The blockchain (distributed ledger) technology will disrupt many sectors from finance to travel. Public services is no exception.
A new framework of trust is the core of the new era. As the traditional regulator/ guarantor/ arbiter of trust, national governments would need to redefine their roles. They can delegate some of their responsibilities to trust based networks, perform their traditional functions more effectively and efficiently, or find new areas of responsibility.
Here are five examples of public services that would be in a completely different form a decade from now. Please share your thoughts on how blockchain will change public services over the next decade.
Notarial services – completely gone. Notaries play a big role, particularly in some developing countries. Their involvement means time and money cost reaching hundreds of million dollars to the broader public. With a distributed ledger, we certainly won’t need them to look over our shoulder and endorse our transactions.
Title deed offices – mostly gone. If we can establish the ownership of an asset, clarify the liens over it and finally smoothly transfer it through blockchain, what role will title deed offices have? Moreover, the ability to tokenize the asset would open completely new forays such as partial sale, or more efficient financing. That said, title deed offices will probably stay around for a while to act as the deciders of last resort, but certainly can offload much of their workload to the distributed ledger.
Tax & audit— so much more efficient. How much money a business really made or how much VAT was accrued/ paid through a value chain are very hard questions to nail down. International flow of goods and money make it even harder. However, moving most transitions to a distributed ledger would not only reduce the friction (cost) through the system but also make taxation/ audit simpler, cheaper and therefore hopefully less burdening. Moreover, blockchain would allow a unified global taxing system through which online only services can be taxed only once (these credits then allocated to relevant nation states after a net-off, perhaps quarterly).
Payments/ grants/ performance payments — so much more effective. When the government pays a contractor, does that money trickle down to sub-contractors in a timely and appropriate manner? When grants (or any performance related payment) is made, how can we be sure that appropriate milestones have been reached? Enter blockchain. With oracles across geographies and smart contracts, most of these issues can be overcome, creating a much more effective government payment system.
Data privacy – redefined role. New technologies including blockchain and IoT, completely redefine people’s privacy needs. National governments, together with international bodies and other relevant players (e.g., virtual citizen networks) should address this concern. The answer is not obvious, but the need is certainly there.