Sustainable development and the 17 SDGs are critical timelines to continue living the way earth’s inhabitants have. Blockchain technology can help achieve sustainable development in myriads of ways to impact how resources are utilized for development.
The latest technological advances in blockchain are clustered around what could be called Blockchain 3.0, which focuses on addressing the drawbacks of the previous two generations of blockchain technology, such as scalability and interoperability between different blockchains. This innovation has created many opportunities to solve the most enduring problems that impact sustainability.
Personal identity management: Identity management is a cornerstone of governmental services, but legacy data management tools fail to provide secure yet rapidly accessible and updateable identity.
Over one and a half billion people globally lack officially recognized identity. This has been exacerbated due to global dislocation, war, famine, and other natural calamities. It is among the most critical issues facing urban systems. There is a growing crisis brewing in recording, updating, and correcting information about an existing identifiable person.
- Personal identity management: In essence, Identity management is a cornerstone of governmental services, but legacy data management tools fail to provide a secure, quickly accessible, and updateable identity.
- Data centralized around the user: Personal identity management is an over $12 billion business expected to double by next year. The security, storage, and stealing costs of personal data are humongous.
- Previous solutions failures: There is significant hesitancy about the concerns over privacy and authentication failure of prior solutions.
- Trust in government data: There is also a grave reservation regarding the ability to trust government data absolutely in any situation and in impacting the ability to deliver services in many developing nations.
- The integrity of government data: Data integrity is as much of a problem from inside an organization than outside the entity. It is essential that government data should be effectively protected from an insider threat attempting to manipulate or alter the stored data.
- Data interoperability: The ability to verify the integrity of government data independently of its home database in real-time enables data interoperability between systems and across boundaries.
The latest COVID-19 pandemic is in its second year with no end in sight. From developed economies in the West to emerging ones in Africa and Asia, every country has struggled, mostly fruitlessly, for its containment within its borders. The world governments have tried to cooperate in a global effort to quell this sturdy viral epidemic from infecting and killing people in waves of variants. Just like a land registry proving a land parcel’s provenance, blockchain’s distributed ledger technology (DLT) can also be utilized for tracking human vaccination records accurately.
Dr. Tom Frieden, former head of the Center for Disease Control (CDC), has shown severe reservations about the safety of the COVID vaccination records and has several reasons why it is not safe:
- No accuracy is maintained by utilizing a computerized immunization information system, i.e., an online record of vaccinations received by people in all parts of the world.
- No efforts or safeguards are implemented to ensure everyone’s data security and privacy.
- No options are available to use other forms of identity. For instance, a combination of paper vaccination records with additional personal verification, such as a photo ID.
- The system must verify vaccination records only and avoid adding information about previous tests to avoid clustering data.
- All testing and vaccination data should be accessible in real-time, “such as when people are going through airport security.”
Blockchain can readily provide a solution for delivering quality healthcare and vaccination services. Creating Stronger and More Accountable Public Institutions:
As suggested by Sustainable Development Goal 16 of the United Nations, one of the ways we can encourage sustainable development is by promoting peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, providing access to justice for all, and building effective, accountable, and inclusive institutions at all levels.
Government procurement is the most prominent way governments spend and, relatedly, the greatest source of official expenditure and consumption globally. These processes are highly complex, opaque, and very subjective, leading to a large amount of wastage of public money.
Transparency in these processes creates oversight and can add efficiencies to these arcane processes of using public resources. Recently, the government of Colombia tried a proof-of-concept for a blockchain-based procurement system. While the exercise proved that the technology alone is not enough, it can be a powerful tool when combined with public inclusion in the process, established by global bodies like Transparency International or the Partnership for Transparency Fund.
Similarly, tax administration is also essential for creating or establishing domestic SDG targets. A World Bank study has concluded that 30 of the 75 poorest countries collect less than 15% of GDP in taxes, which leads to little to no provision left for providing critical services. The Prosperity Collaborative, a coalition of several public- and private-sector actors, is examining how open source technologies, including blockchain, may have a role to play in public finance.
Blockchain has been a source of innovation in the private sector and can be used for impacting the public sector with ideas that create pathways for sustainable development.
Views expressed above are the author’s own.
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