Blockchain technology for secure, efficient and trustworthy e-governance platforms – ET Government

Transparency and integrity become possible because blockchain platforms allows any value, tangible or intangible, to be represented and tracked on the network.

To be effective, the e-governance systems must be centralised and linked to a huge client-server database. But centralisation and linking to an all-encompassing database leads to all kinds of operational challenges and exacerbates the problems of data security and privacy. With the introduction of blockchain technology, most of these problems can be eliminated and the e-governance system can be fully secured.

The Government of India is working on developing policies for enhancing e-governance platforms through shared blockchain architecture. The vision is to facilitate transparent, efficient, secure and trusted e-governance systems for delivering services to citizens and businesses. Research and development on blockchain technology is being spearheaded by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY).

First introduced in 2009 by Satoshi Nakamoto for the development of the cryptocurrency called Bitcoin, blockchain is a system which acts as a single resource for truth and enables a shared ledger among various parties involved in transactions. In his original paper Nakamoto had used the words “block” and “chain” separately, but by 2016, the technology had a single name “blockchain.”

The technology in blockchain is so transparent and efficient that when it is being deployed, there is no need for a central entity to validate the transactions.

E-governance systems, as pointed out earlier, function through centralized repositories of massive amounts of data, which can be related to citizens in all parts of the country. Blockchain provides a way of safeguarding this data while maintaining the efficiency and integrity of the e-governance services. The blocks are linked together with a hash function which is completely secure and transparent. The result is a distributed ledger which is stored at various nodes of the network–this is what is called blockchain.

Every block on the blockchain encompasses the details of transactions, which are the hash on the previous block and the timestamp. The e-governance system continues to be centralised; it continues to deal with massive amounts of data. But with blockchain it is secure and full of trust. Consensus (consensus protocols) are used to validate and verify the transactions along the nodes of the blockchain network.

Transparency and integrity become possible because blockchain platforms allows any value, tangible or intangible, to be represented and tracked on the network. This kind of system also increases the speed of the transactions and reduces cost. E-governance systems face the risk of insider attacks and sabotage. This kind of risk can be mitigated through blockchain technology. Since the data recorded on the blockchain network is tamperproof and since the transactions are being carried out through consensus protocols, this technology is impossible to tamper and it inspires trust among the users and stakeholders.

At any point of time, the government officials can verify the data and the documents by comparing the attributes of the new edition with the details of the original version stored in the blockchain network. When the digital structures (data and documents) are stored in a blockchain network, they become impossible to tamper with. Currently there are some issues in the interoperability of various platforms of blockchain. The government of India is conducting research to develop a system which ensures that when a user moves to a new blockchain platform, he continues to have access to his legacy platform.

Equally effective in both Permissioned and Permissionless models, blockchain applications can bring vast improvements in the areas of education, healthcare, logistics, cyber security, power generation and supply, finance and banking, etc. The Indian government has already carried out pilot deployments of blockchain technology. MeitY is working on developing a national strategy for the use of blockchain by government departments.

The potential for using blockchain to enhance the scope, security and effectiveness of e-governance services is limitless. For instance, in the healthcare sector, the records of all patients in the nation can be stored in a secure tamper proof format. The authorised healthcare practitioners can be given access to the data of relevant patients stored in the blockchain on the basis of their secure online identity. This will ensure that the doctors have easy access to the records of any patient who comes to them for treatment.

Currently work is on in China to use blockchain based identification systems for smart city infrastructure. India has a massive ongoing project to build hundred smart cities. These smart cities could become smarter with the deployment of blockchain.

Another example that we can consider is e-courts, where the data from multiple government agencies–the police, the legal department and the judiciary–has to be stored in a manner that is tamper proof while being easily accessible to the right authorities. Along with e-governance systems, insurance and banking industries, supply chains, logistics sector, traffic management systems, education sector, defence, internet of things and, of course, crypto currencies are potential application domains for blockchain.

  • Published On May 25, 2023 at 05:09 PM IST

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