypotek and SBAB, CoinDesk has learned. As ChromaWay CEO Henrik Hjelte shared with the edition, the sandbox release would seek to test the platform from a business, legal and security perspective, while allowing the public to test the interface and back-end.
The Republic of Georgia has a similar interest – the country is developing a blockchain land registry, spearheaded by their National Agency of Public Registry with a goal to show that Georgia has a corruption-free, modern and transparent government. Tea Tsulukiani, Georgia’s Minister of Justice, announced that the government’s development and intelligence agencies have garnered the necessary technological expertise and talents to successfully use blockchain for protecting properties of millions of its people, Cointelegraph reports.
“Thanks to efforts of the Public Registry, Georgia is ready to join this system. We suppose that 2017 will be the first step of insertion of documents, we will store real estate extracts in the system. We will provide detailed information for our citizens. The main thing is that we have attained technical compatibility. As a result, Georgia will be one of the first countries in our regions and western Europe to establish this technology,” said Tsulukiani.
Another land registry application is taking shape in Ghana since 2016, where they are implementing it in 28 communities, to enable tamper-resistant property ownerships. Again, the driving element was reported to be a desire to make a statement against the perception that the country had corrupt practices, and this initiative is used as a signal to attract foreign investors.
Nigeria and the cryptocurrency push
Another African country has been supportive to blockchain exploration for public sector – a few days ago, Cointelegraph reported that the blockchain industry in Nigeria has received a boost as government agencies are collaborating with Cryptography Development Initiative of Nigeria (CDIN), in education and implementation of the technology. CDIN works as a platform that brings together stakeholders in Nigeria to work on a common interest of addressing gaps in cryptography related developments including cryptocurrencies and crypto-ransomware.
In response to CDIN’s invitation for partnership, the National electronic Fraud Forum (NeFF) offers its support to CDIN. This is contained in a letter signed by the Chairman of NeFF, Dipo Fatokun, who said the following, “Please be informed that NeFF is willing to collaborate with CDIN and will assist with technical advice and/or speakers at the proposed 2017 conference on Blockchain. Also note that as the collaboration progresses, NeFF will also count on your support.” Adeolu Fadele, President of CDIN, shared with Cointelegraph that CDIN is currently negotiating with BitLand on a viable partnership.
FDA and the use of blockchain in healthcare industry
At the beginning of January, IBM Watson Health has signed a research initiative with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) aimed at defining a secure, efficient and scalable exchange of health data using blockchain technology. IBM and the FDA will explore the exchange of owner mediated data from several sources, such as Electronic Medical Records, clinical trials, genomic data, and health data from mobile devices, wearables and IoT. The initial focus will be on oncology-related data.
According to the official press release, IBM and the FDA will explore how a blockchain framework can potentially provide benefits to public health by supporting important use cases for information exchange across a wide variety of data types, including clinical trials and “real-world” evidence data. The collaboration will also address new ways to leverage the large volumes of diverse data in today’s biomedical and healthcare industries. A secure owner-mediated data sharing ecosystem could potentially hold the promise of new discoveries and improved public health.
The set of activities around blockchain technology since the beginning of 2017 is certainly not limited to the mentioned ones. It is likely that this year, blockchain-focused professionals and startups will receive well-deserved attention from an increasing number of national authorities and international corporations. Being mostly past the research and discussion stage, forward-thinking organizations and authorities are moving onto charters first-of-a-kind projects to accelerate the adoption of DLT.