BLOCKCHAIN: Governing the Government

Asia Blockchain Review
June 26, 2019

Electronic Government (E-Government) refers to the use of digital electronic communication devices for the provision and delivery of public services, whereby the E-Government Development Index (EGDI) measures the extent to which the governments of countries around the world are using digital information technology to promote access to public services for its citizens.

In the context of Southeast Asian (SEA) countries, Singapore is leading the pack in 7th place globally, followed by Malaysia (48th), Thailand (73rd), Vietnam (88th) and Indonesia (107th). As with most things digital, blockchain may prove to be a game changer in the E-Government domain.

Pain Points of Public Administration

It is common knowledge that governing the masses is no walk in the park; it requires utmost integrity and ruthless efficiency in order to establish and maintain an effective system of governance. Alas, time and again, ordinary citizens bear the brunt of corrupt and inefficient regimes.

From a lack of transparency and accountability to outright corruption and the Big Brother phenomenon, existing centralized governmental frameworks have societies marching towards Orwellian dystopia with every passing day. However, blockchain, with its decentralized features, may help resolve the bureaucratic woes of the common citizen.

Blockchain Automates Bureacracy for Trustless Governance

The automated nature of blockchain would mitigate the inefficiencies of conventional pen-and-paper methods of most public administrative systems. Other than doing away with the need for slow and costly manual input, the trustless environment of blockchain would also imbue stronger confidence among citizens in their governments. This especially holds true for countries that infamously lead the rankings of the Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI).

As famously put by 19th-century British politician Lord Acton, “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” Therefore, it may be preferable to trust technology instead of people.

Current Blockchain Use Cases in Governments

When it comes to the use of blockchain for E-Government, Estonia is certainly ahead of the curve. Its e-Estonia system boasts 99% of government-related services provided digitally. From electronic citizenship, voting system, public education to taxation, blockchain traverses all aspects of the Estonian government. This has earned the tiny Eastern European nation an impressive rank of 16th out of the 193 countries evaluated in the EGDI and the respectable ranking of 18th least-corrupt nation out of 180 countries surveyed in the CPI, tying with Japan and beating out the United States at 22nd.

With regard to combating bureaucratic inefficiencies, the government of Seoul has started using the blockchain-based ICON platform to conduct public administrative tasks, such as information processing, valuation of assets, as well as document issuances. Additionally, the identity cards of Seoul’s citizens will soon be operated using blockchain.

Of greater importance, however, is the need to combat the scourge that is corruption. Malfeasance is estimated to cost the global economy a staggering US$3.6 billion per year. The epitome of the power-corruption correlation is seen in electoral fraud, whereby those who are in power resort to misconduct to stay in power. In this regard, Thailand’s National Electronics and Computer Technology Center (NECTEC) has developed a blockchain-based digital voting system, which allows the casting of votes via email, with identity verification being done through profile pictures taken with mobile cameras.

It is indeed true that those who are in positions of power hold in their hands the collective destiny of the masses. Given this state of affairs, blockchain may be just the tool to enable the masses to govern their governments in the true spirit of democracy.

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