Peace & Stability Through The Blockchain: Government

This is part 3 of CCN’s “Peace & Stability Through the Blockchain” Series.

For part 1, click here.

For part 2, click here.

So far, we’ve gone over the precedent some of the multinational corporations exploring blockchain technology have set historically about promoting peace through their work. In part 2, we look at the ways in which blockchain technology can make payments easier and finance transparent. 

In part 3, we look at how the public ledger might be applied to government.

Humanitarian Aid

One company, NevTrace, believes that the movement of refugees away from their war-torn lands can be managed more efficiently by a blockchain system than yesterday. Individuals can be accounted for and a secured distributed platform run by nation-states, NGOs and humanitarian organizations can track the flow of refugees not only after they’ve left their war torn home, but also as they begin assimilating into their newly adopted nations.

Blockchain-forward technologies could ensure records are accurate and not tampered with. A Spain-based group of developers recently took home the prize in a hackathon with their blockchain-inspired idea to streamline how refugees are managed.

NevTrace,intends to help NGOs manage the flow of refugees and respond more effectively to their needs.

bitnation-square

BitNation has considered the problem of refugees from a blockchain perspective, and towards that end introduced.

The Bitnation Refugees Emergency Response (BRER) strives to facilitate and provide Emergency Services and Humanitarian Aid. The project targets specifically the European Refugee Crisis.

As Bitnation states, “Our objective is to utilize Blockchain technology to authenticate and validate identification through a Blockchain Emergency ID, provide dispute resolution as needed, and otherwise provide and locate needed services to refugees, including but not limited to, Bitnation Bitcoin Visa Debit Cards. (BVDC) Realistically, a Bitcoin debit card won’t help most refugees. It does have potential for those with bitcoining relatives who can send funds.

Further, “Bitnation seeks to ease the burden of Receiving States during this crisis by assisting in providing secure transactions and transitional tools required to meet the current needs of refugees, and provide economic and political solutions to refugees within the Receiving State with secure, established Open Source Blockchain Technology.” To be certain, Bitnation is not the most “established” technology out there. In fact, while Bitnation has a massive vision for the potential of blockchain technology, not many of its services are all that established.

Land Titles

On the subject of things governments generally do, Factom, albeit an embattled firm, seeks to change land titling with blockchain technology. Bitnation notably aims to offer a similar service. The Factom project received press attention, and claims to have partnered with the Honduras government to work on land title initiatives. That project ultimately fell through, but illustrates the line of reasoning

“Factom lets you publish a ‘hash’ of a document, like a permanent digital fingerprint of the document,” Kirby told CCN.

He added: “Hundreds and eventually thousands of copies of the data are distributed around the world. Factom publishes a distributed hash table of the information stored in Factom. The Factom servers will publish the full Factom data and make it publically available. In addition, anyone can run a full or partial node of the data they want to make public.”

Taxes

Taxes will exist forevermore. That seems to be the general consensus.  As IBM’s John Wolpert has hypothesized, while he has no problem paying taxes, he hates filling them; thus, he’d prefer if his salary was placed on a distributed database so his taxes could be filed automatically – no room for error, just transparency.

As he said at a Blockchain Conference in San Francisco recently:  “If I had to move to any other place right now than San Francisco, I’d move to DC,” he shared with the audience. “Not to convince regulators to regulate nicely about banking, but, rather, because I think blockchain is going to be a regulator’s dream. You can instrument Dodd Frank on the blockchain, [and] you could instrument the tax code. I would love to never have to file taxes, any transaction is just  “hashtag taxes,” and it just [automates the process], and all the rules get written to the chain.”  

Imagine if, in tomorrow’s banking systems, not only is there a Checking account and a Savings Account, but, as well, a Tax Account, in which the appropriate funds are earmarked for later payment on monies owed for government services. If the IRS were placed on a blockchain, the government could save on overall costs, therefore opening a space in which to discuss a lowering of taxes.

As HP wrote on one of its blogs, HPE Matter: “That’ll cost jobs but save billions for companies and individuals alike. But it also will increase the speed (and potentially the anonymity) of transactions at all levels of the economy. With that kind of uptick in volume, the IRS might end up being the most disrupted entity of them all.”

Borders

If distributed systems like blockchains are so efficient with data, what real world impact could this have for people? We’ve seen in the finance examples how Bitcoin and smart contracts can make transactions transparent and efficient. We’ve also seen some examples of how government functions might be addressed by Bitcoin. The question for this article is, Can the blockchain decrease border waits?

Into the US, people on both borders experience long delays, highlighted by the San Ysidro US-Mexico border where wait times are as long as six hours regularly. The reason this takes so long is not only because of the threat of terrorism, but, also, because of the outmoded nature of the systems used to process individuals at the border.

The US has initiated some efforts to alleviate the stress. The Sentri system, for instance, seeks to decrease border waits. In order to get such a pass, one must go through a background check and interview process. Theoretically, this could be done in an automatic manner. Artificial Intelligence could conduct and analyze an interview, while blockchain technology could ensure that accurate data is broadcast to various government agencies.

A blockchain-based border management system, coupled with nano-technology, could go a long way. Vehicles not only could be registered with the border system, but the movement of cars could be tracked and analyzed to determine threat levels.

A such system could represent a permissioned blockchain system in which participants (nation-states) are granted access to run nodes and have access to the information on border crossers. Thus, at the border, one’s international travel and notes can be accessed in real time. The ultimate goal of this sort of system would be to bring global border waits down to the shortest possible time while not sacrificing security – important because the vast majority of border crossers are law abiding citizens.

A more efficient border process not only helps travelers but creates a less stressful environment for border agents.

Blockchain developers have already considered the passport in the context of the blockchain. Chris Ellis created software to enable anyone to create a “World Citizen Passport” with PGP encryption software and the blockchain. Ellis claims the passport is mathematically impossible to fake.

“I wanted to create a voluntary ID system in which my proof of existence could be backed by a social network of my choosing,” Ellis told Wired. The real story here is why the governments didn’t invent this sooner. I came up with this over a weekend in my spare time, why didn’t they? How long has PGP been around?”

The potential of these tools are great and with any new technological innovation or use, one must consider the ethical moral considerations involving power and complexity. If they are ever deployed, efficient checks and balance system must inform the heart of a blockchain technology used globally.

Images from Shutterstock and Bitnation.