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Blockchain technology has the potential to revolutionize how governments operate and engage with citizens. By leveraging blockchain’s inherent decentralization, transparency and security properties, governments around the world are exploring innovative ways to provide more accessible and trusted public services.

A key area governments are targeting is increasing transparency around processes that impact citizens. Blockchain allows important documents, records and transactions to be recorded in an immutable digital ledger that is accessible to all parties. This gives citizens easy verification of government actions and dealings. Land registry is one domain seeing real promise. By digitizing land ownership records on a blockchain, governments can provide a single source of truth for property ownership that is simple for citizens to validate. This reduces disputes and curbs opportunities for fraud or abuse. Countries piloting this include Georgia, Sweden and Ghana.

Voting is another area ripe for reinvention through blockchain. Several governments are experimenting with blockchain-based remote electronic voting platforms to make elections more inclusive, accessible and verifiable. In 2016, the government of Moscow used a blockchain-verified remote voting system for elections to its legislature. West Virginia also piloted blockchain voting for overseas military members. While challenges around identity verification on blockchain still exist, the technology has the potential to increase citizen participation in the democratic process.

Streamlining social assistance programs is another use case attracting interest. Blockchain allows conditional cash transfer and subsidy programs to run more efficiently by automatically tracking eligibility criteria and disbursing funds directly to citizens when certain conditions are met. This reduces opportunities for corruption or errors. In Uruguay, a blockchain platform helped quickly distribute cash benefits to over 100,000 citizens impacted by COVID-19 lockdowns. Similar projects are underway in countries like Bangladesh, Indonesia and Brazil.

Another major area of exploration is using blockchain to fight corruption and optimize government finances. For sensitive areas like government procurement, centralizing records of contracts, expenses, audits and approvals on an open distributed ledger brings much-needed visibility. This deters kickbacks, conflict of interest and wastage by making every transaction transparent to oversight bodies and the public. Groups like Open Contracting Partnership are working with governments in developing nations to implement blockchain-based procurement platforms. Projects are currently live in Botswana, Ecuador and Ukraine.

Governments use blockchain to integrate fragmented internal systems and databases, improving data sharing between agencies. The State of Illinois is using blockchain to seamlessly on-board new constituents by allowing verified sharing of identification data between departments like transportation, education and healthcare. Similar initiatives exist in Canada and some EU nations. This boosts efficiency of cross-agency services while respecting citizen privacy.

Blockchain innovations are streamlining citizen services and enabling novel engagement models. Estonia pioneered a digital ID system powered by blockchain for easy access to all online public services. Blockchain voting also allows governments to conduct policy referendums and solicit real-time feedback from citizens on important issues.

While still early-stage, blockchain solutions show tremendous potential to revolutionize inefficient systems, increase transparency and foster better governance worldwide. As technical issues are addressed, blockchain will likely transform citizen-government interactions and relationships in the years to come. Governments actively pursuing such changes are in the forefront of optimizing public welfare through decentralized technologies.

Blockchain gives governments new routes to solve old problems around trust, transparency and service delivery when interacting with citizens. Projects exploring land registry modernization, voting reforms, social program optimization, anti-corruption efforts, cross-agency data sharing and digital public services clearly show its radical potential when properly implemented. Going forward, as national blockchain strategies mature, we may see revolutionary overhauls of how democracies function and citizens engage with the state.