India is keen to work on innovative solutions to promote inclusion, to empower masses and to do so at a faster pace.
In the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting, there were a startling range of debates and discussions among the most influential and powerful leaders.
There were differences, and there was the consensus. There was broadly an agreement on the role of technology in driving inclusive development at scale. There was a focussed discussion on emerging technologies including blockchain. This was one theme that was hot in the snow-covered Davos.
Startups, political leaders, think tanks, and industry led the discussions creating a complete chain bringing in consensus that “blockchain is out of beta”.
It cannot be a coincidence that recently even the finance minister of India spoke about blockchain and artificial intelligence in his Budget speech.
India is keen to work on innovative solutions to promote inclusion, to empower masses and to do so at a faster pace. While the resistance to accepting cryptocurrency is quite visible, there has been a lot of action around blockchain in the past year in India.
Almost one year back, India’s first blockchain exploration consortium was launched for banks. This was also the time when the Institute for Development and Research in Banking Technology (IDRBT), an arm of the Reserve Bank of India, published a whitepaper on applications of blockchain technology in banking.
NITI Aayog has been encouraging discussions on leveraging technology platforms, and is keen to explore the potential of the blockchain. If we start connecting all the dots, a fertile ground for seeding innovation is ready in India.
With the experience of implementing Aadhaar and India Stack-based applications, we are best prepared to explore if blockchain, artificial intelligence, chatbots, virtual reality and other advanced platforms can be combined to address some of the problems faced by masses. These might include issues related to identity; privacy; food productivity, quality and origin; health advice and the quality and origin of medicines; literacy and numeracy; employment; and … the list is too long.
This list represents the canvas of opportunities to create scalable solutions to meet a range of the Sustainable Development Goals.
I strongly feel that blockchain or any other technology platform will struggle to solve all these problems while we lack much of the basic infrastructure required. At the same time, potential of such innovative platforms to solve some, if not all, problems of the world cannot be undermined. If a blockchain based platform can help us assess the quality of food grains with complete traceability across the value chain or give the farmer an incentive to share the farm equipment in a community, we are taking some steps towards a larger goal. We are also living in a world which is run by machines.
Blockchain also strengthens the application of Internet of Things (IoT) devices by providing a platform for authentication, connection and transaction. The log of all such interactions between devices can be maintained in a secured database. Some of us may stay in a Smart City with a shared pool of renewable energy – smart contracts based on blockchain could provide a way of optimising the use and efficiency of these (and indeed many other) resources.
Government will play a critical role in ensuring success of blockchain platforms. The ultimate objective of any blockchain platform is to build trust and offer an open, transparent and collaborative platform for users.
Government can provide the vision as well as right regulatory environment, enabling policies and mentorship to nurture the evolution of such platforms.
Dubai is aiming to be world’s first blockchain powered government.
According to Smart Dubai, which is conducting government and private organisation workshops to identify services that can be best enhanced by blockchain adoption, the strategy could save 25.1 million man hours, or USD1.5 billion in savings per year for the Emirate. Much of this enhanced productivity will stem from moving to paperless government. Blockchain must be an important link in the Digital India strategy.(The author is head of strategic initiatives at international financial consultancy firm MicroSave)